Global perspective Human stories

Joint UN meeting on food security focuses on ‘building a future free of hunger’

Amb. George Wilfred Talbot.
UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
Amb. George Wilfred Talbot.

Joint UN meeting on food security focuses on ‘building a future free of hunger’

Scaling up the global response to food security and nutrition topped the agenda today at a special joint meeting between the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the General Assembly, world experts and the UN food agencies aimed at identifying steps to build a future free of hunger.

The meeting, postponed when Hurricane Sandy hit in November, included the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

“Governments, the UN system, civil society, the private sector: each has an important role to play if we are to strengthen agriculture and banish malnutrition,” said George Talbot, the Chair of the Assembly’s committee on economic and financial issues – known as the Second Committee – which co-organized the event on behalf of the Assembly.

One in eight people worldwide suffer chronic malnutrition, according to FAO, with volatile food prices, inadequate investment, land degradation and climate making the situation more precarious.

Mr. Talbot said the mission was two-fold: “Address immediate issues of volatile food prices, while making the structural policy changes in areas like production, consumption and trade.”

Also speaking at today’s meeting, the President of ECOSOC urged participants to build on the momentum created at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Brazil last summer.

“Last June in Rio, world leaders pledged their support for efforts to boost sustainable agriculture output and farming productivity, efforts which include creating a freer, more equitable global trading system,” said Néstor Osorio.

He also praised the Committee on World Food Security, an intergovernmental body serving as a forum to review and follow up on food security policies, for adopting the Global Strategic Framework for Food Security and Nutrition to serve as a guide for governmental policies. He also noted efforts by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, including his High-Level Task Force and the Zero Hunger Challenge.

“Our challenge, now, is to ensure that present commitments are transformed into meaningful action,” Mr. Osorio added.

Mr. Ban, who is in Washington D.C. today, spoke to participants in a video, saying that “in a world of plenty, no one – not a single person – should go hungry.”

In addition to discussions at UN Headquarters in New York, people were invited to virtually write in their comments and questions in a two-week social media campaign.

Meanwhile, staff from FAO, IFAD and WFP in Mozambique has been recognized for their collaborated efforts to improve the country’s food security situation. The first ever Award of Excellence: Working Together in the Field was given to the Mozambique teams for a joint pilot programme that reached 17,000 farmers from 14 farmers’ associations to improve the quality of harvest and reduce post-harvest losses.

“Staff of the three agencies in Mozambique have leveraged their comparative advantages and knowledge to achieve an impressive level of synergy, put at the service of the most vulnerable in society,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in a news release announcing the win.

The programme, called Building Commodity Value Chains and Market Linkages for Farmers’ Associations, has been recognized as one of the best examples of UN cooperation, according to FAO.

The award was presented in Rome during the meeting of the IFAD Governing Council.

“When we work together, particularly on the basis of our converging objectives and mandates, our cooperation highlights the key priorities for food and nutrition security,” said IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze.

WFP’s Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin, echoed the comments. “No single organization can solve the challenges of food security alone. We must continue working closely together.”