26 July 2021 | Rome

Excellencies,

Distinguished delegates,

This is such a privilege to be able to stand before you today.

Today is a testament of the really hard work that each and everyone that is here physically and the many thousands that are engaged virtually have done to this.

I want to thank the Italian leadership for supporting the Pre-Summit and the host, FAO, for providing this incredible space and logistics. And of course, our colleagues from IFAD and WFP for their contributions and leadership.

We are meeting in a very difficult and complex time.

After eighteen long months, our world is still in the grips of the pandemic.

People across the world have faced immense challenges throughout this period.

Notwithstanding tremendous efforts from many governments, the pandemic has had a deeply negative impact on people’s lives – on their health and well-being; on their employment, businesses and incomes; and on their education, their safety and their rights – with a particularly damaging effect on women and on girls.

And, as we know all too well, it has impacted our food security. Between 720 and 811 million people in the world faced hunger in 2020 – as many as 161 million more than in 2019.

Moreover, nearly 2.37 billion people did not have access to adequate food in 2020 – an increase of 320 million people in just one year.

Three billion people have not been able to afford a healthy diet.

All this as the climate crisis accelerates.

This is of course, to any and every one of us, unacceptable. Especially as we have the means to address these global challenges.

We are failing to deliver a fundamental right for people, even as we are failing our planet.

Colleagues, excellencies,

The pandemic has contributed to a reversal of the SDGs' progress, and delayed action on many of the major transitions required to meet our 2030 goals.

This is our challenge, but it is also our opportunity. It is the silver lining in the COVID crisis.

With your leadership, this opportunity has been exploited. 145 Member States are now leading robust national dialogues - countries large and small, North and South, some in crisis, others have complex food economies.

All have recognized the universal nature of the 2030 Agenda and the powerful potential that lies in food systems to drive progress across all of the SDGs.

Outcomes are being consolidated into national pathways, we have clear visions of what governments, together with different stakeholders, especially civil society and indigenous people, expect from food systems by 2030.

We are also seeing regional leadership. All regions have explored the unique specificities of their own contexts and identified priorities for cooperation and action.

Member States, including through the Committee on World Food Security, and the Rome-based Agencies are helping to drive this inclusive, action-oriented process.

A wide range of experts and stakeholders have contributed more than 2,000 suggestions for accelerated action. The five Action Tracks have clustered this rich input in a systemic way to build communities of practice, drawing on the voices of young people, indigenous people, and fostering new partnerships.

The Science Group has consulted broadly and made a robust contribution to the evidence base underpinning much of the Summit’s work.

Through the Champions Network, the Global Food Systems Summit Dialogues and over 750 Independent Dialogues, people around the world have offered ideas on how to transform food systems.

Tens of thousands of people have directly engaged in this process.

Colleagues,

Even as the pandemic has physically pushed us apart, this process has brought people together.

It has brought them together around a simple idea: food can help us accelerate our actions and bring in solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

This basic building block of life for people everywhere is central to improved health and well-being, harmony with nature and to overcome gross inequalities.

People are recognizing that through food, we can see the relevance of the 2030 Agenda in its totality. And they are also being inspired to act.

We are seeing at the country-level where UN Country Teams are positioned to convene behind national pathways. And we see it through emerging coalitions that can continue to support systemic action in countries and in support of shared challenges and common ground.

I am very hopeful and energized by the ambition.

But we do have much work to do, over the coming three days to help us realize a successful outcome, giving direction to the Leaders Summit in New York in September.

Colleagues, excellencies,

We are here in Rome to bake the cake that will be iced in September. As we harvest from the rich and diverse outcomes of this process, I am hopeful we will agree on the key ingredients needed to support our countries.

The coming days will help us converge and rally behind Member States and the actions that can drive progress on our single, unified purpose: The delivery of the 2030 Agenda.

There is no one size that fits all. We must work country by country, region by region, community by community, to ensure the diversity of needs are addressed to support each reality.

The same applies for our food systems and the changes that are required so that we feed the world, without starving the planet of its future.

Your individual and collective engagement in the coming three days will be crucial.

Through the 2030 Agenda, we agree to transform our world. We can only do that by working together.

That means we must listen to one another, appreciate diverse perspectives and understand the dynamic and interconnected challenges that we face.

It means we must commit to making the choices that are needed to ensure we leave no one or country behind.

Food unites us all, as families, as communities, as cultures, and as humanity.

Now let’s use it to unite around the urgency and the actions that are needed to transform our world by 2030.

Thank you.