Global Agriculture

FAO Director-General Urges Reversal of Growing Food Insecurity at SDG2 Meeting

27 March 2024, Rome: We cannot allow the global food security situation to continue to worsen and must act urgently to address the availability, accessibility and affordability of food, QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said today in remarks at the opening of an  Expert Group Meeting on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2).

“It is an important moment to look, take stock and review what progress we have made, the real challenges for us ahead” Qu told the meeting which comes against a background of widening inequalities, deepening food insecurity and malnutrition caused by conflicts, economic downturn and the climate crisis.

Also addressing the opening session, Li Jinhua, UN Undersecretary General for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), in a video message, called for the meeting to produce bold and transformative ideas to address hunger levels not seen since 2005. Paula Narvaez, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), said in a letter to participants that achieving Zero Hunger was possible, but called for innovative, tailored solutions to overcome the bottlenecks to progress. Alvaro Lario, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) underlined the need for all actors to work together to transform how food systems work, boost investment targeting smallholder farmers and support grass roots rural communities.

The aim of SDG2 is to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. But with less than six years remaining before the 2030 SDGs target date, projections show that 600 million people will be facing hunger in that year and the number suffering from undernourishment has increased by 120 million people since 2019 and the Covid pandemic.

The two-day Expert Group Meeting on SDG2. held at FAO headquarters and organized in collaboration with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), is aimed at preparing for a High Level Political Forum (HPLF) in July, which will conduct an in-depth review of several SDGs, including SDG2.

Reviewing progress

Among the objectives of this this week’s gathering will be to review progress towards SDG 2 and identify urgent areas for action, provide inputs for the HPLF, share success stories and promising solutions, identify ways to harness synergies and manage trade-offs between SDG2 and other goals and build on the momentum of the SDG Summit, Food Systems Summit and Food Systems Summit +2 Stocktaking Moment.

A key issue which the experts will grapple with is that while agrifood systems provide for the right to food, they also create negative impacts for other development areas. FAO’s State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) 2023 suggests that global hidden costs from agrifood systems amount to at least  10 trillion or more Purchasing Power Parities (PPP) dollars, with the highest burden being borne by low income countries, while current agrifood systems perpetuate inequalities.

FAO has long championed efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable agrifood systems as having the potential to reverse negative trends and accelerate progress towards multiple SDGs. These interconnected issues, which will be further explored during the meeting, include reducing poverty and hunger, improving health and education outcomes, empowering women, promoting sustainable consumption and production, creating decent jobs and livelihoods, reducing inequalities and rural-urban disparities, and combating the climate crisis and biodiversity loss.

Qu called for the gathering to produce “concise, precise, evidence-backed suggestions” for achieving results and turning challenges into opportunities. FAO’s own work to strengthen and leverage the means of implementation includes its Hand-in-Hand Initiative – and other programmes aimed at increasing investment and financing, accelerating the use of data, science and technology, and multi-stakeholder partnerships.

FAO’s Strategic Framework 2022-31 seeks to support the 2030 Agenda through the transformation to more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable agrifood systems, for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind.

These Four Betters represent the organizing principle under which FAO intends to contribute directly to SDG 1 (No poverty), SDG 2 (Zero hunger), SDG 10 (Reduced inequalities) and SDG 13 (climate action), as well as to support achievement of the broader sustainable development agenda, with the Organization acting as the custodian of 21 SDG indicators.

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