NEW YORK: UN officials and world leaders at a UN summit have issued an urgent warning over the future of the global food system, and pledged to work together to ensure it remains sustainable and equitable for future generations.
Speaking at the UN World Food Systems Summit 2021, Amina Mohammed, deputy secretary-general of the UN, said that our food systems are “failing.”
The summit, attended by Arab News, is taking place at the same time as the UN General Assembly and is designed to kickstart a global effort to “leverage the power of food systems to drive our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and get us back on track to achieve all 17 sustainable development goals by 2030.”
Mohammed said: “Let’s consider that, every day, over 800 million people are hungry. Or that millions of children are starving, while nearly a third of all food produced is lost or wasted. And this waste, today, is worth over $1 trillion.”
She added: “Three billion people cannot afford a healthy diet. At the same time, 2 billion men, women and children are overweight or obese. Our current consumption patterns are expected to generate over another $1 trillion in diet-related health costs.”
She added: “Put simply, our food systems are failing to deliver what we need for our people and the impact that they are having on the planet.”
However, Mohammed said that “through sustainable food production systems, it is possible to feed a growing global population while protecting our planet. But this can only happen when we work together.”
According to a World Bank report released earlier this year, agriculture contributes 19-29 percent of the world’s entire greenhouse gas emissions, and so an urgent reform of that system, which produces food to the detriment of the planet, is much needed.
World leaders and officials from international organizations have thrown their weight behind the Food Systems Summit’s goals.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi told the event: “Establishing sustainable food systems that achieve food security for our communities should be a priority for all of us amid current challenges.”
He also highlighted a number of achievements that Egypt has made in advancing the UN’s agenda, including providing students with healthier food by joining the Global School Meals Coalition and his country’s involvement in pan-African talks aimed at formulating a continent-wide response to its food security issues.
El-Sisi also issued a plea for countries to commit to concrete action: “The success of the UN Food Systems Summit depends on our ability to reach real results that contribute to formulating an ambitious and feasible system according to the priorities of countries, and without imposing a specific vision.”
Addressing the summit, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan committed Turkey to providing a “more just, habitable, and peaceful world for our children.”
US American International Development chief Samantha Power also spoke on Thursday. She said: “The well-fed have an obligation to care for the hunger of others.”
She added: “We’re going to revise our global food security strategy to make sure that money does more good in the world, and we focus more on inclusive agricultural growth that lifts up women, girls and marginalized communities.”
Power also promised that the US will make sure it “doubles down on climate-smart investments, such as drought-tolerant seeds and carbon storage in soils, so the world can boost crop yields while cutting emissions.”
The World Food Systems Summit will end late on Friday, with dozens of world leaders addressing the event. Abdulrahman Al-Fadley, Saudi Arabia’s minister of environment, water and agriculture, will deliver an address on Friday.