Leaders of the G20 countries must continue to support the smooth functioning of global agri-food systems, which faces ongoing challenges from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said in remarks opening the G20 Agriculture Ministers' Meeting in Florence, Italy.
SOUNDBITE (English) QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General: “Agri-food systems transformation is challenging for all of us. No matter if you are big, small, rich or poor, but agriculture-food systems urgently need to transform to feed the poor, to help the farmers, to help the consumers, to help environment friendly farming systems for the future. I think that’s a clear message. And I also appreciate that Italian government walks the talks. From Matera to Florence, from talking, to action.”
Qu hailed the G20's pivotal leadership role over the past 18 months in mitigating the effects of the pandemic on the sector. Yet challenges persist, notably due to how the pandemic has expanded existing inequalities, Qu said, citing the International Monetary Fund's estimation that the per capita income loss for emerging markets and developing economies has been two and a half times the proportion of those in advanced economies; as well as FAO's assessment that food insecurity has risen from 8.4 percent to around 9.9 percent of the world's population.
FAO's Director-General stressed that there is clear evidence that agri-food systems are key to reducing these inequalities, especially in rural areas.
Qu showed the ministers at the meeting a brief video message from Thomas Pesquet, a French astronaut and FAO Goodwill Ambassador who is currently on the International Space Station, in which the Director-General asked Pesquet to share his thoughts with the G20 ministers.
SOUNDBITE (English) European Space Agency Astronaut Thomas Pesquet: “I think it's very important those people are digital natives, they are the new generations, they are going to be in charge of the planet, so it's very important that caring for the environment and caring for agri-food systems and all those things that are taken for granted, is on their agendas. It's important for them food doesn’t grow in cities and everybody needs to be aware, everybody should take action. The younger generations will be key for solving our global challenges.”
The Director-General thanked Italy, noting the long-term generosity of the government, the people and the city of Rome in hosting FAO for 70 years.
The Italian G20 Presidency is hosting the two-day meeting, which focuses on the sustainability of agricultural and food systems.
Prior to this event, preparatory meetings by Agriculture Ministry officials exchanged insights on the role of research and innovation and the necessity of sharing technological knowledge as tools to boost resilience, as well as new breeding techniques and the prospective role of digital traceability. Italy organized two scientific workshops, one on antimicrobial resistance and one on agriculture and climate change.
The ministerial meeting also focuses on the Zero Hunger goal, the One Health approach and the G20's contribution to the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit 2021 and COP 26. Leaders of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO), World Trade Organization (WTO), World Food Programme (WFP), International Labor Organization (ILO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) also participated in the event.
The FAO Director-General commended Italy's G20 Presidency for constructive efforts throughout 2021 and pushing food security higher up the agenda, as underscored in the Matera Declaration.
Qu also pointed to reforms of FAO itself under his leadership, including a new Strategic Framework 2022-2031 built around the “Four Betters”.
SOUNDBITE (English) QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General: “I wanted to say one word about the new strategy of FAO for the next decade. It has been endorsed by the ministers of the 194 members in June. We support strongly the transformation to more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable agri-food systems for a better production, a better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all, leaving no one behind.”
FAO stands ready to support Members in the transformation of agri-food systems and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, urging the G20 Agriculture Ministers to accelerate the pace of progress by agreeing on the importance of G20 cooperation, responsible and targeted investments, One Health, research and innovation, and open global agri-food trade flows.