Committee on World Food Security (CFS) kicks off with a call for agri-food systems transformation

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12 October 2021, Rome: Agri-food systems transformation is urgently needed to get back on track towards the goal of eradicating hunger and malnutrition, the 49th session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) heard today.

According to the latest FAO estimates, the number of undernourished people in the world continues to rise. In 2020, up to 811 million people in the world went to bed hungry, whereas 2.4 billion people lacked year-round access to adequate food, and more than 3 billion people could not afford a healthy diet. The situation is further exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, climate variabilities and extremes, and economic slowdowns.

In his address, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Director-General, QU Dongyu, noted that the world is lagging behind the Sustainable Development Goal on eradicating hunger and malnutrition (SDG2), while calling for more integrated solutions.

“At FAO, we have already taken important actions to accelerate transformation towards more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable agri-food systems,” he said citing as an example FAO’s Hand-in-Hand Initiative, the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Program, and FAO’s new Strategic Framework 2022-2031 which aims to accelerate transformation at country level.

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However, the Director-General warned that these actions alone are not sufficient. He reminded the CFS delegates that the UN Food Systems Summit last month highlighted the inter-linkage of the challenges faced by the planet, its people and habitats. Given the complexity of challenges, it is crucial to establish and strengthen partnerships with all relevant actors for greater synergy, effectiveness and efficiency, Qu said.

The CFS has a unique role to play

In his address, the Director-General lauded CFS for its unique role as an inclusive global platform in transforming agri-food systems, ending hunger, and ensuring food security for all. The Committee has endorsed a major policy product called “Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition” that provide guidance on aligning policies, laws, programmes and investment plans to address hunger and malnutrition in all its forms using a holistic agri-food systems lens.

And its High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition the CFS provides valuable support for the science-policy interface, including through the “Youth Engagement and Employment in Agriculture and Food Systems” report and an Issues Paper on the impacts of COVID-19.

Furthermore, in line with the CFS Multi-Year Program of Work, the Committee will now focus on the important topic of Youth, Gender Equality and Women and Girls’ Empowerment, data, and inequalities.

The Director-General reiterated FAO’s commitment to strengthen the partnership with the CFS, in collaboration with the other Rome-based UN agencies, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and World Food Programme (WFP); and to use the Organization’s system network of offices and experts to promote increased awareness and uptake of the Committee’s products, reports and multi-stakeholder engagement.

Qu urged all Members to continue to actively engage with the CFS processes and effectively apply CFS policy frameworks into national dialogues, legislation, and country and regional development plans.

“We have nine seasons left to achieve the 2030 Agenda and meet the SDG targets! For Better Production, Better Nutrition, a Better Environment and a Better Life for all, leaving no one behind,” the Director-General concluded.

In his video message, United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, highlighted the need for transformative action to ensure that world’s food benefits all people. He pointed out that food systems can and must be critical engines for economic recovery, ending poverty and reducing inequalities, for decent work and addressing climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss.

In his address, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Center of Sustainable Development at Columbia University, singled out conflict and chronic poverty as two major drivers of global food insecurity noting that most of the conflict is related to chronic poverty. We need to find a path out of this, Sachs said, but it requires money, financial strategy, timeline, and a path of specific policies. He underscored the need for a more systematic approach to end hunger and malnutrition.

The CFS opening session also saw the participation of UN Economic and Social Council President, Collen Vixen Kelapile; CFS Chairperson, Thanawat Tiensin; IFAD President, Gilbert Houngbo; WFP Executive Director, David Beasley; and CFS High-Level Panel of Experts Steering Committee Chairperson, Martin Cole.

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