Hidden Social, Economic, Environmental Costs Associated with Today’s Food Systems Enough to Undermine Decades of Development, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Summit

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as delivered, at the United Nations Food Systems Summit Stocktake, in Rome today:

The UN Secretary-General has sounded the alarm:  The world is not on track to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Only about 12 per cent of SDG targets are on track.  Nearly half are moderately or severely off track, and 37 per cent are showing no change.

As we approach the mid-point of the 2030 Agenda, the SDGs are in deep trouble, with hunger at levels not seen since 2005.  If current trends continue, by 2030, 575 million people will still live in extreme poverty and nearly 670 million will suffer hunger.  Transforming our food systems is one key to getting the world back on track and reversing these worrying trends.

The Food Systems Summit convened by the Secretary-General two years ago offered a vision of how redesigning food systems could unlock opportunities for progress across the SDGs.  Since then, 122 countries have adopted national pathways for food systems transformation.  They have embarked on implementing these through integrated processes, supported by national Convenors.  In many cases, these pathways are reflected in national plans, laws and regulations, and in investment strategies to mobilize public and private financial resources. 

The 101 national voluntary reports submitted to the Food Systems Stocktake show that countries are doing their part.  Yet progress is too slow to meet the demands and expectations.

Food systems are still unable to make nutritious food available and accessible to everyone, everywhere.  They are not delivering decent jobs and livelihoods for those who work in the food and agriculture sectors.  Nor are they contributing as they should to the fight against the triple crisis of climate, pollution and biodiversity loss.

The hidden social, economic and environmental costs associated with today's food systems amount to a staggering $12 trillion.  This scale of losses is clearly enough to undermine decades of collective development achievements.

Meanwhile, the spillover effects of our ineffective and inefficient food systems are also deeply damaging.  These impacts go beyond borders and can trigger vicious cycles of social, geopolitical, economic and environmental crises. 

I believe there are several reasons for this disappointing lack of progress.

First, several ongoing and interlinked crises, from the COVID-19 pandemic to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have added new levels of complexity to food systems that were already failing to deliver in important ways.

A second major reason is that many countries lack funding to catalyse and coordinate their plans.

Without this, they struggle to attract the longer-term financial investments needed to create transformation in the lives of people.

The Joint SDG Fund’s Window on Food Systems, being launched today, is our effort to tackle the support needed to address this lack of funding and turn the situation around.  It will bring to life a food systems investment strategy, supported by the United Nation and the National Food Systems Convenors.  This will catalyse the rapid and system-wide action needed for food system transformation under the United Nations Food Systems Hub.

In addition, the support of the resident coordinator system and United Nations development system will help to create strategic partnerships at the national, regional and global levels for food systems transformation.

The Joint SDG Fund’s Food Systems Window will serve as a mechanism to mobilize financing and expertise on food systems from stakeholders across sectors, geographies and constituencies.  It offers a unique opportunity to drive the implementation of national food system pathways, steered by Governments.  And it provides a platform to leverage broader investments through blended financing and partnership with the private sector.

A fully-capitalized Food Systems Window will play a critical role in mobilizing broader support and financing, from domestic public funding and private sector investments for food systems transformation. It will help turn national priorities into realities with an impact that goes far beyond food systems, helping to rescue the SDGs and reshape the global financial architecture.

I would also like to thank the Federal Republic of Germany as the first mover for their substantial financial contribution to the Window.  We trust many more Member States will join Germany in helping to change food systems into SDG accelerators at the country-level.

I look forward to today’s panel to show us what Member States, foundations, international financing institutions, the private sector and the United Nations can achieve when we join forces around a common and transformational agenda.

Let us commit to invest in hope — hope for sustainable food systems and hope for a more prosperous future for all people on a healthy planet meeting the promise of the SDG’s.

For information media. Not an official record.