Tag Archives: food security

Secretary-General António Guterres video message on World Food Day and 75th Anniversary of FAO

The award of this year’s Nobel Prize for Peace to the United Nations World Food Programme recognizes the right of all people to food, and our common quest to achieve zero hunger.

In a world of plenty, it is a grave affront that hundreds of millions go to bed hungry each night.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further intensified food insecurity to a level not seen in decades.

Some 130 million people risk being pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of this year.

This is on top of the 690 million people who already lack enough to eat.

At the same time, more than 3 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet.

As we mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, we need to intensify our efforts to achieve the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals.

That means a future where everyone, everywhere, has access to the nutrition they need.

Next year, I will convene a Food Systems Summit to inspire action towards this vision.

We need to make food systems more resistant to volatility and climate shocks.

We need to ensure sustainable and healthy diets for all, and to minimize food waste.

And we need food systems that provide decent, safe livelihoods for workers.

We have the know-how and the capacity to create a more resilient, equitable and sustainable world.

On this World Food Day, let us make a commitment to “Grow, Nourish, and Sustain.  Together”.

 

 

As UN marks 75 years, let us work together to realize the opportunities in African unity

Ms. Fatima Kyari Mohammed is the Permanent Observer and Head of Mission of the African Union to the United Nations. She spoke to Africa Renewal about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, marking a milestone year in the fight for women’s rights and reflections on the African Union’s relationship with the UN in its 75th year. Here are the excerpts:

Ms. Fatima Kyari Mohammed is the Permanent Observer and Head of Mission of the African Union to the United Nations

Ms. Fatima Kyari Mohammed is the Permanent Observer and Head of Mission of the African Union to the United Nations

How is COVID-19 affecting Africa’s priorities such as the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063?

As you are aware, Agendas 2030 and 2063 are very much aligned. Priority areas such as ending poverty and hunger, achieving food security and addressing some of the broader socio-economic challenges in health, education and employment, particularly for the most vulnerable, have been greatly impacted in ways that were not foreseen even a year ago. The pandemic has forced us to refocus our attention in some areas and re-allocate resources. COVID-19 has shown us how interconnected the world is. No individual, country or region is immune to this reality.

How has it impacted your work?

Just like everyone else, we have had to reorganize to ensure we are able to deliver on our commitments and our mandate. We shifted some priorities. It was important to understand the pandemic and its implications and try to overcome the hurdles that come with it.

Africa’s continent-wide response slowed the spread of the pandemic earlier this year. How can the countries better deal with this challenge?   

The advantage for Africa with the pandemic has been two-fold. First, drawing lessons from the Ebola outbreak, many African countries quickly put in place measures for curbing the spread of COVID-19 well ahead of time. Second, in terms of timing, the pandemic hit the continent at a time when many other regions were already going through the worst of it. So, we had ample time to learn from the experiences of others.

Currently, through the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the African Union (AU) is supporting public health institutions across the continent through innovation and strategic partnerships.

We are coordinating and providing integrated solutions to our public health systems particularly where there is weak or inadequate infrastructure by offering training and equipment so that countries are better prepared to respond to future health emergencies and disasters.

How can Africa recover better from the pandemic?

The biggest blow for most African countries is that socio-economic gains have been hindered. The impact on economic development is devastating. Beyond the impact on health and education, economic stress on people is of major concern.

Countries should use this experience as an opportunity to rebuild better and stronger. The impact on jobs, businesses, and family incomes means that responses and strategies we put in place must focus on ways and means to support those hardest hit. We need smart investments and policies that can eradicate extreme poverty and provide access and equal opportunities for all.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is making a case for the bridging of inequality in a post-COVID-19 development order. How could the AU, including your office, help actualize the SG’s vision for the benefit of the continent?

Partnership between the AU and the UN is a top priority for us. The Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, strongly supports the UN Secretary-General’s appeal for collective action against this scourge and for a global ceasefire. We can only contain the pandemic if we work together. The AU Observer Mission to the UN will continue to support the vision and the priorities of both institutions.

Several studies show that women are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. What is the role of women in the recovery process?

It is true that even before the pandemic hit, we advocated for women’s full participation in decision making. Economies are stronger and peace processes more successful with women’s active participation. Women can achieve success, from the lowest community level and up. I would encourage women to continue to speak up against injustices and for one another. This pandemic has increased incidences of gender-based violence, which should not be tolerated. If we truly want to make a change, we, men and women, must keep advocating, educating and exposing perpetrators of gender-based violence.

2020 is a milestone year for women—with Beijng+25, UNSC Resolution 1325+20, and 15 years since the Maputo Protocol entered into force—all of which challenge old stereotypes about the role of women in society. To what extent have African countries achieved progress in gender equality?

The progress made by Africa since the Beijing 4th Conference on Women in 1995 is commendable, but we still have a long way to go. We have strong, progressive, global and continental policies, strategies and action plans on women, peace and security. Yet women and girls continue to bear the brunt of conflicts in Africa. They are the victims of sexual violence and other forms of abuse and they are underrepresented in peace processes at the local, national and continental levels. The AU’s strategy on gender equality is aligned with the UNSC Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security agenda.

However, implementation still remains a challenge, including the meaningful participation of women in peace and security activities. This milestone should revitalize the need for women’s voices to be heard in the peace and security agenda. There is no doubt that the AU’s partnership with women’s organizations across the continent is the vehicle for concrete actions.

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council recently adopted the Continental Framework on Youth, Peace and Security. How do you envisage the role of young people in the attainment of peace and security in Africa?

Despite the adoption of the framework you referred to, we are still at the very beginning of this journey. Today’s youth—the largest generation of young people in history—are marginalized, excluded, exploited and easily drawn into conflict. Many young people, especially young women, lack resources and opportunities to realize their potential and participate in political, peace and security processes. Instead, they are vulnerable, especially during conflicts.

The framework itself reinforces the call for action on youth, peace and security in Africa. Its adoption is a recognition that young people are Africa’s greatest asset. It helps expand possibilities for active youth involvement in decision-making processes as well as planning and programming.

The UN is supporting the AU’s campaign on ‘Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020.’ What does it mean for Africa when the guns are silent and how is your office working with the international community to achieve this goal?

Let me put the question into context: The Silencing the Guns (STGs) in Africa initiative was a pledge by African leaders in May 2013 to end all wars on the continent by 2020. As you know, STGs is a critical element of Africa’s Agenda 2063, and the AU Peace and Security Council later adopted a Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to silence the guns by 2020. The roadmap emphasizes structural interventions in several areas such as socio-economic development, youth and women’s empowerment, employment, education, climate change and governance.

We are working with partners to shift the narrative and ensure sustainable peace on the continent. But we still have a lot of work to do in carrying the international community along. Silencing the guns in Africa means being able to develop and move forward and build a peaceful and prosperous continent for our people.

As the UN turns 75, how critical has the organization been to Africa’s peace, security and development?

The partnership between the AU and UN in peace and security is very relevant.  The two organizations work together in many areas. We have annual consultations, a joint taskforce, we go on joint field visits and carry out mediation efforts. We also cooperate on electoral matters and governance, as well as the protection of human rights, among others.

Africa continues to make a case for more representation on the UN Security Council (UNSC). What is the strongest argument for such a case?

As you are aware, Africa has a common position on the UNSC reform. Africa has consistently made the case for representation in the “Permanent” category of the Council. Also, there is a need for more African representation in the “non-Permanent” category in order to achieve true and meaningful reform of the UN Security Council. Equitable geographical representation in line with the principles, objectives and ideals of the UN Charter can only lead to a fairer and more equitable world.

At any one time, there are three African states holding non-Permanent seats in the UN Security Council, the so-called A3. What would you say are the three top achievements of the A3 in recent times in advancing Africa’s agenda?

First, there has been stronger coordination among the members, particularly in the last couple of years. This has helped in championing Africa’s common positions, interests and concerns on issues of peace and security that are on the UN Security Council’s agenda.

Second, we have now established annual meetings between AUPSC [African Union Peace and Security Council] and the UNSC. It demonstrates a commitment by the two councils to work together on matters of peace and security in Africa. The A3 ensures effective consultations.

Third, the A3 has helped create opportunities for alliances with other member of the UNSC, ensuring that they support our global cause for world peace.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is touted as Africa’s next big thing. Why should Africans be hopeful?

The objective of the AfCFTA is to leverage the opportunity of a huge population of approximately 1.3 billion people and an estimated combined GDP of $3.4 trillion by creating a single market for goods and services, facilitating free movement of goods and people, accelerating investments and potentially establishing a Customs Union.

The AfCFTA could lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty by 2035. So, why should African not be hopeful? The AfCFTA is our ambition for collective progress and development. Of course, there are policies and regulatory measures that need to be in place, but some of these are already being put in place in countries and the sub-regions.

What message of hope do you have for Africans during this trying period?

As we mark the 75th year of the UN, we must reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic and work together in combating it and cooperating for sustainable recovery. As I said earlier, the pandemic has exposed many gaps, but it has also reinforced the fact that we live in an interconnected world. As Africans, we must recognize the potential and opportunities in African unity and work together.

We are all part of humankind. We cannot ignore the fact that the world is hurting. Collective action, mutual respect, and regard for international rules and norms are crucial if we must achieve our common objectives.  In short, multilateralism matters.

Article first appeared in Africa Renewal on 29 September 2020.

Remarks by the Secretary-General at Launch of Policy Brief on Food Security

New York, 9 June 2020

There is more than enough food in the world to feed our population of 7.8 billion people.

But, today, more than 820 million people are hungry.

And some 144 million children under the age of 5 are stunted – more than one in five children worldwide.

Our food systems are failing, and the Covid-19 pandemic is making things worse.

Unless immediate action is taken, it is increasingly clear that there is an impending global food emergency that could have long term impacts on hundreds of millions of children and adults.

This year, some 49 million extra people may fall into extreme poverty due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The number of people who are acutely food or nutrition insecure will rapidly expand.

Every percentage point drop in global Gross Domestic Product means an additional 0.7 million stunted children.

Even in countries with abundant food, we see risks of disruptions in the food supply chain.

We need to act now to avoid the worst impacts of our efforts to control the pandemic.

Today I am launching a Policy Brief on the Impact of COVID-19 on Food Security and Nutrition.

It has three clear findings.

First, we must mobilize to save lives and livelihoods, focusing attention where the risk is most acute.

That means designating food and nutrition services as essential, while implementing appropriate protections for food workers.

It means preserving critical humanitarian food, livelihood and nutrition assistance to vulnerable groups.

And it means positioning food in food-crisis countries to reinforce and scale up social protection systems.

Countries need to scale up support for food processing, transport and local food markets, and they must keep trade corridors open to ensure the continuous functioning of food systems.

And they must ensure that relief and stimulus packages reach the most vulnerable, including meeting the liquidity needs of small-scale food producers and rural businesses.

Second, we must strengthen social protection systems for nutrition.

Countries need to safeguard access to safe, nutritious foods, particularly for young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, older people and other at-risk groups.

And they need to adapt and expand social protection schemes to benefit nutritionally at-risk groups.

This includes supporting children who no longer have access to school meals.

Third, we must invest in the future.

We have an opportunity to build a more inclusive and sustainable world.

Let us build food systems that better address the needs of food producers and workers.

Let us provide more inclusive access to healthy and nutritious food so we can eradicate hunger.

And let us rebalance the relationship between food systems and the natural environment by transforming them to work better with nature and for the climate.

We cannot forget that food systems contribute up to 29 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, including 44 per cent of methane, and are having a negative impact on biodiversity.

If we do these things and more, as indicated by the brief we are launching today, we can avoid some of the worst impacts of the COVID19 pandemic on food security and nutrition – and we can do so in a way that supports the green transition that we need to make.

Thank you.

Sustainable Development Goals: Goal 2 End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

By Anna Lartey

The year 2015 presents a unique opportunity for the global development community to build on and strengthen the momentum initiated by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Building on progress made

Goal 2 End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Goal 2 End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Scheduling the launch of the post-2015 development agenda for September 2015 provides us with the time necessary to undertake consultations and discuss what exact goals are needed to maximize progress. While the MDGs started from ground zero, creating a baseline for global hunger and poverty targets, the sustainable development goals (SDGs) will hit the ground running, propelled by over a decade of lessons learned. Given this experience, the coming years offer unprecedented potential for human development.

With respect to nutrition, the current discourse and action are informed by a number of strategies and approaches which evolved over the course of the MDGs. Nutrition has captured global attention and has remained a featured agenda item for most development partners. A number of international initiatives, multi-stakeholder processes and commitments add fuel to the fire, including the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement (2009), the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact (2013), the United Nations Secretary-General’s Zero Hunger Challenge (2012), and the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2).

Food Systems for Nutrition

Held jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in November 2014 in Rome, ICN2 convened almost 170 Member States to address the multiple challenges of malnutrition. The conference produced two outcome documents, the Rome Declaration on Nutrition, which outlines current challenges and commits to addressing them in the coming decade, and a complementary Framework for Action, which lists 60 actions that countries may select from to guide national nutrition strategies.

A key message from ICN2 was that food systems around the world are changing rapidly and becoming more complex. Recent trends in industrialization, globalization and commercialization have profound implications for what foods are being produced, the degree to which they are being processed, and how people are consuming them.

This message has been broadcast ever more loudly by the international nutrition community in recent years. It is in large part a reflection of mounting concern over the impact and sustainability of current consumption and production patterns. Although commercialization and specialization in agricultural production, processing and retailing have enhanced efficiency throughout the global food system, increasing year-round availability and affordability of a diverse range of foods (FAO, 2013, p. v), “ double” or even “triple” burdens of malnutrition are also increasingly ubiquitous. Today, most countries suffer from some combination of stunting, anemia, and/or obesity and overweight.

The negative environmental effects associated with these patterns of food system change include land degradation, unsustainable water use and heavy reliance on pesticides and fertilizers, to name a few. They present a major concern not only in regard to their obvious agroecological impact, but also with respect to increased risk of food insecurity and poverty, with subsequent insidious implications for nutrition and health.

As such, the quality of global, national and local food systems is increasingly considered reflective of the integral role played by agriculture in food security and nutrition outcomes. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2—end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture—is a clear acknowledgement of the links between these important components. It is also uncharted territory that offers unprecedented opportunities to tackle a range of challenges facing current food systems. These include increasing support to small-scale food producers, improving environmental sustainability, increasing resilience in production practices, and reducing food waste and losses.

Ensuring That Nutrition Does Not Get Lost

Of the 17 SDGs and 169 targets proposed by the United Nations Open Working Group, only SDG 2 includes a provision on nutrition. That said, the fact that it embeds sustenance in the context of food security and sustainable agriculture is an achievement, as it acknowledges the crucial role played by food-based approaches to nutrition. Furthermore, consolidating nutrition, food security and agriculture into the same goal increases accountability with respect to health and environmental impacts of agricultural production practices and food system development.

The risk of the SDG 2 phrasing is that the concept of “improved nutrition” is conflated with the conventional hunger reduction construct, with the focus defaulting to food quantity and national calorie availability, as opposed to the quality of available foods and household or individual access to them. This is a common problem in food security discourse. Although the original 1996 World Food Summit definition of food security included “ensuring year-round access to adequate, safe, diverse and nutrient-rich foods for all”, over the years the concept has been reduced in many contexts to gross calorie availability. As a result, we now often talk about “food security and nutrition” to safeguard the latter from being forgotten.

How can we ensure that the nutrition component of SDG 2 is upheld and not overshadowed? Two suggestions, both based on the premise that consideration of food quality (as opposed to quantity) is key. First, agricultural productivity must pay attention to nutrient-dense foods. Second, countries must recognize that there are multiple entry points for improving nutrition through agriculture and food systems. There are many ways to improve the quality of foods available in a given food environment. Indeed, given the current rapid pace of commercialization and specialization in agricultural production, a wide range of opportunities are available.

Identifying Entry Points

The ICN2 Framework for Action includes a section on “Sustainable food systems for promoting healthy diets”, with more recommendations than almost any other section. These range from the promotion of crop diversification, to establishing national food or nutrient-based standards, strengthening local food production and processing, and exploring regulatory or voluntary instruments for promoting healthy diets. The broad scope of the recommendations is indicative of all the different ways to increase the nutrition sensitivity of food and agriculture systems. That said, the trick is to identify which of these multiple entry points will provide the most leverage, given sociocultural preferences, the political climate, and the surrounding policy landscape.

While the former fall squarely under the purview of individual countries, international consensus is emerging on which policy areas offer the greatest potential for nutrition impact. These include: agricultural production policies, strategies designed to impact consumer purchasing power (e.g. cash transfers, consumer subsidies), policies pertaining to food transformation and consumer demand, and market and trade system policies such as import tariffs or bans (Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, 2014).

Across the board, the emphasis is on using policy levers to increase availability and affordability of diverse, nutritious foods, thus making food systems more nutrition-sensitive. Environmentally-viable production practices which improve agricultural sustainability—with subsequent long-term positive implications for food security and nutrition—are an important part of the picture.

Measuring Progress

SDG 2 opens a wide door in terms of policy and programme entry points for improving nutrition through agriculture. However, in terms of nutrition monitoring and evaluation, the parameters are narrower. To date, there is broad consensus on which indicators best measure progress in critical nutrition outcomes. Recommended by the United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition (UNSCN) as a suite, these include stunting, wasting, overweight, exclusive breastfeeding, low birth weight and anemia prevalence in women of reproductive age. These indicators are used to assess progress towards the World Health Assembly global nutrition targets and to estimate the percentage of national budget allocated to nutrition (UNSCN, 2014).

They are all being promoted for inclusion under SDG 2. Also included within the recommended suite of nutrition indicators agreed upon by UNSCN is the Minimum Dietary Diversity—Women (MDD-W), specified as “the percentage of women, 15-49 years of age, who consume at least 5 out of 10 defined food groups” (FANTA/FAO, 2014). This indicator is currently the only validated option for assessing adult diet quality at the individual level. It is a proxy for micronutrient adequacy of the diets of women of reproductive age. Women consuming at least five out of ten food groups have a greater likelihood of meeting their micronutrient needs than women consuming foods from fewer food groups. The MDD-W is a key indicator that links all the components of SDG 2 by highlighting nutritional quality of food intake, while emphasizing the role of agriculture in promoting good health (UNSCN, 2014).

It is important to note that overall, the development and validation of food-based indicators has lagged conspicuously behind other types of nutrition-related metrics. For the most part, these indicators have not fundamentally changed since the 1970s; they still measure availability and access to calories (Herforth, 2015), reflecting the reductionist food security view mentioned above. Increasing demand for and availability of globally comparable, routinely collected indicators of diet adequacy is imperative for holding agriculture and food systems to a higher, more health-centred standard. SDG 2 offers a tremendous opportunity in this regard.

References

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2013). The State of Food and Agriculture 2013: Food Systems for Better Nutrition. Rome. Available from http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3300e/ i3300e00.htm.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance (2014). Introducing the Minimum Dietary Diversity—Women (MDD-W): Global Dietary Diversity Indicator for Women, July 15–16, 2014. Washington, D.C. Available from http://www.fantaproject.org/sites/default/files/resources/introduce-MDD-W-indicator-brief-sep2014.pdf.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and World Health Organization (2014). Rome Declaration on Nutrition. Second International Conference on Nutrition, Rome, Italy, 19-21 November 2014. Available from http://www.fao.org/3/a-ml542e.pdf.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and World Health Organization (2014). Framework for Action. Second International Conference on Nutrition, Rome, Italy, 19-21 November 2014. Available from http://www.fao.org/3/a-mm215e.pdf.

Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition (2014).

How Can Agriculture and Food System Policies Improve Nutrition?

Technical Brief, November 2014. London, UK. Available from http://www.glopan.org/sites/default/files/global%20panel%20techni-cal%20Brief%20Final.pdf

Herforth, Anna (2015). (In press) Access to Adequate Nutritious Food: New Indicators to Track Progress and Inform Action. In The Fight against Hunger and Malnutrition: The Role of Food, Agriculture, and Targeted Policies, David E. Sahn, ed. Oxford University Press.

United Nations Standing Committee on nutrition (2014). Priority Nutrition Indicators for the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Policy Brief. Geneva, Switzerland. Available from http:// www.unscn.org/files/publications/policy_brief_priority_nutri- tion_indicators_for_the_post-2015_sdgs.pdf.

Anna Lartey is Director of the Nutrition Division in the Economic and Social Development Department at the Food And Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.