Opening Statement by H.E. Mr Peter Thomson, President of the 71st session of the General Assembly, at Launch Global Action Program on Food Security and Nutrition for Small Island States
4 July 2017, Rome
Director General of the FAO, Mr Jose Graziano da Silva,
Distinguished Participants, ladies and gentlemen.
It gives me great pleasure to be here for the launch of the Global Action Program on Food Security and Nutrition for Small Island Developing States.
These are challenging times for the human species on Planet Earth. It is increasingly evident that the ballooning number of humans requiring sustenance and security is on a collision course with the uncertainties arising from climate change.
One imperative becomes manifest at this juncture of history. We must maintain fidelity and discipline in the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Taken together, these two historic agreements provide us with the best pathway we have before us to end poverty and place humanity in a sustainable relationship with the resources of this planet.
Let us also remember that these two fundamental agreements were preceded by the breakthrough of the SIDS Conference that delivered the Samoa Pathway, with its focus on an integrated approach, bottom up solutions and concrete multi-stakeholder partnerships.
Everyone in this room is fully aware that Small Island Developing States face distinct and immense challenges, related to their special circumstances.
Because of their small size and isolation, SIDS are particularly threatened by natural disasters and the impacts of climate change. Many have limited arable agricultural land, and are dependent on small-scale agriculture, high priced imports, and increasing challenges related to ocean resources.
As a result of these and other factors, many SIDS are experiencing food insecurity and often have to contend with high rates of malnutrition.
The Samoa Pathway and the 2030 Agenda both provide practical frameworks through which to respond to these challenges.
It is heartening to see that the international community is also responding. The launch of this Global Action Programme for Food Security and Nutrition is a case in point. It represents an important step towards implementation of SDG targets addressing poverty, hunger, sustainable agriculture, health, water, sanitation, economic development, inequalities, climate change, the Ocean and ecosystems, as they relate to SIDS.
I wish to take this opportunity commend FAO and particular Director General da Silva for their unwavering commitment to this cause. Sincere thanks are also due to UN DESA, as well as to the governments of Small Island Developing States involved, along with international partners. All are collaborating for the benefit of the people of Small Island Developing States, and I am confident that these sustained efforts will bear rich fruit for all concerned.
As President of the General Assembly, I have made the central theme of the 71st Session to be that of ensuring positive momentum for the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. We have made it our business at the UN to ensure that we have wheels turning on each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
I have reached out to world leaders in governments, businesses, civil society and other stakeholders to harness their resources and commitment. I have convened a series of SDG Action events this year at the United Nations, on subjects ranging from sustaining peace to climate change, from sustainable finance to innovation and education.
I will report to Member States at the end of the 71st Session in September as to the progress of the SDGs.
But at this stage, I am satisfied that momentum is rolling forward.
We have derived a number of lessons from the experience of the71st Session, many of which are relevant to the success of the Global Action Programme.
Firstly, the sustainable management and utilization of our natural resources is absolutely essential to the support of social and economic development, the promotion of food security and nutrition and the tackling of the challenges of climate change.
This is of course particularly true for Small Island Developing States that are heavily reliant on the sustainability of the Ocean’s resources.
I am pleased to report that the Ocean Conference held in New York last month, delivered the breakthrough we have long needed to restore a relationship of respect and balance with the Ocean. The Conference succeeded in raising global consciousness of the problems humanity has brought upon on the Ocean, and succeeded in producing a massive work-plan to take the remedial action required to realize the targets of SDG 14.
The work plan includes measures to address marine pollution in all its diversity, to increase marine protected areas and coastal environmental integrity, and to effectively address Ocean acidification, warming, governance and scientific research.
It provides for sustainable economic benefits for developing countries from the Ocean’s resources, in particular for SIDS, with obvious flow-on effects for the food and nutrition of islanders.
The great task at hand is to ensure that the commitments made at The Ocean Conference are put into action and are sustained all the way through to maturity and success by the year 2030.
Secondly, to respond to the SDGs but also to the global refugee and migration crisis and to the threats of terrorism and conflict, significant emphasis must be placed on creating enterprises and economic growth that deliver decent jobs and life opportunities for all, especially for women and youth. The Global Action Program will no doubt contribute positively in this regard.
Thirdly, to achieve sustainable development, people must become aware of the impact of their own consumption and production patterns. I have written to the heads of government of all Member States to urge that the logic of the SDGs is taught in all schools and universities.
I encourage all concerned to reflect on how this aspect can also be incorporated into the implementation of the Global Action Program.
Fourthly, technological change and innovation are changing our world at a speed that is often difficult to comprehend. We must maximize the benefits that this change can bring to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including in relation to food security and nutrition.
Lastly, as exemplified by the Global Action Program, we must take an integrated multi-stakeholder approach to realizing the SDGs. I am greatly encouraged that over 40% of the voluntary commitments made at the Ocean came from non-governmental actors. In this same spirit, it is vital that the international donor community, development banks, financial institutions, the private sector and civil society get meaningfully involved in the Global Action Program.
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
In the end, what we are seeking to achieve through the Samoa Pathway, the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement is the securing of a better world for our grandchildren and those that come after them. This will require a transformation of our economies, societies and indeed our mind-sets, towards sustainability and the full realization of what it means for a population of nearly 8 billion humans to live in harmony with the fundaments of this planet’s delicate natural balance.
The pathway towards this transformation has been set out before us and we have begun the journey. It is an unfortunate aspect of human nature that on any journey there will always be laggards, recalcitrant deniers, and a significant minority who place the interests of their own greed ahead of the common good.
But that should not distract or delay us. The great mass of humanity and the governments that lead us are sticking resolutely to the right pathway: towards a sustainable future for humankind.
Included on that pathway are initiatives protective of food security and nutrition, which are essential to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.
In that context, I applaud the launching of the Global Action Programme on Food Security and Nutrition in Small Island Developing States and once again thank FAO for its resolve.
I wish you every success with the programme’s implementation and thank you all for your attention.