Youth leaders took centre stage in the fight to feed the world by raising awareness, inspiring action and identifying solutions at the World Food Forum, a youth-led movement whose first flagship event ended today, 5 October 2021.
Thousands of young people from across the globe followed five days of virtual debates, innovation, science, and cultural celebrations in Rome. Rallying under the slogan “Nothing about us without us,” youth leaders called for food to be considered a public good and a basic human right. And with the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow just around the corner, they also urged politicians to work together to make agri-food systems more sustainable.
Conceived by the FAO Youth Committee, and jointly organized with the youth networks at the other Rome-based UN food agencies, the World Food Forum brings together youth from a broad range of backgrounds and expertise with the aim of spurring action to help transform agri-food systems and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 2 ("No hunger"), SDG 1 (“No poverty”) and SDG 10 (“lower inequality”).
The Oct. 1-5 gathering was the culmination of more than a year of work with more than 25 events, roundtables and youth consultations that for the first time put young people at the heart of the decision-making process. It also offered a platform for the voices of indigenous communities, smallholder farmers and the marginalized to be heard loud and clear.
The five-day flagship event ended with a Youth Action Assembly, which was tasked with coming up with practical advice to governments and key stakeholders. The Youth Action Compendium is a plan of action for initiating youth-led agri-food systems transformation.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) Pramisha Thapaliya, Young Leader, WFF Assembly: “Our biggest goal is always the same, that is a transformation of agri-food systems and World Food Forum had this thrive to give the youth the driving seeds to lead this change and we also know that we have only nine harvests left until 2030.”
World Food Forum not only gave a seat at the table, it created that table according to youth leaders.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) Yugratna Srivastava, Young Leader, WFF Assembly: “The policies that have been made, the work that you are doing today is going to affect the younger generations. So it is important that they have a seat at the table. And I’ll repeat what we had said in UNEA (United Nations Environment Assembly), what we had said in Stockholm: ‘Nothing about us without us’, and that has to be reflected not just in words, but in actions.”
The World Food Forum five-day virtual gathering was the first follow-up to the United Nations Food Systems Summit, which was held in New York in September. The summit, which ended with the slogan “From New York back to Rome,” tasked FAO, along with the other Rome-based UN agencies, with ensuring the success of ambitious and urgent efforts designed to make the world's agri-food systems more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.
Junior World Food Day
Ahead of World Food Day on October 16, the final day of the Forum also featured Junior World Food Day, a special event celebrating food heroes of all ages in the fields of farming, food, innovation, science, sports and the arts.
Among those who participated by interacting and sharing their experiences with children were Bela Gil, a food activist, chef, TV host, nutritionist and author who sources local, seasonal and sustainable food and finds creative ways to use leftovers in her recipes; Ismahane Elouafi, the FAO Chief Scientist who is internationally known for her work on promoting the use of non-fresh water in agriculture and the empowerment of women in science; James Corden, an English actor and comedian – and the voice of Peter Rabbit - who is calling on young people to eat more locally sourced fruits and vegetables and waste less food.
While Thomas Pesquet, a French astronaut and FAO Goodwill Ambassador, sent a message to the youth from the International Space Station.
SOUNDBITE (English) European Space Agency Astronaut Thomas Pesquet: “The world really needs to favor sustainable farming that protect the environment. We can help choosing foods produced with sustainable methods, or food that use less water from irrigation to produce and are kinder to the earth and soils.
The FAO Director-General also shared with children his personal stories: Of how he had experienced hunger and poverty first-hand while growing up in a rice-farming family in rural China, of how proud he was to have contributed to China’s ending of hunger, both as a scientist and as a government official, and of how honoured and privileged he felt about now being able to offer his expertise and experience to people around the world.
SOUNDBITE (English) QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General: “I am proud to have contributed to ending hunger in China both as a scientist and as a government official. As a Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO, I am very honoured and privileged to be able to offer my expertise and experience to serve all the people around the world. I could not have a possible dream like this as a poor rural kid fifty years ago. This has happened to me, this could happen to any of you in the future.”
Junior World Food Day also saw the launch of an inspiring multilingual music video featuring children in six countries – Armenia, Chile, China, Cameroon, Ireland and Lebanon – singing about what it takes to become a food hero and calling on others to join them.