Launching Africa Human Development Report, Deputy Secretary-General Says Global Food System under Severe Pressure from Unsustainable Practices in All Sectors

12 June 2012

Launching Africa Human Development Report, Deputy Secretary-General Says Global Food System under Severe Pressure from Unsustainable Practices in All Sectors

12 June 2012
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Launching Africa Human Development Report, Deputy Secretary-General Says Global

Food System under Severe Pressure from Unsustainable Practices in All Sectors

Following are Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks at the New York launch of the “Africa Human Development Report 2012:  Towards a Food Secure Future”, 11 June, in New York:

I am delighted to be with you tonight for the New York launch of the “Africa Human Development Report 2012:  Towards a Food Secure Future”.  And I commend UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) for its excellent work and strong leadership in producing this highly informative Report.

Allow me to take this opportunity to thank Ms. [Rebeca] Grynspan for her kind words, and express my appreciation for the support extended to us by UNDP throughout my time in office.  This has been key to our work, including on the Millennium Development Goals.  I also wish to thank Mr. [Tegegnework] Gettu for his leadership and cooperation on this important agenda.   Asante.

Almost half a century ago, in 1963, the Organization of African Unity was founded in Addis Ababa.  Its successor organization, the African Union, continues to play a pivotal role in galvanizing political leadership and supporting regional and national efforts in addressing the critical challenges to Africa’s development, not least food security.

Already the report has generated much coverage and debate in the media.  This is not surprising.  Human Development Reports are intended to spur debate, based on rigorous analysis and independent research.  They have done so since their inception by UNDP in 1990.  And since the theme of this particular report is food security, and how to build a food secure future for the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, it is particularly well-timed.

The report comes as yet another severe food crisis is gripping the Sahel region of West Africa, where as many as 13 million people, including 1 million children, are at risk.  Last year saw a famine in Somalia and deep crisis in the Horn of Africa.  Deep-rooted vulnerabilities remain and, while humanitarian assistance has and will continue to perform a critical life-saving role, there is need to much more fundamentally deal with the underlying causes of these recurrent emergencies.

In advance of the G-8 meeting in Camp David last month, United States President [Barack] Obama announced a new Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which seeks to promote growth in Africa’s agricultural sector and lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years.  It is particularly encouraging that the G-8 leaders restated their pledges made at L’Aquila for increased financial support and that they intend to coordinate and align their assistance behind national country plans and CAADP [Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme] Compacts.

As the Africa Human Development Report emphasizes, such leadership is critical.  Food security must no longer be regarded narrowly as an issue dealt with by a sector or line ministry function alone.  Indeed, as the report argues, food security requires action across a range of sectors, and needs to move to the centre of the development agenda.  It, therefore, commands commitment from the highest levels of political leadership at the national, regional and international levels.

As the New Alliance goes forward, its partners can find no better guide to the opportunities for raising food security in sub-Saharan Africa than the four broad policy areas outlined in this report:  advancing agricultural productivity, especially among small-holder farmers, to increase access to food and boost rural incomes; implementing nutrition programmes especially targeting children and breaking the hunger trap that so severely constrains the human development of generations of Africans; building resilience by reducing the growing pressures on food systems that result from civil war, population pressure and environmental degradation; empowering people and communities to take action and provide opportunities, especially for women and the rural poor who hold the key to advancing food security for human development.

As the report argues, ending hunger and starvation in Africa is not only possible, it is a precondition for advancing long-term human development.  Our aim should be to provide food security for all the people in sub-Saharan Africa, including the 218 million that currently live in hunger.  The United Nations agencies, funds and programmes are committed to continuing our work with African Union member States on implementing the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme and supporting the work of the New Alliance.

We intend to continue to leverage our specialized mandates and expertise, as well as our experiences in supporting nationally owned and grown solutions, and coordination among partners.  We do this every day at the country-level where national Governments and United Nations Country Teams collaborate around implementing United Nations Development Frameworks, and, more recently, with our joint work on Millennium Development Goals acceleration where teams are joining forces to come up with comprehensive action plans that can accelerate progress towards the Goals.

This work also has an important regional component through the Millennium Development Goals Steering Group, which is chaired by the United Nations Secretary-General and fits the United Nations system with financial institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank, to name just a few, as well with other major partners such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the European Union.

The Group has called for support from development partners to assist African Governments in launching a Green Revolution in Africa that would double crop yields through increased access to inputs and scaled-up investments in rural infrastructure.  It has been my pleasure to chair the working group that developed the specific recommendations and it is a good example of how the multilateral system can come together.  Let me express once again my gratitude for the support received from UNDP, the whole United Nations system, and the Member States.  Such collaboration is critical today more than ever given the challenges we face to our sustainable development.

In less than a fortnight, world leaders will meet at the Rio+20 Conference.  This is an opportunity to set a new course toward a future.  Food security is a powerful example of where the three dimensions of sustainable development — economic, social and environmental — come together.  There is nothing more unsustainable than a population that is unable to feed itself.  There is nothing more detrimental to development than millions of children that are deprived of nutritious food.

Addressing Africa’s food security challenges will increasingly be complicated by pressures building from its growing population, widespread environmental degradation and as the devastating effects of global warming are disproportionately felt by African farmers and families.

It is, therefore, imperative that the type of high-level political leadership in display at the G-8 Summit comes through with even greater force at the Rio Summit.  Political will and courage are required from all delegations to solve the most complex issues and reach a balanced and meaningful outcome.

Political leaders in the G-8, in Africa and elsewhere, are to be commended for their growing commitment towards enhancing food security.  But they must not lose sight of the bigger picture:  that the global food system is under severe pressure from unsustainable practices in developed and developing countries alike, and across sectors from agriculture to energy to industry.

Relieving these pressures, building long-term resilience and striving towards a much more inclusive development process is essential for the future we want for ourselves and our children.  And it is essential for building an Africa that is food secure and where human development advance hand-in-hand.  Let us not miss the opportunity that Rio represents, let us rise to the challenge together.  Thank you!

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.