Secretary-General's remarks to the Committee on World Food Security
Rome, Italy, 7 May 2014
Your Excellency Ambassador Gerda Verburg, Chair of the Committee on World Food Security, IFAD President Kanayo Nwanze, WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, FAO Deputy Director-General Daniel Gustafson, FAO Deputy-Director General Maria Helena Semedo, Excellencies, Special Representative David Nabarro, Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is the first time that I have had the honour of addressing the revitalized Committee on World Food Security in person. I am delighted to be here with you today.
Yesterday, in South Sudan, I saw a country on the brink of a food security calamity.
Over the recent months of fighting, the United Nations has taken exceptional measures to provide a safe haven for people at risk through our new “open gate” policy. UN peacekeepers are sheltering about 80,000 people in a fragile yet important advance in upholding our commitment to protect civilians.
But those outside the gates also need our assistance. We may now have to take exceptional measures to help the hungry. The conflict has already impeded the crucial planting period. The rainy season has begun. And the seniormost leaders of the parties remained embroiled in their own power struggles, while their people suffer.
In my press encounter with President Salva Kiir he also said that we can not let farmers miss the planting season or the farmers will face famine.
Everyone in this room will recognize these precursors of catastrophe. Millions are going hungry. Hundreds of thousands of displaced people are suffering extremely high levels of malnutrition. Without immediate action, up to a million people could be at risk of famine in a matter of months.
That is why I visited yesterday – to do my part to end the continuing violence and to prevent an entire generation from suffering the deprivations brought on by malnutrition.
And it is why I have been so eager to speak with you today -- not only about the immediate emergency in South Sudan, but about what we can do together anywhere that hunger needlessly stalks the human family.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Your Committee works tirelessly to enable all people to achieve food security, to be well-nourished and to enjoy their right to food. You rightly want this to be achieved through sustainable agriculture and food systems, social protection and the pursuit of equity and justice. Your work is of the utmost significance across the world.
I know from my own country’s experience that ending hunger can be achieved.
Today, we know that the challenge of eliminating hunger, ensuring food security and making our agriculture and food systems sustainable requires an integrated approach. That is why I issued the Zero Hunger Challenge in 2012.
I am pleased that governments, organizations, businesses and citizens around the world are coming together to achieve the vision of a world without hunger. Actions are under way in more than 30 countries, within regional organizations, and globally.
We should all be encouraged that more than 40 countries have achieved the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of undernourished people; realizing this target is the first step towards Zero Hunger.
I have been pleased to see FAO, IFAD and WFP working closely with the CFS, with each other and with other entities in my High Level Task Force for Global Food Security to realize this vision.
Our attention is necessarily focused in three main areas.
First, accelerating progress towards the MDG target on hunger. Extra effort is needed as the 2015 deadline draws near.
Second, the place of food security and sustainable agriculture in the post-2015 development agenda, including in the goals that are being crafted by member states.
I encourage you to share more of your knowledge and experiences with the Open Working Group in New York as its discussions deepen and its focus on food security sharpens. Yours is one of the best “untold stories” of modern development.
You are leading the world in many key areas, from land tenure to responsible agricultural investment.
You have recognized the importance of actions specifically designed to empower women so that they can boost the productivity of smallholder agriculture, help food systems respond to people’s needs and ensure people’s good nutrition.
You are working out how best to ensure people’s food security in protracted crisis situations. Your recent work in Syria, the Central African Republic and South Sudan has been critical in easing at least some of the suffering.
And you have focused on ensuring that multi-stakeholder partnerships bring benefits to those who are at risk of food insecurity.
All of these are among the crucial ingredients needed to deliver the new development agenda.
The third area of central importance for our work is climate change.
Your own High-Level Panel of Experts published a far-sighted report on the intersection of climate change and food security.
The most recent findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned us about the possibly devastating effects on the global development agenda. Chief among these was the potential impact on all aspects of food security.
Much more needs to be done to enable farmers to adapt to changing climates: this means special attention to challenges faced particularly by women farmers, who are often the backbone of small scale food production. .
That is why, at the Climate Summit I am convening on September 23rd in New York, I am pressing stakeholders to come forward with commitments and actions that can increase agricultural productivity sustainably; help rural people and food systems become more resilient; and reduce, or even remove, emissions associated with agriculture.
I am encouraged by progress to establish a Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture. This is bringing together governments, farmers, fishers and forest user groups, civil society, the private sector and research institutions
A successful Summit will be one that mobilizes solutions and action within communities – and generates extra political will for a new climate agreement in 2015. I look forward to your active engagement in helping make the Summit a success.
In this International Year of Family Farming, we need to do everything we can to enable the 500 million smallholder farmers around the world to produce enough food in increasingly fragile ecosystems. We must support them as they increase their resilience to shocks caused by a warming world.
We will not eliminate extreme poverty or achieve sustainable development without adequate food and nutrition for all. That is why the Rome agenda is of such great importance to the global agenda. We cannot know peace or security if one in eight people are hungry.
We cannot say we have reached our goals, until every man, woman and child realizes their Right to Adequate Food.
And we cannot do any of it without your work and support.
The CFS platform is unique, invaluable and, since the reforms of 2010, more robust than ever.
Food security and nutrition is everyone’s business, and the CFS platform brings together positions and perspectives from all sectors.
In this room, we find a coordinated process that is inclusive, international, and intergovernmental.
Within the CFS you make decisions on policies and concrete actions that can make a major difference towards food security, nutrition and a sustainable future for all.
I look forward to working with you to achieve the future that we all want – for ourselves and for future generations.
Thank you for your leadership and support.