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Director-General  Qu Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu
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25 September 2019

UN General Assembly: Countdown to 2030: Transforming our Food Systems to Achieve the SDGs

 

At the start, I would like to say that I very much appreciate the commitment and support from Member Countries, such as Norway and Ireland, and of course Malawi and Mali and more.

Yesterday I signed a contribution agreement with the Netherlands of about USD 28 million. Support from both developed and developing countries is very important.

Because FAO together with other UN organizations, are organizations run by Member Countries.

We are just the servant to run daily works, that’s my position.

Today I am very happy to participate in this meeting also because we have a new General Assembly President and he considers himself as a farmer.

And I would like to mention the Deputy Secretary General, she is daughter of an FAO staff member. Her father worked for FAO as a veterinarian in 1960s and 1970s.

I mentioned that, because in April in this same room, I participated in a very small agriculture project and a lot of high-level political figures came. I think it’s very important for people who are working in this field, we don’t need to persuade people to come.

But now, after so many years, the majority of people are facing no hunger at all. And the politicians are ignoring it.

First I will start with a question: what is food? For agriculture professors, institutions, ministers, you may have different interpretation. And if you are not from a ministry of agriculture, but from nature resources and energy sectors, it’s another interpretation.

But I have to ask all the different actors, politicians, economists, private sector, civil society and even ourselves, what is the real meaning of food?

I just gave you my primary thoughts during the past days. I think firstly, it is the physiologically important element, chemicals, and nutrition. And secondly, it’s economically important. People can make money with food produced. So it’s an economic issue.

And third, it’s a culture issue, indigenous knowledge, no matter Mediterranean food, Chinese food, French food, Andes Mountain food or American food, and also from Ethiopia mountains, whatever you like. A lot of island food, Pacific, Colombia … So that’s culture related. Family flavor, family choice. 

And then come social issues. Food is not only an economic issue, it’s also a social issue. So that’s why I say that all the ministers and politicians should consider food as public goods. It’s not a personal thing. If you do not take the food system as a public good, there is no way out. So I think you have a lot of things to understand what is the real meaning of food.

For the General Assembly and for all those SDGs, we have to show how food system should be addressed properly. That’s why I encourage that every year in the General Assembly, food systems should be set as a topic and not a sideline event.

I also think that for any coming important meetings in 2020 and 2021, we have to gather all the politicians to understand what food system means in their countries.

Furthermore, I think we need to understand the complex scenario of the agro-food system, not only food system, but agro-food system.

And lastly, I think we need a robust market inspiration, not only public investment but also private investment. And ensure access to sufficient, safe, affordable, healthy food is a prerequisite for human being to continue our civilization.

What is the main objective of SDGs? It is to continue our civilization for generations to come.

Thank you.

 

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