THE DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL
REMARKS AT THE MINISTERIAL ROUNDTABLE ON
Transforming Food Systems for Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals:
Rising to the Challenge
Rome, 27 July 2021
Thank you, David. Thank you really for your leadership and the commitment to this process. It has been very exciting, and I am very, very pleased to have the opportunity to humbly open the meeting and to listen to the leadership that’s in this room, and online, across all constituencies.
I am especially grateful for the preparations for this Summit, because I do see decision-makers and ministers here in this room, and everywhere that are building on and re-thinking the way in which food functions in their societies. You can see that we are focusing in particular on the relationships between food and people, and between food and the planet.
And you can see that we are shifting the thought of food as a series of commodities, with its own value chain and characteristics, to looking at how food connects people together and has the potential to improve their health and to regenerate the planet now and for generations to come. This is giving us a view of the potentials that we are seeing and framing our food systems within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 goals.
And this is where the transformation needs to happen. And we would like to see those transitions happen. The green ones, the blue ones, in these transformations.
Governments also are increasingly aware of the value of adapting food systems so they better contribute to the livelihoods of indigenous people, to farmers and other food producers, to gender equity and to the engagement of young people, and to people’s nutrition and health, to regenerating biodiversity and reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and to increased resilience in the face of disease and violent conflict.
Food is, quite simply, a transformative agent of change.
The Food Systems Summit has been designed to provide national governments and other key stakeholders an opportunity to ensure that food systems are inclusive, that they are transformative and that they are fit for future generations.
In November last year, all UN Member States were invited to join in the preparations for the Summit by nominating convenors of national multistakeholder dialogues about the future of their food systems. We also encouraged others with an interest in the future of food to initiate independent dialogues and stimulated a programme that links food systems with other issues of global importance including some of the transitions that we hope to see in energy, addressing water, trade, the environment and certainly and most important of all, the fuel we need for this – finance.
A growing number of dialogues we can see taking place all over the world, and they have involved multiple stakeholders in shaping visions for the future of food systems and setting out pathways through which governments, stakeholder groups and people expect to bring these visions to life.
And this is not to say that there are not national plans that exist, but given the opportunity of COVID, and the recovery that needs to be so much better and so much more transformative, this is an opportunity to rebirth them.
I saw this in person in my country Nigeria where the Vice-President, and a selection of six sector Ministers including Finance, were fully engaged. It is the first time that I really see the participation in my country, of the Minister of Finance. And it is important, because domestic resources will be a large part of what shapes the direction in financing, and what leverages on direct investments that needs to come in to get the scale and the impact of investments in the food systems.
Despite the difficulties associated with COVID-19 and the multiple challenges that have been associated with launching this process on a tight timescale, we have seen 145 governments, and still growing, that have appointed national dialogue convenors. And we hope that we can continue the journey with them as we move from the discussions to the implementation.
The national dialogue progressions are innovative, they are engaging, they are different. They are made for the context and for the regions specifically. And they are breaking new ground through involving ever widening circles of stakeholders, including working across ministries and sectors, and that is not to be taken for granted. I would like to see how we move from the ministries and sectors in an integrated manner into our parliaments, where we know that the committees there, also within their silos, can begin to work across for the appropriations and the laws that will be needed in the future.
More than 750 Independent Dialogues have been announced – with some linked with the national dialogues to ensure a more diverse stakeholder engagement. And this is where the inclusion is really important, so that we are appropriating the future together with those who will benefit and participate.
The dialogues have revealed that many nations are already involved in transforming their food systems. So today what we would like to hear from you as you share your experiences with national food systems and transformation in your countries, a few questions.
What is working? Because we must build in scale on what is working. Where are the gaps? And what are we learning? What are we sharing? And how can it be applied more widely? Both in country and across regions.
There are many things that continue to be engaged at a global level. But the most important is how we get to implement at the national and at the local level in our countries.
We are all part of an extraordinary process of engagement in challenging circumstances. A sign that a robust comprehensive response to COVID is possible. And that we see that silver lining, so that the recovery itself will put us back on track to meet the 2030 deadline to achieve the SDGs.
I look forward to hearing where you are headed, how we in the United Nations can help, both here in Rome and New York, but most especially with our country teams, that work with you, and accompany you at the country level. I look forward to the national, to the regional and the global views of how we can make this happen sooner rather than later.