New York

23 November 2013

Secretary-General's message for World Food Day Ceremony [delivered by Mr. Wu Hongbo, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs]

I am pleased to send greetings to this New York observance of World Food Day.

We live in a world of plenty.  Yet, more than 840 million people are chronically hungry.  More than a quarter of children under five now live with the curse of stunting, unable to reach their full potential.  All people need access to diverse, nutritious foods.  This is why I launched the Zero Hunger Challenge last year, and it is why this year’s World Food Day focuses on sustainable food systems for food security and nutrition.  Healthier diets and widespread knowledge about good nutrition is key to ending hunger and reducing the growing epidemic of obesity.

A principal requirement of sustainable food systems is resilience in the face of environmental and economic shocks.  Climate change is exacting a heavy toll on worldwide agricultural production.  The projections are alarming: 49 million more people may be at risk of hunger by 2020; each one degree rise in temperature will cause a 25 per cent increase in food prices.  Smallholder farmers everywhere face particular risks, since they rely on vulnerable ecosystems, and many lack the capacity to cope with more extreme weather events.  Small famers, especially women, must be enabled to adapt to climate change.

Yesterday we launched the International Year of Family Farming 2014.  Small-scale producers must be empowered to play a vital role in protecting the world’s agro-biodiversity and natural resources and creating sustainable, efficient food systems that minimize food loss and waste along the value chain.  At least one third of all food fails to make it from farm to table.  I commend the many Governments, consumer associations, schools, businesses, civil society and farmers’ organizations that are working on this issue.  These are among the groups participating in the Save Food campaign and the Think.Eat.Save: Reduce your Foodprint initiative of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN Environment Programme.

Everyone has a role to play in sustainable food systems, but governments must be in the lead.  We need responsible governance and coherent cross-sectoral policies in the areas of climate, energy, land use, water, fisheries and forests.  By working together we can meet the Zero Hunger Challenge and guarantee food and nutrition security for all.