30 September 2021, Rome: Young people from around the globe will be tasked with giving a key contribution to shape the future of agri-food systems at the World Food Forum, a youth-led movement that holds its first flagship event virtually from Rome on Friday.
The Oct. 1-5 online event aims to harness the energy and creativity of younger generations to transform food and agriculture and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 2 “No hunger”. It represents the first major follow-up to the United Nations Food Systems Summit in New York – the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other Rome-based UN agencies will continue to implement ambitious and urgent efforts designed to make the world’s agri-food systems more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.
Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado Quesada is due to deliver the opening remarks, followed by a special address from Pope Francis. Queen Letizia of Spain, a FAO Special Goodwill Ambassador for Nutrition, is also due to address the Forum, along with President of UN General Assembly Abdulla Shahid and FAO Director-General QU Dongyu.
Producer, singer, songwriter, entertainer and entrepreneur AY Young is scheduled to provide a musical intermission during the opening ceremony.
The five-day Forum will also feature youth leaders from the world of farming and beyond, who will be joined by influencers, celebrities, business and civil society leaders. Participants from the private sector include Ramon Laguarta, CEO of PepsiCo, Kimbal Musk, Co-Founder and Chairman of Big Green, The Kitchen Restaurant Group and Square Roots, and Frank Giustra, Co-Chair of the International Crisis Group.
It includes performances and demonstrations by Nigerian singer and songwriter Brymo, German musician Keye Katcher, vegan model and influencer Natalie Prabha, chef and writer Carla Lalli Music, Poet Meera Dasgupta and others.
Shaping tomorrow’s food
The youth-led World Food Forum is empowered by the Youth Committee of FAO. It was created as an independent network of partners tasked with forging a global movement to restore our agri-food systems.
Climate change, ongoing conflicts, economic downturns and the COVID-19 pandemic are among the leading causes of an increase in the number of hungry people, which last year exceeded 810 million.
The younger generations are the ones that will be left having to deal with such challenges, but they are also the ones better placed to come up with the solutions.
“The future belongs to youth, and they have the fresh perspectives, forward-thinking mindsets and digital fluency to incite widespread and sustainable change. They also have the numbers to get things done,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said in a press conference ahead of the event.
The World Food Forum is using innovative ways to discover and scale up young people’s most promising ideas. It’s also providing young talents with tools and resources.
The Transformative Research Challenge, for example, provides young researchers with mentors and publicizes their work to help translate their ideas into top-notch research papers, grant proposals and policy suggestions. The Startup Innovation Awards connects entrepreneurs with leaders in the investment, technology and policy communities. The Masterclasses provide lessons such as The Success Mindset, Food Systems and Nutrition Education, and Blockchain 101.
The aim is to help young people build essential skills and foster dialogue among students, scientists, entrepreneurs, investors, UN experts, and parliamentarians the world over.
Friday’s opening ceremony will end with FAO and the Government of Switzerland announcing the winners of the second edition of the International Innovation Award for Sustainable Food Systems. Individuals, private companies and institutions were invited to submit their proposals for the following two categories: i) excellence in digitization and innovation for sustainable food systems; and ii) innovation that specifically empowers youth in sustainable food systems. More than 400 nominations from 83 countries were submitted.