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World faces historic task to turn tide on ending hunger, says FAO chief

03/08/2021 – Agri-Food / FAO / Summit / Systems / Hunger

World faces historic task to turn tide on ending hunger, says FAO chief

Speaking to world leaders at a gathering in Rome, Director-General of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has urged for a change of policies, mind-sets and business models in order to transform global agri-food systems.

A holistic and co-ordinated approach is urgently needed to transform agri-food systems and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. This was the call made by Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the FAO, who addressed world leaders participating in the Pre-Summit of the UN Food Systems Summit.


“Our agri-food systems are not delivering properly – and in many parts of the world, these systems were not efficient, inclusive and sustainable,” Mr Qu said, noting that the Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated the situation.

According to a report issued this month by FAO and its partners, around one-tenth of the global population – up to 811 million people – were undernourished last year. The number suggests it will take a tremendous effort for the world to honour its pledge to end hunger by 2030.  

Transforming the world’s food systems

The FAO Director-General stressed how, at this “critical moment in time”, the world faces “the historic task” of transforming agri-food systems and putting back on track the achievement of the SDGs.

“To achieve this ambitious transformation, we need to change policies, mind-sets, and business models,” he told attendees at the Pre-Summit opening ceremony, which saw the participation of dozens of heads of state and government, ministers and other high-level representatives – some present in person, others connected via video.

Speakers included Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – the UN and the Government of Italy being the Pre-Summit co-hosts – alongside the President of Rwanda; Chair of the African Union Development Agency Paul Kagame, and, representing Pope Francis, Archbishop Paul Gallagher (the Holy See's Secretary for Relations with States).

The day's proceedings had begun earlier with an address by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed. Later the FAO Director-General participated in a panel discussion entitled ‘What It Will Take to Rise to Our Ambition for 2030’, together with the heads of the other Rome-based UN agencies, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) President Gilbert Houngbo, and the World Food Programme (WFP)’s Executive Director David Beasley. They were joined by the UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Inger Andersen, while the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the 2021 Food Systems, Agnes Kalibata, also spoke on the subject.

An holistic approach 

In his opening ceremony address, the FAO Director-General outlined how, in the past two years, the Organization has become more efficient, inclusive and fit for purpose, and that it is strategically poised to drive many of the changes needed to transform agri-food systems.

The FAO’s new Strategic Framework for the next decade, endorsed last month by the FAO Conference, focuses on the transformation to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems, and hinges on the ‘Four Betters’ – better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life – to leave no-one behind.

In addition, FAO's flagship matchmaking Hand-in-Hand Initiative aims to accelerate agricultural transformation and sustainable rural development to eradicate poverty and end hunger.

The Director-General also cited the Food Coalition, an initiative conceived in partnership with the Government of Italy, and FAO’s Covid-19 Response and recovery Program, which complement the UN agency's holistic approach.

From zero waste to zero hunger

“FAO continues to build and strengthen joint efforts across sectors, regions and communities with all stakeholders,” Mr Qu Dongyu said, adding: “Together, in solidarity, effectiveness and determination!” 

The FAO Director-General also highlighted the crucial role played by young people and described how shortly after taking office in 2019 he launched the FAO Youth Committee and FAO Women's Committee to increase youth engagement, help empower women and foster their innovative spark, also by reaching out to major youth groups from around the world with the launch of the World Food Forum (WFF)

The FAO chief invited all of the event’s participants to join the WFF, which will be held for the first time from 1–6 October 2021, he said, adding: “We must seize this opportunity to uplift our taking the world from Zero waste first, to Zero hunger final!”

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