H.E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly

23 September 2021

Mr. Secretary-General,

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

This Summit is the culmination of an 18-month process to review and transform the entire spectrum of food – from how we produce it, ship it, eat it, dispose of it, and share it, to name but a few. In essence, the entire system is under review.

And this is long overdue. As I stated at the opening of the General Debate – we have enough food to feed the planet, yet we are either deliberately or unknowingly being wasteful and unsustainable.

This has to stop.


It is vital that we reshape our approach to food.

We must change the way we produce and consume food by shifting to methods that are resilient to shocks, more environmentally friendly, and enhance individual health and well-being.

Every nook of this planet has its own microclimate, its own unique growing conditions. Through a combination of natural selection and trial-and-error, farming communities all over the planet have over the course of centuries developed varieties uniquely suited to their locale. The diverse food of the planet, and the seeds they come from, are a priceless piece of our humanity.

However, traditional seed varieties have disappeared at an alarming rate – but there is still a chance to preserve the astonishing genetic diversity that remains on the world’s farms. Seed banks are a way to combat this threat. They are an important part of a robust seed system for food security.

These seeds contain a treasure trove of useful genes that enhance resistance to disease, provide drought or flood intolerance and improve yields and nutrition to feed a growing global population.

We must invest in innovations within the food supply chain that will help conserve natural resources, protect ecosystems, and facilitate global efforts to inaugurate blue economies. 

And we must be ever mindful of the damage and tragedy of wasted food. It is simply immoral that so much is tossed aside while so many go hungry.


As with everything else – from climate to COVID – we must approach this issue in the spirit of multilateralism. Our world has long since passed the point of isolated responses; we are very much in the era of global, planetary challenges and only an equally global response will serve our interests.

With upcoming summits on ocean, climate, biodiversity, and desertification, there has never before been an opportune moment to harmonize relationship with nature, including our food systems.

As President of the General Assembly, I am pleased to say that throughout my ‘Presidency of Hope’, I will continue to champion each one of these issues during this ‘super-session on the environment’.

Together, we will help raise ambition and call for concrete actions.

While the General Assembly may not be able to solve these problems on its own – few bodies or systems can – the entirety of the multilateral architecture must pull its weight and do what was designed to do if we are to be successful.

There can be no weak links in this chain. I promise you we will do our part.


While we undertake these efforts, we must also be aware of those who have struggled and who struggle. We must take steps to protect and empower the most vulnerable.

LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS continue to face a myriad of challenges relevant to their sustainable access to food. With their agricultural sectors facing diverse and complex challenges, farmers, especially women, are disadvantaged on many fronts.

I call on the international community to honor their commitments as outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and to shore up means of implementation, including financial support.

Further, the issue of debt-relief for vulnerable countries has taken on special urgency due to COVID-19 pandemic. Let us do the right thing and give vulnerable countries the financial and resources to recover sustainably, as we all want to do.

I would like to say that I fully support the Secretary General’s Statement of Action. Please rest assured that throughout my Presidency of Hope, I will build on the momentum of this Summit and leverage the political and moral power of the General Assembly to accelerate the implementation of the outcomes.

And I thank you.