With one in five Africans facing hunger in 2020, the Under-Secretary-General calls for transforming food systems and nature-based solutions in regional dialogue



With one in five Africans facing hunger in 2020, the Under-Secretary-General calls for transforming food systems and nature-based solutions in regional dialogue

It is my pleasure to speak to you today at this African Regional Dialogue in support of the Food Systems Summit. We meet at a time of increasing food insecurity and hunger. Between 720 million and 811 million people in the world faced hunger in 2020, up 161 million more than in 2019.

No region of the world has been spared; but the figures show persistent regional inequalities. About one in five people in Africa went hungry in 2020, more than double the proportion in any other region.

The high cost of nutritious diets, coupled with high levels of poverty and income inequality, continue to keep healthy diets out of reach for around 3 billion people in all regions of the world. Of these, 1 billion of our African sisters and brothers could not afford a healthy diet in 2019.

Malnutrition in all its forms remains entrenched, especially among women and children. Most malnourished children under 5 live in Africa and Asia. 37% of the world’s stunted children are in Africa.

These tragic numbers are not new. Hunger was on the rise even before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. These numbers don’t tell us the whole picture either.

While we are a long way from achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 (zero hunger) by 2030, this Goal cannot be achieved in isolation. Ending hunger requires that we view food as a system, revealing a number of intersecting challenges that are undermining our progress towards all the SDGs.

Take the climate crisis. Globally, one third of greenhouse gas emissions originate from our food systems. Agriculture is also responsible for up to 80 percent of biodiversity loss and continues to overuse our declining natural resources, including land and water. Worldwide, an estimated 600 million people, nearly 1 in 10, become ill after eating contaminated food each year.

Despite all these troubling trends, I remain optimistic. But we must act urgently.

Science has confirmed that transforming our food systems offers an opportunity to drive progress in everything from climate action to reducing pollution. This is the rationale for the Food Systems Summit. More than 140 Member States have responded to my invitation to convene national summit dialogues on food systems. Most of the African continent participates: 44 countries, more than 80% of all African governments, lead the national dialogues.

Governments around the world recognize the importance of this problem, especially in times of crisis. But there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Food systems vary by location; our approaches must be rooted in local and regional realities.

The food systems dialogues are engaging a wide range of participants. Where they are present, United Nations Resident Coordinators and country teams are playing a critical role.

Like the energy or transportation sectors, food systems can and should contribute to green and blue transitions. This means, for example, relying less on fossil fuel-based fertilizers and being more in tune with nature-based solutions, such as natural soil regeneration. Solutions exist, and can be deployed on a large scale, to fight climate change, hunger and malnutrition in the same way while preserving our planet.

Through the 2030 Agenda, the world has agreed on a bold vision for the future. Through Agenda 2063, Africa has articulated its master plan to transform itself into the world power of the future. Our task now is to deliver on our promises by meeting the commitments we have made, through accelerated action.

The objective of this Dialogue is to help you think about how to strengthen national pathways of transformation of food systems to achieve the 2030 Agenda. [for Sustainable Development]. This should be one of the main outcomes of the Food Systems Summit. In addition to your national progress, this dialogue can help bring a unified African voice to the next Pre-Summit in Rome at the end of July, and to the Summit in September in New York.

In Rome, the results of regional dialogues around the world will converge with the other streams of work in the Summits process. These lines are generating ideas to improve global cooperation in support of regional and national priorities.

When the Summit is held in New York, we will be able to show how countries and regions around the world have articulated their own paths to 2030, along with a number of partners to accompany them on their journey.

I am encouraged to see African countries come together in this Dialogue. We need African leadership to realize our vision and achieve the Zero Hunger Goal by 2030. I wish you every success at this meeting and I look forward to an outcome that will move us towards a more sustainable and resilient food future for the entire African population. . .

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