Starving Food Systems of Investments Means Starving People, Secretary-General Tells Summit, Urging Governments to Support Stimulus Plan, Ensure Zero Hunger

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the United Nations Food Systems Summit+2 Stocktaking Moment, in Rome today:

My thanks to the Government of Italy for hosting this important event.  This is a gathering about food systems.  But, it is essentially about people in need and the need to fulfil the most basic of human rights:  the right to food.

In a world of plenty, it is outrageous that people continue to suffer and die from hunger.  The Food Systems Summit two years ago helped shine a spotlight on a core truth:  global food systems are broken and billions of people are paying the price.

More than 780 million people are going hungry while nearly one third of all food produced is lost or wasted.  More than 3 billion cannot afford healthy diets, 2 billion are overweight or obese, [and] 462 million are underweight.

And without access to financing and debt relief, developing countries are struggling to invest in food systems that can reach all people with the nutrition they need to live healthy lives.

Meanwhile, unsustainable food production, packaging and consumption are feeding the climate crisis, generating one third of all greenhouse-gas emissions, using 70 per cent of the world’s freshwater and driving biodiversity loss on an epic scale.  Many communities are one shock away from plummeting into food insecurity or even famine.

And that dire picture has grown bleaker with the Russian Federation’s termination of the Black Sea Grain Initiative that enabled the safe export of more than 32 million metric tons of food on more than 1,000 vessels from Ukrainian ports.

The Initiative, together with our Memorandum of Understanding with the Russian Federation to facilitate Russian Federation food and fertilizer exports, have been lifelines for global food security and global food price stability.  Food prices dropped by 23 per cent from their highs last year.  With the termination of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the most vulnerable will pay the highest price.  We are already seeing the negative effect on global wheat and corn prices which hurts everyone.

But, this is especially devastating for vulnerable countries struggling to feed their people.  As food prices rise, the hopes of developing countries fall.  The Russian Federation and Ukraine are both essential to global food security.  They have historically accounted for roughly 30 per cent of global wheat and barley exports, a fifth of all maize and more than half of all sunflower oil.

For my part, I remain committed to facilitating the unimpeded access to global markets for food products and fertilizers from both Ukraine and the Russian Federation, and to deliver the food security that every person deserves.  I call on the Russian Federation to return to the full implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, in line with my latest proposal.  And I urge the global community to support our efforts, and stand united for immediate solutions in this essential effort.

Broken food systems are not inevitable.  They are the result of choices we have made.  There is more than enough food in the world to go around.  More than enough money to fund efficient and sustainable food systems to feed the world, while supporting decent work for those who grow the food we eat.  And more than enough agricultural innovations and technology that can place healthy food within reach of every person.

The good news is that countries are heeding the alarm we sounded in 2021 when I convened the first Food Systems Summit.  Over 100 countries have submitted voluntary progress reports on food systems transformation.  Countries are taking decisive steps to reflect this priority in national and subnational laws, policies and programming.

We’re seeing more data being generated to shape policies, programmes and investments.  And we’re seeing more partnerships among governments, businesses, civil society and UN agencies — including through the United Nations Food Systems Coordination Hub.

But, rescuing the Sustainable Development Goals means going much further.  And time is running out.  We need urgent action in three key areas.  First, a massive investment in sustainable, equitable, healthy and resilient food systems. It’s no surprise that chronic hunger is increasing in those regions with the weakest and most underfunded food systems — Western Asia, the Caribbean and across all regions in Africa.

The State of Food Security and Nutrition report released two weeks ago also found that one in five people in Africa are going hungry — more than twice the global average.  Starving food systems of investment means, quite literally, starving people.

I urge Governments to respond to our call for an SDG Stimulus to scale up affordable long-term financing for all countries in need, by at least $500 billion a year.  This will help countries make meaningful progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 2 to achieve zero hunger and build systems that can ensure people have access to affordable, nutritious food wherever they live.

We also need greater investments in adaptation and resilient food, health, water, sanitation and agriculture systems that can withstand shocks, as well as early warning systems.  And I call on Governments to support the Food Import Facility proposed by the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance to expand food accessibility for at least 50 countries facing acute food insecurity, and a Food Stockholding Mechanism for least developed countries.

Second, Governments and businesses must work together to build systems that put people over profit.  I call on Governments and the food, agricultural, transportation and retail industries to explore new ways to lower the cost and increase the geographic availability of fresh, healthy food for all people.

This also means keeping food markets open and removing trade barriers and export restrictions.  And it means leveraging science and technology to improve the efficiency and reach of food systems.  We must also boost support for the women and men around the world who bring food systems to life — from farmers and food workers to those who transport food to market.

The World Bank estimates that food systems represent about 10 per cent of the global economy.  We must continue finding ways to support the people who drive this prosperity.

Third, we need food systems that can help end the senseless war on our planet.  Food systems transformation is fundamental to reducing carbon emissions and limiting global warming to 1.5°C.  Transformation means new, sustainable food systems that can reduce the carbon footprint of food processing, packaging and transportation.

It means harnessing new technologies to reduce the unsustainable use of land, water and other resources in food production and agriculture.  It means demanding Governments and businesses take stronger and faster action to tackle the climate crisis and deliver environmental and climate justice.

And it means all countries committing to reaching net-zero emissions — developed countries by 2040 and emerging economies by 2050.  Food systems and all the systems that support it — including transportation — must contribute to this great global effort.

Transforming food systems requires all hands on deck.  Since day one, the spirit of collaboration has shone through your efforts.  From the national dialogues that brought together Governments, businesses, communities and civil society in search of solutions to the establishment of the United Nations Food Systems Coordination Hub bringing together all food systems partners to end the fragmentation that slows our progress.  To the 155 national convenors on the front line of countries’ transformation efforts.  To the leaders joining us today — and everyone in this room and following online.

Together, let’s keep pushing for change.  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.

Let’s not forget, for that developing countries to be able achieve these goals it is absolutely essential to massively scale up debt relief and guarantee long-term investments for those countries to be able to overcome the asphyxia they are currently facing.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.