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29 May 2014                                                           

 

Expo 2015 - Towards a global agreement on food 

 

His Excellency Maurizio Martina, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policy,

Her Excellency Federica Mogherini, Minister for Foreign Affairs,

Mr. Giuliano Pisapia, Mayor of Milan,

Mr. Giuseppe Sala, Director-General of Expo 2015,

Mr. Giancarlo Aragona, President of the Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI),

Mr. Paolo Magri, Executive Vice-President and Director of the Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI),

Mr. Paolo Barilla, Vice President of Barilla SpA and Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition Foundation,

Mr Carlo Petrini, President and Founder of the Slow Food Movement

Mr. Wolfgang Jamann, President of Alliance 2015,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to begin by thanking the Italian Government and L’Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale (ISPI) for inviting me to this meeting. 

As you know, ensuring food security and adequate nutrition for all is at the core of FAO's mandate.

Allow me to provide you with some figures to illustrate the challenge we have ahead.

Around half of the global population suffers from some form of malnutrition.

According to the latest undernourishment figures of FAO, around 840 million people remain chronically hungry.

More than 160 million children are stunted, and around other 2 billion people have different kinds of micronutrient deficiencies.

All this still happens in a world where there is no more food shortage. Today, differently from when FAO was created in 1946, the main reason for hunger is not insufficient food supply but inadequate access to food.

At the same time that one in every 8 human beings is still undernourished, over half a billion adults and 44 million children are obese.

That is how the scenario looks for now. That is the size of the challenge that we have to tackle.

There is no more time to waste. We need to act now, immediately.

Today’s event calls upon a wide range of stakeholders to take action to ensure adequate food security and nutrition for all.

What exactly can we do? Let’s review our common agenda for the next months.

Next semester, Italy will assume the presidency of the European Council.

In November this year, FAO will host the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2).

The Conference is co-organized by FAO and the World Health Organization, with the collaboration of the other Rome-based agencies, IFAD and WFP.

Italy has been the most supportive country of the Conference until now.

Let me also share with you that Pope Francis has already confirmed his presence at the event.

During the second semester of 2015, the World Expo will take place in Milan.

As far as the Expo 2015 is concerned, the subject of today’s debate, the message of “feeding the planet, energy for life” could not be more timely.

So far nearly 150 participants have confirmed their presence at the Expo and millions of visitors are expected. This will certainly raise public awareness on the promotion of food security and nutrition. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Italy for having selected that theme so in tune with the challenges of our time.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today’s meeting, ICN2 and Expo 2015 are interconnected events that contribute to the same goal.

They are emblematic efforts that help shape the sustainable future we want.

The Rio+20 Conference conveyed a clear message: sustainable development is not possible while millions of people are left behind, excluded from a decent life because of hunger and extreme poverty.

But why is ensuring food security and nutrition so important?

The answer is very simple: while hunger and malnutrition remain, we will continue to witness immense suffering.

One example: around half of all child deaths are linked to malnutrition.

And even if the child survives, his or her future will most probably be compromised because of inadequate nutrition in its early days.

This affects not only individuals, but society as a whole.

Malnutrition is also a major obstacle for development. It disrupts health systems and is most likely the greatest impediment to realizing human potential.

And if you look at malnutrition from the economic perspective, you will see that the cost of inaction is too high: the multiple burdens of malnutrition cause a loss of up to 5 percent of the world’s economic product.

Because of all this, we cannot look at nutrition as the responsibility of the individual alone: nutrition is a public issue.

A public issue that must be addressed by governments, civil society, the private sector and academia.

A holistic approach to nutrition would significantly contribute to a successful ICN2, which will be the first global intergovernmental conference to address the world’s nutrition problems in the 21st century.

Twenty-two (22) years have passed since the first International Conference on Nutrition was held in 1992.

Since then, the global economy, food systems and the nutritional status of populations have changed markedly. This can be seen, for instance, in the growing rates of obesity. In 1992, it was not even part of the nutrition conference’s agenda.

As I said earlier, this is an effort that must include non-state actors, as already happens within the UN system.

The benefits of multi-stakeholder participation can be seen, for instance, in the Committee of World Food Security. It contributes to the debate, strengthens the decisions, and helps generate the political consensus needed to push this agenda forward.

This effort will also be picked up at the Expo. The United Nations will be present in Milan in a system-wide effort coordinated by the Rome-Based Agencies.

We will take to Expo 2015 the message of a Zero Hunger vision, as presented by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at Rio+20. We will also highlight the importance of empowering women to reach our sustainable development goals.

Let me conclude by saying that the ICN2, and Expo Milano 2015 will benefit from each other.

Hopefully, our efforts will be defining steps on the way to ending hunger within our lifetimes, as called for in the Zero Hunger Challenge. This would be the greatest legacy we could leave to future generations.

Thank you for your attention.