– As delivered –
Statement by H.E. Tijjani Muhammad Bande, President of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
17 April 2020
As we contend with COVID-19 pandemic it is critical that the people we serve have equal access to sufficient food and nutrition. I thank Italy, Brazil, Canada and Egypt for convening this important meeting. I also commend all representatives and delegates who have adopted innovative ways to ensure business continuity here at United Nations.
I wish those who are suffering from COVID-19 a swift recovery. I extend my condolences to those who have lost loved ones to coronavirus.
I thank the healthcare workers, essential workers on the frontline, food producers, and farmers who are working to keep our communities safe and healthy.
The effect that COVID-19 has on our food systems cannot be underestimated. Although at present there are abundant food reserves in the international market, we must remain vigilant.
Trade restrictions can trigger shortages and inflate the prices of food items abruptly. Similarly, travel restrictions, suspended flight operations, border closures and labour shortages can also disrupt our food supply chains.
Considering food supply chains as an essential sector of economy and guaranteeing movement of essential workers and food – with necessary precautions- as many Member States have done, will ensure stability in the supply. We should also protect Small and Medium Enterprises in the food sector including retailers who are highly vulnerable to economic shocks. These measures would help us preserve consumer trust in the availability of food at affordable price, which is key to stability in these difficult times.
In several cases the demand for products has reduced due to restaurant, school, and workplace closures. This has led to increased food waste in some parts and increased need in other regions. Even during the pandemic, we must continue with our efforts to bridge the gap between food waste and hunger.
The virus has resulted in mass unemployment and further threatens millions of jobs. Given the intrinsic link between poverty and food security, we must prioritise social protection measures which will safeguard the most vulnerable, including those working in the informal economy; and women who are also disproportionately affected.
COVID-19 will hit the most vulnerable populations hardest. Prior to the spread of coronavirus, there were: 820 million people suffering from hunger; 2 billion people malnourished; and 700 million people lived below the poverty line. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) predicted that 100 million people would be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2020.
These numbers are set to proliferate if we do not take urgent multilateral action now.
I call on all Member States to step up their financial support to the UN’s COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response plan.
We must ensure peace and security if we are to prevent further suffering. As such, I urge all actors to support the UN Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire.
We must ensure food equity based on inclusive and efficient food systems. We need to appropriately distribute the abundant food reserves in the international market and prepare for the positive crop forecasts.
Throughout the seventy-fourth (74th) session of the General Assembly we have prioritised zero hunger. The High-Level Dialogue on Zero Hunger which took place in February identified four key areas which we should centre our response around.
Firstly, we must ensure food equity based on inclusive and efficient food systems. We need to appropriately distribute the abundant food reserves in the international market and prepare for the positive crop forecasts.
We must also leverage all forms of international cooperation, including South-South and Triangular Cooperation, to strengthen agriculture systems which underpin food security.
In order to open up market access and e-commerce, we need to improve access to technology and agricultural finance to key actors in food supply chains such as family farmers, women farmers, and smallholders.
Finally, we must prioritise education including lifelong education for farmers and ensure that these key stakeholders are not forgotten when the majority of learners around the world are out of education at this moment.
We cannot revoke our pledge to leave no one behind in a time of crisis. As we tackle the novel coronavirus, we must prioritise food security and nutrition in both rapid response and longer-term planning.
We have entered the Decade of Action and Delivery on the Sustainable Development Goals, with a focus on nature; and now is the time for action. We simply cannot allow this health crisis also to become a food crisis.
We must partner with all stakeholders to ensure the food security and nutrition of everyone, everywhere. It is only by striving together, that we will protect the people we serve.
I thank you.