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28 July 2021 14:07

The 2021 UN Food Systems Pre-Summit takes place in Rome

The 2021 UN Food Systems Pre-Summit takes place in Rome

Equality campaigners, community leaders and academics took centre stage during the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit in Rome to call for countries to transform food systems to be more inclusive.

The official programme featured sessions dedicated to four decisive “levers of change”, including women’s empowerment, and human rights.

“This is really an incredible day that we are witnessing, that we all come together in person, and, of course, virtually. But it is two years after a really robust process – we didn't imagine that we would have COVID-19, but when it did come it seemed to have galvanized the solidarity around a very important issue: food. But beyond food, to acknowledge that the 2030 Agenda was off track. The goal to and that we wanted to obtain zero hunger was very far from being attained. If anything, COVID-19 has exacerbated it and more people were living in hunger, in fact, that was going up”, – Antonio Gutteres said at the UN Food Systems Summit opening ceremony.

Speakers tackled issues including the need for greater recognition of land tenure rights, the right of Indigenous Peoples, the links between humanitarian and development sectors, and gender-responsive food systems.

As from the outset with this “People’s Summit”, UN leadership welcomed this approach and reaffirmed its commitment to an inclusive and transparent process during the Pre-Summit.

“The Secretary-General was very clear that this Summit would be about including everyone,” said Amina J. Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General, during the opening press conference.

“Bold Actions for Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Food Systems” session came on the heels of Rwandan President Paul Kagame calling for increased investment to African women farmers access the productive resources they need.

“It’s one of the key issues that we have to grapple with: how to support women smallholder farmers, how to make sure they actually have the productive resources that they need to transform food systems, how to ensure they actually have right to the land that they cultivate,” said UN Food System Summit gender champion Dr. Jemimah Njuki, who is Director for Africa at the International Food Policy Research Institute.

“There are 1.7 billion rural women and girls in the world - more than one-fifth of all humanity. It is unacceptable that they make up almost half the agricultural labour force, yet they are more likely than men to live in poverty and hunger,” said Sabrina Dhowre Elba, the UN Goodwill Ambassador for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Likewise, in a joint statement, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore and WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for children and young people to be at the heart of food systems transformation citing how their nutritional health has been hit the hardest even before the Covid-19 pandemic.

In moderating the session, “Transforming Food Systems Together – Youth Actions for our Present and Future”, Victor Mugo, who is Co-chair of the Youth Liaisons Group, Highlighted how “the youth have led from the front, and are actually exemplifying that we are not the leaders of tomorrow, we are the leaders of today.” Fellow youth champion Yugratna Srivastava echoed this urgency, saying, “For children and youth of the world, food systems transformation is a matter of justice between generations and people.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights and Co-Chair of IPES-Food Olivier de Schutter led a panel discussion on how a human rights approach to food systems could deliver the Sustainable Development Goals alongside keynote remarks from Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

“Food is and should be treated as a public good, a common and a human right,” said fellow panellist Wenche Barthe Eide, Associate Professor emerita at the University of Oslo.

The UN Food Systems Summit was announced by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, on World Food Day last October as a part of the Decade of Action for delivery on the SDGs by 2030. The aim of the Summit is to deliver progress on all 17 of the SDGs through a food systems approach, leveraging the interconnectedness of food systems to global challenges such as hunger, climate change, poverty and inequality.

The Food Systems Pre-Summit is being held in Rome under the leadership of the Secretary-General and in partnership with the Government of Italy from July 26 to July 28 before the Summit in September.

Photo: United Nations

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