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Agrifood systems take center stage at SDG Summit and 78th UN General Assembly

The SDG Summit as well as the discussions during the 78th United Nations General Assembly witnessed a significant and increasing focus on agrifood systems transformation as a top priority on the global agenda. Leaders and policymakers from around the world convened during the high-level week to address pressing challenges, including food security, healthy diets and the climate and biodiversity crises.

Agrifood systems, encompassing everything from food production and distribution to nutrition and environmental sustainability, emerged as critical components of discussions aimed at ensuring a sustainable and equitable future for all.

During the global annual meeting, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) played a pivotal role in representing the global community’s interests in agrifood systems transformation. With a delegation led by Director-General QU Dongyu, FAO provided crucial insights, expertise, and recommendations on how to address the multifaceted challenges facing agrifood systems worldwide. Qu raised these points in meetings at the UN and other venues, including the International Development Conference at Columbia University.

FAO’s involvement in the high-level discussions underscored the organization’s commitment to working collaboratively with its Members and international partners to support the 2030 Agenda through the transformation to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind.

Building up from the recent UN Food Systems Summit+2 Stocktaking Moment held at FAO headquarters in Rome in July, throughout the 78th General Assembly, SDG Action Weekend, SDG Summit, Climate Ambition Summit, General Debate and other high-level gatherings, leaders and stakeholders recognized that transforming agrifood systems is essential not only to eliminate hunger but also to address interconnected challenges, including climate change, poverty reduction, and biodiversity preservation.

The Assembly served as a platform to promote innovative solutions, inclusive policies, and collective actions that can reshape agrifood systems and to reaffirm the global commitment to building a future where nutritious food is accessible to all, livelihoods are improved, and the planet is safeguarded for generations to come.

A new high-impact initiative focused on transforming agrifood systems

At Acceleration Day on the SDG weekend (17 Sept), the Director General presented the FAO-led High Impact Initiative on Food Systems Transformation aimed at mobilizing commitments to ensure food security and healthy diets for all.

A total of 12 High Impact Initiatives were selected by the United Nations this year to provide a unique platform to renew commitment to urgent actions to be taken in the next seven years to boost the progress towards the SDGs.

FAO also co-leads the Local2030 Coalition initiative along with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN-Habitat, which aims to enable connections across a diverse range of stakeholders with the shared aim of localizing the SDGs. Likewise, FAO is also collaborating with the UN System in two other High Impact Initiatives: Nature Driving Economic Transformation and the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions.

A call to action for forests
During the first day of the SDG Summit (18 Sept), Qu, representing FAO as the chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), announced the launch of a Call to Action for Forests towards 2030 highlighting the need for increased action and political commitment to strengthen the implementation of forest solutions in pursuit of the SDGs and other global objectives.

Green should be the color of the future, he said.

Ministerial dialogue on biodiversity, climate, and food security
FAO also put the spotlight on the nexus between biodiversity, climate and food security during the SDG Summit. The Director-General held a Ministerial dialogue (19 Sept) which brought together representatives from Burkina Faso, Brazil, Canada, Cabo Verde, Colombia, Malawi, Netherlands, Rwanda, Panama, Indonesia, The Philippines and more.

At the meeting, distinguished participants affirmed that agrifood solutions should play a much more central role in the implementation of commitments made in the context of the Paris Agreement and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. With the objective to develop an ambitious programme on biodiversity-climate-food security, they agreed to act as a group of champions to engage agrifood sectors in achieving biodiversity and climate ambitions.

A keynote lecture at Columbia University
FAOs participation went beyond the UN headquarters walls and reached the 11th annual International Development Conference of Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

There, in a keynote lecture, the Director-General issued a powerful global call to action, urging immediate steps to address escalating food security concerns and pressing environmental issues.

Key presidencies join hands to put agrifood systems at the top of the agenda

On 20 September, FAO and the G7, UN Food Systems Summit+2 Stocktaking Moment and COP28 Presidencies joined hands to position agrifood systems transformation high on the international agenda during a high-level event hosted by Japan, Italy, and the United Arab Emirates.

At the meeting, and sharing the stage with the UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, QU Dongyu urged stronger political commitment and solidarity to transform agrifood systems and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

A delegation of various expertise
FAO was also represented at UNGA by its Chief Economist, Máximo Torero. Torero attended various high-level meetings where he highlighted the importance of transforming agrifood systems and financing for preventing, coping and mitigating food crises.

Likewise, FAO Chief Scientist, Ismahane Elouafi, discussed the power of science, technology and agricultural innovation at various meetings, and delivered a keynote address at a high-level side event hosted by Nigeria.

Zhimin Wu, Director of the FAO Forestry Division spoke at the unveiling of the Climate Week ecosystem restoration mural at Javitz Center and joined the launch of the International Sustainable Forestry Coalition that aims to bring the private sector to support with the sustainable management of forests.

Stefanos Fotiou, Director of the FAO Office of SDGs and of the UN Food Systems Coordination Hub joined an SDG Media Zone panel on «Sustainable food systems and traditions,». Fotiou also spoke at several panels and meetings related to agrifood systems and their importance for achieving the SDGs.

David Laborde, Director of the Agrifood Economics Division at FAO, also attending UNGA 78, participated in several events and interactive panels related to food security, food crises, healthy diets and accelerating progress on SDG2.

Ahead of the Climate Ambition Summit, senior FAO leadership also engaged in a series of Climate Week activities and highlighted the importance of agri-food systems in providing solutions for the global challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and food crises. Kaveh Zahedi, Director of the Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment (OBC), spoke at several events expressing FAOs commitment in the lead-up to the UN Climate Conference COP28 and its current work on a roadmap to 1.5C in the agrifood systems sector.


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