QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), urges global leaders at Rome gathering to change policies, mind-sets and business models to transform agri-food systems.
A holistic and coordinated approach is urgently needed to transform agri-food systems and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. This was the call made by the QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to world leaders participating in the opening of 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," Qu said, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated the situation.
According to a report issued in July by FAO and its partners, around a 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.
The FAO Director-General stressed how at this "critical moment in time" the world faces "the historic task" to transform the agri-food systems and put 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 participants at the Pre-Summit opening ceremony that saw the participation of dozens of heads of state and government, ministers and other high-level representatives, some present in person while others connected by video.
Speakers included Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres - the UN and the Government of Italy are the Pre-Summit co-hosts - the President of Rwanda and 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.
FAO's contribution to transforming agri-food systems
In his opening ceremony address, the FAO Director-General outlined how in the past two years, the Organization has become a more efficient, inclusive and fit for purpose and is strategically poised to drive many of the changes needed to transform agri-food systems.
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 match-making 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. "FAO continues to build and strengthen joint efforts across sectors, regions and communities with all stakeholders he 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).
"I invite you all to join the WFF," which will be held for the first time from 1 to 6 October 2021 he said. "We must seize this opportunity to uplift our taking the world from Zero waste first, to Zero hunger final!".