– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Tijjani Muhammad Bande, President of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

12 February 2020

Mr. Qu Dongyu, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,

Mr. Jorge Chediek, Secretary-General’s Envoy on South-South Cooperation,

Your Excellency, Adonai Ayebare, Special Adviser to the PGA on South-South Cooperation,

Excellencies,

Distinguished delegates,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this interactive dialogue on Targeting Hunger: South-South and Triangular Cooperation for Transforming Agriculture.

I am grateful to Member States and the UN System, particularly the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and UN Office on South-South Cooperation, for your support in convening this important conversation.

Today’s interactive dialogue provides us with the opportunity to reflect upon the gains made on SDG 2: ‘Zero Hunger’, and to determine the best pathways to a world free from hunger by 2030. Access to adequate food is a fundamental right of every man, woman and child. Yet, hunger is on the rise for the fourth consecutive year. 

We must redouble our efforts and create policies and conditions that will not only alleviate the suffering of 820 million people who experience hunger today, but eliminate hunger in our world beyond 2030.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises that SDG 1: No Poverty and SDG 2: Zero Hunger must be addressed in unison.

Agricultural policies are development policies and they focus on mitigating hunger sustainably, creating jobs, generating incomes, and contributing to poverty eradication.

Excellencies,

Distinguished Delegates,

To succeed, they must address the historical and structural inequalities undermining our efforts to end hunger.

These policies must pay due consideration to smallholder and family farmers, who produce almost 70% of the world’s food. These 500 million food producers are often trapped in poverty, and even vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition.

We must also connect smallholders with buyers, technology providers, and financial institutions. We simply cannot make progress on eradicating hunger or poverty if we leave smallholders behind.

It is our collective duty to ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to adequate nutritious food. Food must be both accessible and affordable for all. This is particularly important for the 48 million children around the world, who are presently affected by stunting and wasting.

We must also focus on the female face of farming. Today, 43% of the agricultural labour force in the developing world are women. Yet, they receive only a fraction of the land, credit, agricultural training, information and inputs such as improved seeds and fertilisers. Indeed, only 10% of total aid for agriculture, forestry and fishing is directed towards women in agriculture.

This is clearly counter-productive. It is also unjust. It must change.

Hunger is a scourge unbefitting of our era. We have the technical capacity and other resources to end it. Let us muster the political will to do so.

Tijjani Muhammad Bande

President of the UN General Assembly

Excellencies,

As we begin the Decade of Action and Delivery to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and prepare to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations, we must focus more on implementing targets related to nature and, in doing so, address our food systems. No SDG stands alone, they are all interconnected.

It is encouraging that the ‘food systems approach’ has been adopted in the international policy framework for sustainable agriculture. This paradigm shift encompasses all the activities involved in bringing food ‘from farm to fork’. I anticipate that this approach will increase food security and catalyse economic prosperity for smallholders and rural communities.

At the same time, it should also address the issue of food waste. In developing countries, one quarter of agricultural produce fails to reach consumers due to poor harvesting and the absence or inadequacy of storage and cooling facilities. Globally, around one-third of food produced is wasted.

Targeted investment in solutions is urgently needed to make our food systems work for producers and consumers alike. It is also critical to use the food systems framework as a vehicle for poverty eradication and inclusive growth more broadly. We must ensure that our food systems respect rights; are climate resilient, and sustainable.

Excellencies,

We each have something to learn and something to teach. Facilitating this will inform transformative actions which are necessary to end hunger.

South-South and Triangular Cooperation should  be leveraged to share experiences through policy dialogue, site visits, online exchange and technical cooperation.

Action must be taken at all levels, and all stakeholders must be engaged, if we are to achieve SDG 2. We must share knowledge and scale up local solutions which are often developed by agricultural communities around the world. We must also utilise South-South and Triangular Cooperation to further enhance the achievement of SDG 2, through ensuring, among other things, cooperations that help to soundly manage and diversify seed and plant banks at national, regional and international level, as well as help ensure proper functioning of food commodity markets, to  limit extreme food price volatility.

Excellencies,

The future of agriculture depends on youth. Yet, a certain pattern of urbanization has resulted in a decline of young people who view farming not as a viable career.

If we are to encourage young people to work the land, we must modernise and promote agriculture as a field for entrepreneurship. If we succeed in engaging the next generation of farmers, we will make progress towards reaching Zero Hunger and eradicating poverty, permanently.

It is also important to strengthen agricultural education and training for farmers through agricultural extension services as a transformative action. These initiatives encourage entrepreneurship and have been proven to raise both the productivity and incomes of farmers.

Excellencies,

In conclusion, hunger is a scourge unbefitting of our era. We have the technical capacity and other resources to end it. Let us muster the political will to do so. 

I thank you.