Print
DSG/SM/1616
28 July 2021

Pre-Summit Has Been Talking about Investing in Food Systems, not Charity, Deputy Secretary-General Stresses at Closing Plenary

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the closing plenary of the Food Systems Pre-Summit in Rome today:

Thank you very much.  This is amazing.  We are on the last day and the room is still full, so please give yourself a round of applause.  This is amazing.

This really has been an incredible three days.  I would like to thank the Italian Government and the leaders and the people of our Rome-based agencies for all the support that they have given over the last two years, and especially in the last three days, to make this happen.  It’s an incredible endeavour in the era of COVID-19 — we are still having to mask up, we are still looking for vaccines.  We are still trying to knock on the head a virus that has plagued us for the last 18 months.  So thank you.

I’d like to give a particular, I think, you know, applause, to our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luigi di Maio, because I don’t know a Foreign Affairs Minister that stays this long in our events on food.  This just shows you how it is the centre of the world, and it is about Italy showing leadership beyond COP and beyond the G20, so thank you.

So, we have to remember that this whole process has unfolded during a pandemic, and that pandemic has stolen lives and livelihoods, and it has reversed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Yet, even as the pandemic has physically pushed us apart, this process has actually brought people together.  It’s been a summit for everyone, it’s been a summit for everyone, everywhere — we have seen people outside of this room come on the screen, and it has been a people’s summit with solutions.

Anything we do, we know that we must include those at the centre of our food systems.  And we have heard them: our smallholder farmers, our indigenous people, our youth, our women.  It also means working with partners in the private sector to ensure that innovations reach the most marginalized and that all jobs in the food sector offer decent livelihoods and truly a living wage to workers and their families.

And listening to our youth today, we must underscore the need to co-create the future of food with their leaders, with their representation, building a vision of a more dynamic and massive food future.  Because it’s their future, it’s certainly not many of us who have been around for quite a long time, it’s theirs and so they need to be there co-creating the future of food.

This Summit is awakening the world to the fact that we must work together to transform the way the world produces, consumes, and that it really thinks about food.  The Pre-Summit has shown me that we can deliver on the right to food, while securing the future of our planet.  Just as food brings us together as cultures and communities, it can also bring us together around solutions.

This Summit process is a reason for hope during the era of the COVID crisis, and it has brought back a level of integrity to multilateralism.  If we want to build back better after COVID, then we have got to have a really good response and I think that the Food Systems Summit is showing that people can come together and have a good response for recovery to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

This Summit has made clear that there cannot be separate conversations about food, climate, health, nutrition, energy, oceans and biodiversity.  It’s also made clear that government alone cannot deliver this agenda.  It will require new ways of working.  It will require new mindsets.  It may also mean working with partners, new ones, but partners that, quite frankly, sometimes make us feel really uncomfortable.

So there is no going back, I think Agnes has said that.  We cannot retreat back into our silos, and we really must embrace an era of a better recovery.  So colleagues, with the over 1,000 dialogues that have taken place globally, in all our regions — 145 countries leading national dialogues and over 50,000 people from local communities — I think we can say that we have fully engaged the world.

Today, we already have 13 pathways.  All building on existing government efforts, while responding to our current realities.  And I know many of you have said that this is not new — countries have got plans, countries are implementing what they can do to net zero.  But today we have come together to show that it cannot just be done in isolation, it does need the transformation of the whole food system.

Given the intersectoral nature of food systems, dialogues have worked across sectors, ministries and constituencies, and it’s been great to see many countries represented in this Pre-Summit with more than one minister and more than one part of their food system.  Dialogues have also shown us that solutions and actions have to be tailored to local and regional realities, and this is what we continue to hear — that there is no one size that fits all.

Through the Action Tracks — and congratulations to all our leaders — we tried to get a co-convening of three leaders in each Action Track just to ensure that the voices and leadership of those constituencies together.  I want to thank all the leaders in those Action Tracks.

Our Levers of Change, I met an amazing woman yesterday who was pushing on agendas, we were talking about indigenous peoples, we were talking about youth, I also want us to remember women too, at the centre.

Can I say, our Scientific Group and, you know, when the Scientific Group first came together, many came back to say that they were rather exclusive, and they hadn’t come out of the ivory tower.  But I can tell you today that Professor Joachim, you know, congratulations — you’re talking about indigenous people, you’re talking about women, and as someone who knew you a few years ago, maybe a couple of decades ago, and that’s one transformation that we welcome, because we hope that through your constituencies, through your leadership, the rest of your constituency can put at the centre and remember that it is about our women, it is about those that feel most left out, and that the science has got to work for them and that they have a contribution to that science.  So thank you, thank you for being bold and really moving out of your comfort zone to make science work for this Food Summit.

The Constituency Groups.  The Summit has engaged thousands of different actors to get the best ideas on the table.  And as we said, not one size fits all — diversity, I will continue to say, is our strength.  It does reflect the complexities of this world.  And they are tough and that’s why we’re here and that’s why we can only do it together.

So you have all been chefs in this amazing kitchen and I think that we are going to appreciate what happens in New York.  And as we bring it back to really divide up the work that needs to be done.  The Pre-Summit has taken all the ingredients on the table and we have begun to create something meaningful and powerful.

Here is what I hope we can expect to focus on as we move towards the Summit in September.

First, the Secretary-General will deliver a statement that, we hope, will inspire our leaders, not bringing more problems to the table, but the solutions that they can take to deal with the challenges that they have.  Region by region, country by country.  But in the end, his statement will be a contribution towards achieving the 2030 Agenda within the nine years that we have left to go.

Second, we must in some way form a compendium to gather the work that has been done over these last two years, so that we can have a reference point where we go to lean and to draw from all of these solutions that have been brought together.  The different ideas from Governments, civil society, indigenous peoples, young people, Member States in this room who have worked tirelessly on the advisory committees.  So we will provide a compendium that will stand in itself as a reference document to this process.

The third will be national dialogues that will continue as a primary opportunity for countries to think through their national pathways for food systems to deliver on all the SDGs by 2030, but in their own unique context.  Thirteen Member States are already coming forward and several others are imminent.

The Summit in New York will be a moment to hear from Heads of State and we would like to shape that agenda in a way that really gives us the commitments that can take this agenda forward.  We all need political leadership, we all need a political nod to tell us that we can go in that direction and all hands are on deck.

Fourth, as these pathways emerge, we are also seeing through the work of the Action Tracks and the Levers of Change common themes that are emerging.  The needed transitions where Action Tracks will transition into the coalitions and of course the Levers inform and be present in those coalitions to support countries that can deliver their priorities.

Now we have many coalitions that we started off with, I think there were over 30 of them.  But as we looked at them, and we have had more discussions over these three days, what we see emerging and what we will continue to try to shape are the following:

We will see that we need to address nutrition and zero hunger.  We will need to have a school meals coalition.  We will need to address food loss and waste.  We will need to address agroecology and sustainable livestock and agriculture systems.  We will need to address aquatic and blue foods.  We will need to look at the living incomes and decent work.  We will also need to look at resilience.  And finally, we will need to look at the means of implementation.  Because without finance, innovation and technology, data and governance, we will not be able to make this heavy lift happen in the years to come.

These are not conclusive.  They will be refined over the next few weeks as we go to the Summit under the steer of the Special Envoy and the Advisory Committee that has representation there of every one of you in the coming days and weeks.

And fifth, as the United Nations, we are committed to supporting the follow-up and review.  Let me be clear: we really don’t need new structures.  What we do need are existing structures that are responsive to the needs of the ambition that has been laid out by everyone in this room and around the world.

So here in Rome, I think we have three strong institutions.  This is where the idea was born — in FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization], IFAD [International Fund for Agricultural Development] and WFP [World Food Programme].  And they have led us to this point, and we must continue to embrace their leadership.  No pressure, but this is something that we are expecting from you.  It is a lot of work to do to meet the expectations of the people in this room that you can take their ambition forward.

We also have the Committee on World Food Security.  It remains an essential platform for inclusive international and intergovernmental [dialogue] for all stakeholders to work together to ensure food security and nutrition for all.  But that too must be more responsive, as we have seen in the months and years prior to today, but that needs to come together.

And science itself needs to be seen to have the capacities at the local level, at the country level, being strengthened.  So that we can say that at that country level, science comes together around the globe.

As countries define their pathways, we will need to continue to ensure there is space for multisectoral and complementary dialogue and collaboration.  Smallholder farmers, our indigenous peoples, must be valued and included in all the areas that shape the country outcomes.

Parliaments are following through with the right policies and budget allocations will be essential to this.  It doesn’t matter which sector or minister that you speak to, even the Minister of Finance has to end up in the Parliament for an appropriation.

So there is a political lens to this and we need to convince those representatives of the people in parliaments to listen to what it is that we need in terms of domestic investments, but also that which will leverage international support for the financing for the food system.

We will need to ensure that we are delivering, of course, the science and evidence that is needed to make the decisions at the local network.  Our resident coordinators and United Nations country teams, that is the United Nations footprint on the ground, it is in 131 countries, but it covers 170 territories.  We are still not there in 196 countries, but I can assure you we will do our best to reach everyone.

So, nine years to go.  The energy created by this Summit cannot be lost, it needs to be consolidated.  So, as we close this Pre-Summit with our eyes on the horizon towards the Summit in New York during the high-level week, we must appreciate the unique progress that has been made in this human endeavour.  And as David said, the glass is some full.  You might not agree on whether it is half or quarter full, but it is some full.  It’s our job to fill the rest of it, and to try and do that together.

We must see that these two months ahead will further define the global and country-level follow-up.  This will be worked out by the Rome-based agencies together with the Special Envoy, Agnes Kalibata, and the steer of course from the Food Systems Summit Advisory Committee.  Our key stakeholders, Agnes will continue to reach out to, and you are here in this room today.

There is a difference to what we are saying.  So let’s try to be a little clearer.  The real work of the nine years is going to be done at the country level.  The global community will support the country level.  But that’s where it’s going to be at.  To build the capacities of these coalitions to work in all the countries that have said “we have pathways”.

What we need to do at the global level is to answer the calls of the gaps that they have.  So we have to change the way we think and the way that we support countries.  It is no longer a prescription, it is about countries and their leadership.

To my colleagues in youth, indigenous peoples, I really hope that you will reconsider not making the ultimatums that you did from the indigenous community.  I really believe that you shouldn’t be in a coalition, because very quickly you can be on the outside.  I believe that you are an important part of every single coalition and national plan that there is on God’s earth.

And I know from experience, coalition after coalition is only as strong as those who will support it.  And if you are already on the outside, you’re already marginalized, then the best that the United Nations can do is put you at the centre.  Not on the outside, on the number 9, 10 or 11 coalition, but in every single one of the coalitions that we are speaking about.  And that is what I think that is best for youth and for our indigenous peoples.

It’s best for anyone who feels that they are not included.  Means of implementation matters to everyone.  That you have a nutritious diet, that we end hunger, it is to everyone.  So I think that it’s really important that we think about this for youth, for women and, of course, for indigenous peoples.  We haven’t got it right yet, but you do need to be in every coalition, co-creating and making the demands for your rights.

So we hope that in the Summit that we will come back, come back to Rome, come back to a mechanism here that will work, and we don’t have the answers to that right now, but in the next few weeks, we will.  We propose to take stock of what we do every two years, and I think that that stock-take every two years, like this process, needs to be driven from what is happening at the country level and what support the global and international community have been able to give.

So, excellencies and distinguished delegates, I think that this Pre-Summit has defined the scope of our ambition for the Food Systems Summit.  It has always been about delivering on the 2030 Agenda and we haven’t done that yet.  But I think that you have also raised many other issues that have contributed to that ambition.  As we’ve heard from so many of you, we must be bold and we must have the courage of our convictions.  And the time is now.

We are all part of an extraordinary process and I really want to thank the engagement in the most challenging of circumstances.  From the ministers that are in this room, and I think that we need to give a hand to those who have come from Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia, because it was no mean task to get our ministers in this room, at this time, when their countries are in dire straits of COVID-19.  Thank you.

I also want to appreciate the leadership of women, youth, civil society, our indigenous peoples, our farmers, our private sector.  To thank also our hosts here in Italy, who have opened up much of what you have demonstrated on your family farms.  I went to one today, I’ve been to the farmers market; Coldoretti brought us together yesterday.

Without seeing what really happens, we don’t have the voice to connect the world and say that this is real, this can happen and Italy is demonstrating it.  So thank you for leading by example and for sharing that with us, we much appreciate it.

Agnes Kalibata is our north star.  You are not done yet.  This is just… We’ve got this far because she managed, as David said, herding the cats, well maybe the dogs too, but there’s been a lot of herding.  And I think that it is much appreciated, certainly by the Secretary-General.  Because we don’t have everyone in the room, and there are still a few that are outside this room.  Not the ones on the screen, but those who have decided not to join us because they don’t quite think that we represent what it is that they care about.  So the next step before the Summit is to find ways to make sure that everyone is in the room.  We can agree to disagree, but everyone needs to be in the room.

So I think, again, recovery itself, putting us back on track.  I am sure that the media will ask us, what is different?  I think that what’s different is that this Summit has been talking about investing in food systems and not charity.  It’s been talking about everyone and not just a few.  It’s been talking about the country level and how we lift the implementation there.

But it’s also, I think, last and not least, reaffirming the dignity and the right of people to live, to eat and to thrive.  And maybe I would just end by quoting our young person, Thales, who said: “We are the seeds of today’s harvest, let’s try farming together.”

For information media. Not an official record.