FAO Director-General addressed the opening ceremony along with UN Secretary-General and Italian Prime Minister
Rome – The UN Food Systems Summit+2 Stocktaking Moment (UNFSS+2) kicked off on Monday at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) headquarters in Rome with a high-level opening ceremony attended by over 20 heads of State and Government, and a strong call for accelerating action to transform global agrifood systems.
The three-day high-level event is convened by the United Nations Secretariat and hosted by Italy, in collaboration with the Rome-based UN Agencies (FAO, IFAD, WFP), with the objective of taking stock of the progress achieved since the first UN Food Systems Summit in 2021. The opening ceremony was led by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, and the Prime Minister of Italy, Giorgia Meloni.
In his opening speech, FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu highlighted that the UN Food System Summit process has made it clear that agrifood systems hold huge power and potential in contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
He noted the progress achieved in identifying the solutions that agrifood systems can provide for better production, better, nutrition, a better environment, and a better life— such as sustainable farming practices, efficient water management, responsible packaging, reforestation, and reduced food waste—and underlined that these depended on transforming global agrifood systems to be more efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable.
“In the face of increasing uncertainties and multiple crises, we need to urgently undertake this transformation to fulfil the high expectations we have from our agrifood systems,” he underscored.
To speed up progress, he said, it is necessary to leverage cross-cutting accelerators, and FAO is focusing on four key areas: science and innovation, improved data capabilities, increase in targeted and coordinated public and private finance, and establishing inclusive agrifood systems governance mechanisms.
“Unlocking the full potential of agrifood systems can only happen if we focus on these accelerators, to help minimize trade-offs and maximize synergies,” Qu highlighted.
Healthy food for all
The UN Secretary-General António Guterres, as the convenor of the event, delivered the keynote speech, also recognizing the progress since the first UN Food Systems Summit in 2021.
“Over 100 countries have submitted voluntary progress reports on food systems transformation. Countries are taking decisive steps to reflect this priority in national and sub-national laws, policies and programming,” he noted, adding that there is also progress on data to shape policies and partnerships.
However, he said, rescuing the Sustainable Development Goals means going much further, and time is running out.
The UN chief asked for a massive investment in sustainable, equitable, healthy, and resilient food systems; for government and businesses to work together to build systems that put people over profit, and explore new ways to lower the cost and increase the availability of healthy food for all; and to reduce food systems carbon footprint to help end the “senseless” war on our planet and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“Let’s keep holding each other to account and learning from one another. Let’s transform food systems for the future, and ensure that every person, in every community and country, has access to the safe and nutritious food they need and deserve,” he urged the Summit.
Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, officially inaugurated the event with a welcoming message, saying that Rome will become the Food Security Capital of the World for three days, a choice “that pays tribute to Italy’s traditional commitment to this crucial issue”.
“Food security has always been one of the strategic guidelines of our foreign policy and a priority area of Italian development cooperation. And it has become one of the major challenges of our time, in a completely interconnected world,” she said, inviting nations to invest in research and technology, finance at scale, and cooperate to transform food systems.
Three days to convene
The opening ceremony also had the participation of Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed; Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina; Primer Minister of Samoa Fiame Naomi Mataafa; Prime Minister of Nepal Pushpa Kamal Dahal; President of Armenia Vahagn Khachaturyan; Alvaro Lario, President of IFAD; Cindy McCain, WFP Executive Director; and Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and Former Special Envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit.
The UNFSS+2 will last until Wednesday, 26 July, and will see a series of high-level events, dialogues and side events related to transforming agrifood systems on topics such as food waste, climate change, healthy diets, partnerships, science and technology, indigenous people’s knowledge, and transportation.
The high-level event comes at a time when up to 783 million people are facing hunger globally, one-third of all food produced is lost or wasted, and more than three billion people cannot afford healthy diets.
Unsustainable methods of producing, packaging, and consuming food are also exacerbating the climate crisis by contributing to one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions, utilizing 70 % of the world’s freshwater, and causing extensive biodiversity loss.
According to FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu, the UNFSS+2 must address the fact that agrifood systems need to be transformed so that they can meet the increased demand for food while reducing pressure on natural resources; reduce greenhouse gas emissions and safeguard biodiversity; increase resilience to the climate crisis, conflicts and other disruptions to supply chains; ensure decent employment; and ensure access to safe and nutritious food and healthy diets for all.
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Photo: FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu, addresses the opening ceremony of the UNFSS+2 ©FAO