Mr. Thomas Gass Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs

Remarks for IFAN Agriculture and Food Day

The Importance Of Interlinkages

Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,


We are interconnected to an unprecedented extent. Not just in the way that our communication, our value chains and our financial systems are built, but also in the way that negative externalities can no longer be contained by national borders or by firewalls in our Internet systems.

The 2030 Agenda recognizes this change by moving beyond a strategy to just “develop poor countries” … to a universal plan applicable to all.

Sustainable development cannot be achieved unilaterally — ALL countries must be engaged in the work, and we must ALL work together!

The recognition of shared values and common policies as a basis for sustainable development is what drove the adoption of the universal and transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The 17 SDGs and their 169 targets are the “vision piece” of the globalization puzzle, and form the basis of a new social contract between the world’s leaders and their people.


Yet, two years into the implementation phase of the 2030 Agenda, we are seeing heightened tensions and humanitarian crises: violent, interlinked and multiplying conflicts, and unprecedented numbers of people forced to flee their homes.

Water scarcity, drought and natural disasters – all driven or exacerbated by climate change – are creating crisis conditions and increasing political fragility, food insecurity, malnutrition and distress migration.

We are also facing one of the biggest famines ever, and it is largely human-made.

The countries of Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria are currently facing—or are at risk of—large-scale famine, with 20 million people, mostly children, severely affected by starvation. I think you will agree with me that our collective response to this crisis is the first test of our resolve to implement the 2030 Agenda and its promise to leave no one behind.

Malnutrition – in all of its forms – is a major cause of the global burden of disease, and causes significant costs to the global economy.

Dietary simplification underpins the nutrition transition causing malnutrition. Hunger robs millions of people the opportunity of a life with dignity.  Overweight and obesity are associated with many non-communicable diseases.

When it was decided to review progress on one SDG after another, the objective was not to do so in isolation, recreating thematic silos, but to look at progress and challenges in achieving SDG 2 (in this case) in its interactions with all the other goals and targets.

The value added of the 2030 Agenda and this week’s HLPF, is precisely to look at the interactions, the synergies and most importantly, the trade-offs between different targets.

Needless to say, the task in front of us is urgent.



As the challenges are fully inclusive, so the solutions must be as well.

So, how can we better understand the interlinkages among the SDGs?

Much work has already been undertaken to identify nexus issues surrounding SDG 2 and its targets.

Of course, SDG 1 and SDG 2 are inextricably linked—eradicating poverty, hunger, and malnutrition go hand in hand.

But addressing the root causes of poverty and food insecurity in rural areas requires a holistic approach to sustainable development that must also address many other SDGs, including infrastructure, mobility, services, and the functioning of markets.

And there is wide acknowledgement that the SDGs cannot be met without the full integration of national gender equality policies and strategies.

When effort is channeled to build capacity and ensure educational opportunities for women and girls (SDG 4), progress can be seen across the SDGs.

A systematic mainstreaming of gender perspectives throughout all the SDGs is crucial to assess the impacts of all policies and processes and avoid further discrimination and marginalization of women.

And, we need to look at the entire food system, beyond the farm gate.

This means transforming our food systems through a holistic approach – from production to consumption – so that they are more sustainable, inclusive and resilient to climate change, and support the production, access and consumption of safe and nutritious food.

Food and agriculture must be part of the solution to climate change, to end poverty and be a powerful driver for the entire 2030 Agenda. But we cannot look only at production and productivity.

A transformative approach means moving beyond the Green Revolution […] to increase production and productivity sustainably for the health and well-being of people. It must be done without negative social and environmental externalities in land and water tenure, crop, livestock, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry systems, including the loss of biological diversity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mechanisms for accountability are important for moving the 2030 Agenda forward. Such mechanisms exist through the indicators and their monitoring systems, the Voluntary National Reviews that bring national level experiences to the HLPF, and the thematic reviews, where interlinkages can be examined to help implementing actors move beyond working in silos, increase integration and inclusion, and bring different forms of knowledge to the discussions.

Multilateral structures and institutions that accelerate sustainable development, reduce inequality and foster peace and prevent conflict are more vital than ever.

They need to be coherent, to leverage our rapidly advancing frontiers of knowledge and experience, to unleash the creativity of entrepreneurs, and make our globalized value chains more sustainable.

At the same time, we must continue to address the longer-term issue of capacity gaps in many countries. In this context, international cooperation is more important than ever.


Dear Colleagues,

The 2030 Agenda is not the UN’s Agenda. It belongs to everyone. It is a shared vision of humanity, promised to its people. It is about mobilization and empowerment.

And while there is no standard approach for implementing the SDGs – and each country, each NGO, each actor decides on their own path – the shifts in paradigm inherent to the 2030 Agenda compel us to ask at least the following three sets of basic questions:

  1. Are we taking integrated approaches to the SDGs? How are we able to strengthen policy coherence among poverty eradication, gender equality, social development, environmental protection, trade, migration, and climate change adaptation?
  2. How is accountability being strengthened across institutions? Are the SDGs becoming part of the local policy dialogue and action?
  3. Are we adequately working to lift up those furthest behind, and building their resilience as part of our development strategies?

Indeed, the 2030 Agenda is not just about governments and stakeholders.

It is a matter of personal conviction.

Just one person, or even their family or community, may seem too small to make a difference.

But it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Everyone’s contributions inspire hope.

The 2030 Agenda is our collective key to unlocking that hope, and opportunities.

By working together, we can say to the people and children of this world, that the 2030 Agenda is not simply a new deal among nations, but also a solemn promise to its people.

Thank you.

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