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World Leaders Commit To Tackling Global Hunger, Climate Change And Biodiversity Loss At Historic UN Food Systems Summit

Press Release – UN Department of Global Communications

More than 150 countries made commitments to transform their food systems, while championing greater participation and equity, especially amongst farmers, women, youth and indigenous groups September 23, 2021, NEW YORK The first ever UN Food …

More than 150 countries made commitments to transform their food systems, while championing greater participation and equity, especially amongst farmers, women, youth and indigenous groups

September 23, 2021, NEW YORK – The first ever UN Food Systems Summit convened world leaders today in an effort to spur national and regional action to deliver the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through transforming food systems. Among the goals for 2030 are zero hunger, zero poverty, gender equality and climate action.

Following from the latest IPCC report, which raised a “code red” for human-driven global heating, the United States administration, one of the world’s major agricultural producers, pledged $10 billion over five years to address climate change and help feed those most vulnerable without exhausting natural resources. 

Half of these funds will be invested domestically in “recognition that all countries, even those that produce a surplus of food, must take steps to improve nutrition and adapt their food systems to a changing climate.”

Food systems transformations are key in supporting the three billion people globally who are malnourished and protecting the resource base on which global livelihoods rely.

Against this backdrop, the Summit, called by the UN Secretary-General in 2019 to accelerate global progress by leveraging the interconnected importance of food systems, featured commitments from more than 85 heads of state around the world. 

The COVID-19 pandemic increased the number of people living in poverty in 2020 by up to 124 million people, and it is projected that around 600 million people will still live in poverty by 2030. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who announced New Zealand would join the Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems Coalition, said: “We are committed to ensuring Indigenous Peoples can help lead the way forward.

“For New Zealand, this means promoting the significant role of Māori in our food sectors and encouraging the growth of Māori agribusiness by removing barriers and empowering Māori leadership.”

Other countries pledged support for indigenous rights, including Honduras strengthening the role of local authorities, Samoa promoting traditional and indigenous knowledge to boost nature-positive production, and Peru and the Philippines supporting formalization of land tenure.

Partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of undernourishment increased to around 9.9 per centin 2020, with estimates of hungry people reaching between 720 and 811 million globally in 2020. Meanwhile, two in three children are not fed the minimum diverse diets they need in early childhood to grow healthily.

“We, as the global community, are not delivering on our promises to eradicate hunger,” said President Sauli Niinistö of Finland. “In Finland, free-of-charge school meals have been provided since the 1940s… to address post-war poverty and malnutrition,” he said, adding that the “school meal system has proven to be an investment in the future and in the economic and social welfare of the society.”

Recognizing food as a “basic fundamental right”, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, highlighted the need to focus on “quality food for everyone” in a country where agriculture remains the most important sector.

Likewise, Burkina Faso highlighted the right to food, committing to including this in their constitution.

Many countries announced national initiatives to ensure their food systems met not only the nutritional needs of their populations but also goals around climate change, biodiversity, and decent livelihoods for all.

Cambodia pledged to work towards the promotion of gender equality and the creation of job opportunities for youth and women in the food system, while equipping them to become agents of change for nutritious diets. 

Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, said, “Just as our environment, peoples, and food systems are profoundly interwoven and mutually sustaining, so must our response be, for the sake of our and future generations.” His country earlier outlined five of its own national priorities, including more sustainable consumption of green and blue foods to prevent biodiversity loss and address the accelerating crisis of non-communicable diseases in Small Island Developing States.

The United Arab Emirates announced the Agriculture Innovation Mission (AIM) for Climate launched with the United States. 

The coalitions, which include a global commitment made by more than 15 countries to deliver healthy and nutritious school meals, cut across the five priority areas for action set out by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, which include (1) Nourish All People, (2) Boost Nature-based Solutions, (3) Advance Equitable Livelihoods, Decent Work & Empowered Communities, (4) Build Resilience to Vulnerabilities, Shocks and Stresses, and (5) Support Means of Implementation.

“We must use the power of ingenuity to improve on food systems so they provide safe, nutritious, affordable, and accessible food for all, while conserving natural resources, and combating the climate crisis,” said the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack

A full compilation of submissions to the Summit was released in an official compendium, while commitments made by all organisations and groups were lodged with an online commitments registry.

Among the new initiatives launched by civil society, financial institutions, academia and philanthropists was a new US$922 million, five-year investment into nutritious food systems, announced by Melinda Gates on behalf of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who said, “Undernutrition is costing the global economy up to US$3.5 trillion every single year. Resilient food systems that deliver safe, affordable and nutritious food for everybody will drive greater health and prosperity, for both individuals and for nations.”

The World Bank President David Malpass stressed that, in combination, “smarter food financing, along with scientific knowledge and political will, can be a major game-changer.”

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