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High-Level briefing by the Principals of FAO, IFAD, and WFP

Statement delivered by Ambassador Mariangela Zappia, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, at the High-level briefing by the Principals of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World and The State of Food and Agriculture” (co-organized by the Permanent Missions of Costa Rica, Indonesia, Italy, Mozambique and the FAO, IFAD and WFP) —

Thank you very much, and first of all thank you Madam President of the General Assembly.

Dear Principals of the RBAs (Rome-based Agencies) welcome to this event.

I am honored to open it as current Chair of the Group of Friends on Food Security and Nutrition, a wide, informal and cross-regional constituency of UN Member States, which advocate for constant and active commitment – at national, regional and global level – in pursuing SDG2 and its related targets.

Italy as it was said, is the proud host country of FAO, IFAD and WFP, which together constitute the agro-food Pole of the United Nations system. This symbolizes the particular attention that Italy has traditionally devoted to food and security issues, as mainstreamed in our foreign policy and reflected in our national contribution to important UN activities, from humanitarian intervention to sustainable development cooperation.

As already highlighted by the President of the General Assembly, the two reports that will be discussed today show very worrying signals, which should alert the international community and induce it to renew and strengthen its commitment.

The most concerning message is that hunger – after years of decline – is again on the rise, as the President of the General Assembly just told us. The increasing number of undernourished people affects particularly Africa – where it adds up to other structural factors undermining sustainable development – as well as South America. Malnutrition seems to be more cross-regional, contributing to overweight and obesity also in other regions of the world, including several high income countries.
I think healthy diets, healthy lifestyle is really the response.
The other key message stemming from the report on the State of Food and Agriculture is that rural migration has reached problematic levels, with a consequent impact on land management and agricultural production capacity and increasing urbanization pressure on already overpopulated cities. There is a need, therefore, to device policies that can forge a better and more synergetic relationship between rural and urban areas.

Our distinguished speakers will go into the details of the two reports in a minute. Let me just highlight three main findings that to me are important to today’s discussion.

First, the reports of the UN Rome-based Agencies confirm the strong nexus between conflicts, food insecurity, climate change and migration. In many cases, crisis situations and open conflicts are the primary culprits behind food insecurity. More and more often land cultivation and agricultural production are undermined by extreme climate events, triggered by global warming. In most cases, people in rural areas have to leave their homes, generating internal displacement or external migration flows.

This shows that food insecurity and undernutrition cannot be tackled in isolation, but are to be inscribed in a comprehensive and integrated approach that takes into account all relevant challenges, as well as their growing interrelation. In other words, fighting hunger implies also promoting peace and stability, tackling climate change and sustaining rural development. Integration between these pillars is also the leit motif of the reforms launched at the UN, notably with regard to sustaining peace and promoting sustainable development. We are therefore on the right track, but we need to proceed along this path with greater urgency and determination.

Second, humanitarian aid and sustainable development cooperation must go increasingly hand-in-hand, the former being the necessary response to the emergency phase and the latter representing the instrument to increase resilience, especially in post-conflict or post-disaster situations, and to generate tangible long-term dividends. Complementarity – in addition to integration – must be therefore the second feature of our policies in support of food security and nutrition. We look forward to the implementation of UN Development System reform – particularly to the role of the new Resident Coordinators – to make sure that this combined and integrated approach be effectively adopted on the field.

Third, food insecurity and malnutrition are global challenges and must be addressed globally, that is in all regions of the world. It is a fact, however, that certain continents, particularly Africa, and certain regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa where most LCDs are located, are the most affected and should receive, therefore, the greatest attention and the most urgent support by the international community. This is why, for instance, last year, during our Presidency of the G7 in 2017, Italy focused on increasing the G7 collective support for food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa through an array of actions, such as increasing Official Development Assistance, better targeting and measuring existing interventions and mobilizing responsible private investments and public-private partnerships. Africa is also the continent where the above-mentioned interrelation between peace and security, climate change and food security is most evident and where the complementarity between humanitarian intervention and sustainable development is mostly needed.

I would like to conclude by thanking the Principals of FAO, IFAD and WFP for coming to New York and present their reports to the UN membership. We are grateful to you for providing us with the information and stimulus we need to better orient our action in favor of food security and malnutrition. And – last, but not least – we thank you for your effort that your agencies deploy every day in the global fight against hunger and malnutrition.

Thank you very much.