Home > About FAO > Who we are > Director-General > Statements > detail
A statement by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva
Check against delivery

1st December 2016

International Symposium
on Sustainable Food Systems
for Healthy Diets and Improved Nutrition


It is my honour to welcome all of you to this symposium on food systems, nutrition and healthy diets, co-organized by FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO).

I warmly thank His Majesty, King Letsie the Third of Lesotho, for his presence with us today.

His Majesty has been playing an essential role as the African Union Champion for Nutrition.

FAO applauds his commitment and relentless support to the fight against malnutrition.

Two years ago, in November 2014, 164 countries gathered here in Rome for the Second International Conference on Nutrition, ICN2.

They unanimously adopted the Rome Declaration and the related Framework for Action.

And committed not only to eradicate hunger, but also to tackle all forms of malnutrition.

They also agreed that promoting sustainable food systems is the way to doing so.

The ICN2 also saw a massive participation of important stakeholders, such as civil society, the private sector and research institutions.

The outcomes were essential for the adoption of Sustainable Development Goal number 2, which calls for the eradication of all forms of malnutrition.

In addition, the United Nations General Assembly has declared the period 2016–2025 as the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition.

So a lot of commitments and initiatives have been made over the last 2 years.

This symposium aims to contribute to this continuous dialogue, engagement and collaboration between governments and stakeholders.

And also take stock of the progress on the implementation of the commitments made.

Ladies and gentlemen

Numbers show that tackling all forms of malnutrition is a huge challenge.

As you know, nearly 800 million people go to bed hungry every day.

Another 2 billion people suffer from micronutrient-deficiencies, the hidden hunger.

And around 150 million children are stunted. Up to 45% of all preventable child deaths are attributable to undernutrition.

At the same time, overweight affects almost 1.9 billion people, of which 500 million are obese.

The results of these statistics combined are that:

First, one in three people on this planet suffers from some form of malnutrition.

Second, no country is immune to the effects of at least one form of malnutrition.

And third, many countries, especially middle-income countries, face the multiple burdens of malnutrition simultaneously.

According to the State of Food and Agriculture 2013, the impact of malnutrition on the global economy could be as high as 3.5 trillion US Dollars per year. Or 500 US Dollars per individual.

Ladies and gentlemen, 

Promoting healthy diets is fully inserted in FAO’s work on agriculture, food security, food safety and nutrition.

We support countries to adopt a food systems approach in order to address all stages of the food chain: from production and processing to marketing and consumption.

National public policies are fundamental. Nutrition is a public issue, a State responsibility.

Consumers must be empowered to choose healthy food and diets.

They must be aware of the benefits and detriments of what they are eating.

This involves nutrition-sensitive social protection, nutrition education, awareness raising, as well as regulations on labelling and advertisements.

Due to the lack of information, people are, for example, consuming much more sugar and salt than the limits recommended.

And many times they do not even know what they are consuming. Labels do not provide understandable information.

On the supply side, governments should encourage diversification, improve post-harvest management, guarantee food safety and facilitate market access, especially for poor family farmers.

Measures to strengthen accountability, resilience, and equity are also important.

Let me observe that the implementation of effective national public policies requires the involvement of different ministries, institutions and other relevant actors, particularly the private sector and civil society organizations.

Fighting malnutrition in all its forms has to be a joint and coordinated effort.

The role of Parliamentarians is also important.

They make the laws to provide people with adequate, safe, sufficient and nutritious food.

Where public policies and programmes are based on adequate national legislation, the indicators on malnutrition improve significantly. 

FAO is supporting the work of parliamentarians in Latin America, Europe and Africa.

Ladies and gentlemen,

FAO has a great synergy with WHO in the fight against malnutrition.

This partnership will be important for leading the implementation of the Decade of Action.

This will be done in close collaboration with other fundamental actors, such as IFAD, WFP and UNICEF, as well as the Standing Committee on Nutrition, and the Committee on World Food Security, the CFS.

The Decade aims to keep up the political momentum on nutrition, and provide a reference to achieve two main objectives:

First, help transform commitments into action through national policies and programs.

And second, promote alignment and collaboration among existing global initiatives.

I am sure that further developments will benefit highly from the discussions in this symposium.

Our intention is to increase understanding of the different elements of a food system, and improve nutrition through healthy diets.

Countries are also expected to show what they are doing, or planning to do, to implement the ICN2 recommendations and achieve SDG 2.

Nutrition is about improving people’s lives.

And I look forward to hearing the results of this meeting. They will inspire our future work.

Before concluding, allow me to say that I am honoured to confer now on His Majesty, King Letsie the Third, the role of FAO’s Special Ambassador for Nutrition.

I thank His Majesty for accepting FAO’s invitation to support the Organization to promote better nutrition for all.

We need international champions to carry our messages to all nations.

I am confident that His Majesty will strongly advocate putting healthy diets and nutrition very high on all political agendas.

Thank for your attention.