New York

23 September 2018

Secretary-General's remarks at Launch of the Famine Action Mechanism [as delivered]

[Watch the video on webtv.un.org]

We are today here all together because we are committed to a world without hunger. 

This very basic goal should be within our grasp. With today’s advanced technology and knowledge of agriculture, we can surely uphold everyone’s fundamental right to food.  

But sadly, harrowing images of parents holding their malnourished children, helpless in the face of tragedy, are not consigned to history. Last year, more than 20 million people across north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen faced a serious threat of famine. Indeed, in one region of South Sudan, famine took hold.   

Thanks to rapid action, we averted the worst in those four countries. 

But after years of progress on hunger, we are now losing ground. The number of undernourished people is rising -- to more than 820 million in 2017. 

In our world of plenty, one person in every nine does not have enough to eat. Around 155 million children are chronically malnourished and may suffer the effects of stunting for their entire lives. 

There are many reasons for this reversal, including spreading conflict, growing inequality and the impact of climate change.  

But without ending hunger everywhere, we cannot be satisfied with our progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development anywhere. 

In our interconnected world, peace, stability and prosperity on a healthy planet depend on leaving no one behind.  

Our response to this growing hunger crisis must be multi-faceted, from prevention and humanitarian action to sustainable development.  

The Famine Action Mechanism, FAM, is an important new tool. It will help to predict and therefore prevent food insecurity and famine before they have a chance to take hold. 

FAM will give a more accurate picture of food security in real time, triggering early action from donors and humanitarian agencies that will save lives and prevent further suffering. Co-owned by the World Bank and the United Nations with the cooperation of humanitarian development organizations, tech companies, academia, the insurance sector and others, this initiative is a successful multi-stakeholder partnership.

I once again want to say that for the first time, FAM will use state-of-the-art technologies including artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect correlations between different risks.  I also want to thank our partners from Amazon, Google and Microsoft for their help in developing these groundbreaking tools.

We also need to increase cash-transfer programmes and other ways of directing resources towards women, who suffer disproportionately in times of food insecurity. Women may be last to eat; they may forego food; or have less access to aid due to discrimination. When women are in decision-making roles at all levels, the solutions are more effective. Targeting women for support has a significant impact on the food security of entire families and communities. 

Creating and strengthening partnerships will help donors, affected countries and international organizations to bridge funding gaps along the entire humanitarian cycle, from prevention and preparedness to emergency response. 

Crisis prevention saves lives.  We need to put cutting-edge technology to full use, in the service of all humankind. 

With the Famine Action Mechanism, we are renewing our pledge to Zero Tolerance for famine and acute food insecurity. 

We are renewing our pledge to feed everyone in our world and to leave no one behind. 

Thank you.