FAO – World Food Forum: Young people’s role in transforming agrifood systems at the heart of global youth event

Young people will discuss and advocate for ways to ensure access to safe, sustainable, nutritious food and healthy diets.


Rome – The World Food Forum’s (WFF) Global Youth event kicked off on Tuesday as young people from various corners of the globe gathered to brainstorm ways in which to transform agrifood systems.

The hybrid event is being held at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Under the theme “Healthy Diets. Healthy Planet”, participants will focus on how to innovate and shape policy to ensure more people can access safe and nutritious food, while simultaneously looking at ways to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis.

“You have created a global movement with us. You are making your voices heard, and they are dynamic. You are inciting and leading real action,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said, addressing young people at the WFF opening ceremony on Monday.

“The agrifood future is in all our hands. And I am convinced, it is a better future for you, and for all of us,” Qu added.

The Global Youth Forum will run from October 18-21 and will feature a Youth Assembly, an innovation lab for young entrepreneurs and scientists, a food education symposium, and several other outreach activities.

Research and innovation to take centre stage

The Transformative Research Challenge and Start Up Innovation Awards are key aspects of the Youth Forum’s  innovation lab. The former aims to inspire research and innovation in sustainable development to end hunger. The Start-Up Innovation Awards Finals looks to give impetus to the next generation of entrepreneurs from around the world who are innovating with technologies that will benefit our planet.

Some of the brightest young scientific minds of the newly established Young Scientists Group, will provide their expertise to develop an annual report on policy issues that are of concern to the youth.

FAO Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol addressed the opening of the Youth Forum on Tuesday.

“This week is designed to spark dialogue, debate and concrete action across generations, but also across sectors, and around the world. There is an urgent need for change,” she told the audience.

“You and I have a very important role to play – collaboration between our generations is a must. I hope that in the coming days, all of you take the opportunity to form connections, form friendships, listen to new perspectives. If we want a better world, we need this generation to find better ways,” she added.

One of WFF’s Young Scientists, Kim Anastasiou, a public health nutrition researcher at the CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency, who also spoke at the event, called for people in power to do more to tackle challenges like food insecurity that the world is facing today.

“Young people in the generations to come will face even bigger challenges and crises today if we don’t have real and meaningful policy changes and action,” Anastasiou said.

“There is a real power imbalance occurring right now. Young people, we can make changes in our own life and we are. But we really need powerful allies by our side if we want to see real systemic change. Policy makers don’t just need to listen, but they need to act and they need to act now.”

A multifaceted event to inspire young people

The Youth Forum will also feature FAO Goodwill Ambassador and celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin who will lead a workshop to encourage young people to grow food at home.

Several other workshops, exhibitions, cultural activities will take place on the sidelines of the main event including demonstrations by renowned chefs Kotaro Noda, Alfredo Oropeza and indigenous women chefs. Performances will feature Grammy Award-winning musicians Ricky Kej and Lonnie Park and famed Italian street artist Cibo among others.

The Global Youth Forum is one of three fora being held over five days at the FAO headquarters. The Science and Innovation Forum will highlight the crucial role of science, technology and innovation in transforming our agrifood systems and explore scientific advances and the opportunities and risks associated with them. The Hand-in-Hand Investment Forum will provide a platform for national authorities, global and national public and private entities, along with multilateral development banks and donors, to discuss opportunities to finance the Hand-in-Hand Initiative. This is one of FAO’s flagship programmes which aims to pair up sources of funding with countries where investment in agrifood systems is most needed.

FAO is hosting the multi-faceted event for the second year running. In 2021, the event drew 20000 participants and 75 partners in the search for the best solutions in overhauling global agrifood systems.