Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General for the International Conference on Small Island Developing States

Group of Friends on Food and Nutrition Security
Keynote presentation by USG WU
Food and nutrition security in the post-2015 era

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my honour to have been invited to speak today at this important and very enjoyable gathering of the Group of Friends on Food and Nutrition Security.

It is my hope that I can provide some useful information and insights regarding food security, nutrition, and interrelated issues.

Issues of food security and nutrition have been consistently named as top priority issues for most Governments. 

As you know, the Rio+20 outcome reaffirmed the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food.

The Secretary-General’s Zero Hunger Challenge has garnered widespread support from many Member States and other entities.

The Open Working Group on sustainable development goals, is concluding its stock taking phase this week. The Group addressed the issue of food security and nutrition during its session in May. Discussions on food security remain central to the dialogue happening this week.

A widely shared view among members of the OWG is that an end to hunger and malnutrition is possible within a generation, and that this should be reflected in the goals.

Proper nutrition has many dimensions that deserve attention, including micronutrient availability and healthy diets. Inadequate micronutrient intake of mothers and infants can have negative long-term developmental impacts.

Adequate nutrition during the critical 1,000 days from beginning of pregnancy through a child’s second birthday merits a particular focus.

Increasingly, unhealthy diets and lifestyles are linked to the growing incidence of non-communicable diseases in both developed and developing countries.

How can we make hunger history? There are many challenges to achieving this end. Growing population, environmental stresses, and changing diets, to name a few.

We know that extreme poverty and hunger is predominantly a rural phenomenon. Smallholder farmers and their families make up a large proportion of the poor and hungry.

Thus, eradicating poverty and hunger are integrally linked to boosting food production and rural incomes.

Agriculture systems worldwide must become more productive and less wasteful.

Sustainable agricultural practices and food systems must be pursued from an integrated perspective. Land, healthy soils, water and plant genetic resources are all key inputs for food production. Their growing scarcity in many parts of the world make it important to use and manage them sustainably.

Sound and sustainable resource and pest management, and the more extensive use of organic fertilizers can make food systems more productive.

As several speakers in the OWG noted yesterday, expansion of agriculture is a major driver of deforestation. Boosting yields on existing agricultural lands would also relieve the pressure to clear forests for agricultural production.

The Rio+20 outcome document calls for achieving a land-degradation-neutral world. Halting and reversing land degradation will be critical to meeting future food needs.

Also, agriculture depends on water, and water is becoming increasingly scarce in some parts of the world. Wise management of scarce water through improved irrigation and storage technologies, combined with development of new drought-resistant crop varieties, can contribute to sustaining drylands productivity.

For countries experiencing worsening flooding and salination of soils, crop varieties that are tolerant of flooding and high salt levels will be needed. We heard from one of the speakers yesterday that the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines is developing such rice varieties. More research of this kind will be needed. 

Reducing post-harvest losses and food waste can also make an important contribution to food and nutrition security.

Inadequate processing, storage and transport cause significant post-harvest losses in many developing countries, while consumer food waste is a major problem especially in developed countries.

Ensuring productive and resilient food production systems with high yields and high efficiency is essential for sustainable agriculture and food systems.

We had a rich discussion in the OWG on social protection. We know that access to food is one key element of any social protection system.

We know that we must work to integrate decision-making processes at national and regional levels to adequately address trade-offs among agriculture, water, energy, land and climate change.

It is recognized that we need to invest in technologies to improve the sustainability of food systems, especially given expected effects of climate change. Building resilience of local food systems will be critical to averting large-scale future shortages.

We need to break down the walls separating environment, food production, agriculture, and climate issues to effectively address these issues.

The High-level Political Forum (HLPF) could be used to help mobilize the support needed. I would be interested to hear your views on this.

Finally, we continue to strive within the Secretary-General’s High-level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis. To support developing countries as they work to ensure food security for their populations.

Though the path may be difficult and the issues complex, I believe our shared aspiration can be summed up quite simply. The future we want is one in which no parent has to send a child to bed hungry.

Thank you.