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Director-General  Qu Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu
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World Food Day 2019 

Wednesday, 16 October 2019 – Plenary Hall, 9:30am

 

 

 

Excellencies,

Honourable Minister Conte,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Good morning.

I am very pleased to welcome you to the celebration of World Food Day 2019, the 74th Birthday of FAO.

The theme of this year is “Our Actions are Our Future: Healthy Diets for a Zero Hunger World.

The theme combines two very important areas: Zero Hunger and healthy diets.

First, the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report (SOFI 2019) tells us that the total number of undernourished people in the world is increasing.

More than 820 million people are going to bed hungry. It is important to note that, while the total number of hungry people is increasing, as the world population is growing quickly, the hunger rate is falling.

But hunger is not only about undernourishment.  It is also about having access to enough food, in quantity and quality, to meet the nutritional needs of people for a healthy life. This is the Zero Hunger concept.

Second, overweight, obesity and its associated non-communicable diseases are also on the rise affecting over two billion people globally.

Malnutrition in all its forms has a serious cost for individuals, families, communities and countries. Poor quality diets have become the single largest contributor to the global burden of disease and early death. 

The impact of malnutrition on the global economy is estimated at 3.5 trillion USD per year.

Hunger and malnutrition will be major barriers to achieving the SDGs by 2030, if we do not act now!

Let me focus on the actions that we can take together to halt and reverse the situation.

Countries must expand their agriculture policies beyond staple food production to include investments and research on nutritious crops such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, etc.

We need to create markets for smallholder farmers by linking them to national procurement systems.

It is vital to promote digital farming and digital rural development, and narrow the digital divide among countries and regions and between cities and countryside.

Farmers should be given more access to digital dividends in their fight against poverty, online marketing should be utilized to achieve premium prices for
agri-products.

ICT should be applied more widely along agriculture value chains to create new platforms, reduce urban-rural disparity and the potential of the smart phone as a new farming tool should be tapped for higher productivity.

Governments must put in place policies, regulations and market infrastructure to make nutritious foods available, accessible and affordable.

The private sectors should re-formulate products to make them more nutritious. Food companies that produce nutritious foods can be given incentives to make their products more reachable, more accessible and affordable.

With urbanization and the fast pace of life, many households are depending more on restaurants and street foods for family meals. There is a need to introduce diverse and healthy dietary patterns, food and nutrition education and culinary skill development.

 

Excellencies,

All these actions enable consumers to make healthier choices. However, to make the right food choices, consumers need to be well informed.

A knowledgeable and capable consumer is an effective agent of change towards healthy diets.

Progress towards healthy diets requires collaboration by all stakeholders. Governments, Civil Society Organizations, think tanks, food producers, research institutions and consumers, all have an important role to play.

The issue here is to define and accept trade-offs and ensure that we are all moving in the same direction. This is a challenge that we need to undertake together.

Equally important, we need to ensure that healthy diets are environmentally and economically sustainable.

FAO and WHO are developing guiding principles on “Sustainable Healthy Diets” in support of the implementation of the Decade of Action on Nutrition.

Countries can use these principles when designing their national policies.

Many countries are also showing their commitment to the Nutrition Decade by forming and leading Action Networks to address the burden of malnutrition.

 

Excellencies,

A matter of great relevance in our quest to eradicate hunger is the transformation of our food systems.

The 2030 Agenda requires inclusive, efficient and responsible Agri-food systems that integrate production, supply and value chains, to ensure the supply of adequate, affordable and healthy food.

We strongly support the Secretary General’s decision to convene a Food Systems Summit in 2021.

FAO will follow the instructions of the UN Secretary General and work closely with the other Rome Based Agencies and especially with the Italian Government to ensure the success of this important event.

Given FAO’s mandate and expertise, we are ready to play a central role in the field of food and agriculture.

Excellencies,

We have set a goal for ourselves to eradicate hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030.

In moving forward towards achieving this, FAO has declared its biennial theme for 2020-2021, to be “Promoting healthy diets and preventing all forms of malnutrition”.

With such a challenging goal, we all need to work together. We need stronger policies and political commitment. We need to invest in nutrition and for nutrition. We need to walk hand-in-hand and build healthy and sustainable food systems.

My vision is that in the near future World Food Day will be the occasion to celebrate our achievement of eradicating hunger and malnutrition in all forms.

In the name of the FAO Family, I assure you of our full commitment to this noble goal.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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