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Director General  José Graziano da Silva

Food and ecosystems: the subject of agreement between UN agencies

UNEP and FAO to work together under new agreement

24 September 2014, New York – In a world where increasing urbanization, rising populations, and expanding agricultural land use are encroaching on ecosystems and impacting on biodiversity, two United Nations agencies have come together to work for a more sustainable future.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that builds on the two agencies’ past collaborations and adds four priority work areas.

“Partnerships of this kind are essential if we are to meet the challenges and demands of our changing environment and social landscape,” said Achim Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations.

“FAO and UNEP have had a strong relationship in the past, and it is important that we continue to work together to support and enhance the proper functioning of the planet’s ecosystems to deliver food, water and other service to communities.”

“I welcome the excellent work done in recent months and the close collaboration established between the FAO/UNEP teams, which shows a high degree of professionalism and enthusiasm in expanding our partnership,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

The new MoU formalizes the cooperation between the two agencies, in the context of a post-2015 development agenda including Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly with regard to food security and ecosystems services.

The Strategic Partnership Plan that comes with the MoU outlines four specific priorities:

  • Implementation of the new Sustainable Food Systems Programme of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production, which was adopted by governments when they met in Brazil for the Rio +20 Summit in mid-2012, through United Nation’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Zero Hunger Challenge and other initiatives.
  • New and expanded work to maintain and enhance sustainable, productive ecosystems – terrestrial, freshwater and marine – to ensure critical ecosystem functions are supported.
  • Improve and ensure access to data, statistics and indicators for tracking natural resource use and progress towards achieving the SDGs, and to provide evidence-based information and methodologies for strengthening the science-policy interface.
  • Joint support for the development and implementation of legal instruments, especially those promoting governance arrangements that support the social dimension of sustainable food systems and ecosystems management.

Ecosystems provide a range of services to economies and societies. Indeed, every person depends on ecosystem services, either directly or indirectly, as they go about their daily lives, making healthy ecosystems an essential element of sustainable development. These services include:

  • Provisioning services, such as food production, water, wood, fuel.
  • Supporting services, such as nutrient cycling, soil formation, primary production, habitat provision.
  • Cultural services, such as provision of spiritual, aesthetic, educational, recreational needs.
  • Regulating services, such as climate and flood regulation, water purification.