UN Deputy Secretary-General urges Greater Investment, Leadership to End Widespread Hunger, Poverty

Speaking at the Food Systems Summit in Italy on July 27, 2023, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said that developing countries, especially those with high debt burdens, require increased liquidity during times of crisis and that without access to financing and debt relief, developing countries will not be able to invest in food systems.

“The challenges faced by our food systems are not easily overcome.  Rural poverty is persistent and widespread.  258 million people are facing acute insecurity.  45 million children are suffering wasting.  And 670 million are people facing hunger in 2030, the same proportion as in 2015,” the deputy SG said.

The need to engage more strategically with the private sector was underlined. “Together with Member States and the private sector, we need to support, energize and empower local partners, civil society and Indigenous communities at the forefront of this battle.  We need the food systems ecosystem, the private sector and technology companies all shifting their focus towards people, not profit, to ensure better outcomes for people and planet.  This must be among our top priorities for the Food Systems Summit.”

The deputy SG said that the Call to Action recognizes the compounding crises over the past three years that have had a dramatic effect on already fragile food systems.  “It highlights shocking data that shows how far we are in our journey.  The unequal access to finance, the international financial architecture that is not fit-for-purpose, the persistence of war and conflict, and ever-worsening climate change.  All of this makes food system transformation even tougher.”

The deputy SG highlighted that the Secretary-General’s Call to Action is a call to all actors to step up and commit to action and implementation around six concrete objectives. “One — we must embed food systems strategies across all national policies for sustainable development.  Two — we must establish food systems governance that brings together all stakeholders across society.  Three — we must invest in research, data, innovation and technology capacities. Four — we must promote engagement and accountability of businesses to shape the sustainability of food systems, recognizing their centrality in the food and agriculture ecosystem.  Five — at every step of implementation, we must include the full participation of women, farmers, young people and Indigenous Peoples at the local level.  Six — we must ensure long-term, concessional finance, investments, budget support and debt-restructuring.”

According to the deputy SG, this must include making the SDG Stimulus a reality and designing solutions to debt, including by reforming the international financial architecture and strengthening the role of multilateral development banks.  It must include working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and international financial institutions to deliver immediate investments in emergency food support, especially in African countries where hunger is twice the global average.

“The United Nations Global Crisis Response Group recommendation for a Food Import Facility and the Least Developed Countries 5 Food Stockholding Mechanism should be fully operationalized.  Trade barriers, harmful subsidies and export restrictions must be avoided, and hoarding and speculative behaviour addressed.  We must ensure the openness, integrity, market transparency and resilience of supply chains.”

The deputy SG also said that at every step, the United Nations System, led by the coordinated action of the Rome-based agencies Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and IFAD, and the United Nations Food Systems Coordination Hub, will continue to provide leadership to make food systems transformation a reality for the 155 countries and stakeholders that have embarked on this process already, and those that could be encouraged to join in the future.

“This is our collective responsibility and our common purpose.  We are proud to take this journey with all of you.  Let us take the spirit of this convening into the broader push to rescue the SDGs and into the concrete, day-to- day efforts to make food systems work for people and planet,” the deputy SG mentioned. .

It was also articulated that a number of global gatherings are happening this year: the SDG Summit, the High level Dialogue on Financing for Development and three health meetings, World Food Forum, the Group of Twenty (G20) Leaders Summit in New Delhi, the IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings in Marrakesh and Twenty-eighth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 28) in Dubai – where there is a “chance to turn the tide together.”  “The time for food systems transformation is now and depends on each of us working collectively and in solidarity.”

The deputy SG further reiterated that the call here again to the international community is that “we must do something about what we need to do to help 330,000 people running into Chad to save their lives and passing several checkpoints with atrocities that before them into a country that has nothing, but it’s so generous to give.” “We must support that side of our human family equally.

At the same time, if we want to get to the root cause of many of these conflicts, development needs to be treated as an emergency.  Because what we saw is too little too late.  And we saw both sides of that coin.”

Staff Reporter from Thimphu