FAO Liaison Office in New York

High school students acquaint themselves with food systems transformation


Every year, hundreds of thousands of students from all educational levels around the world enrol in the Model United Nations (MUN), a simulation that allows them to learn more about diplomacy, international relations, and the United Nations (UN). On 19 November 2020, FAO Senior Adviser Kostas Stamoulis presented the UN’s efforts for a global agri-food systems transformation to a group of MUN high school students.

“To understand what we mean by ‘sustainable food systems’, looking at agriculture and natural resources is not enough,” said Stamoulis. “Instead, sustainability implies a system that ensures food security and nutrition for all, in such a way that the economic, social and environmental bases to generate food security and nutrition of future generations are not compromised.”

He went on to note that even though the number of people suffering from hunger had already been on the rise since 2014, when the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm in 2020, the situation worsened much faster. Restrictive measures to mitigate the spread of the virus, such as movement restrictions within and across borders, have resulted in shocks along the food supply chains. Many businesses like restaurants and food markets have closed, children have not been able to rely on school meals, and many people –especially informal workers– have lost their jobs due to the subsequent recession. Recent estimates by the World Bank project that the pandemic is expected to push another 88-115 million people into extreme poverty by the end of the year.

This unprecedented situation has prompted a shift in the way the international community has been approaching agri-food systems. As Stamoulis remarked, “We understand that we need to build on resilience by investing in flexible policy structures and innovative technologies.” He also added that economic inclusion and social protection should be part of multilateral efforts to build back better food systems.

In response to this developing global crisis, FAO and the Italian government have launched a number of COVID-19 response and recovery programmes supported by the Food Coalition, a multi-stakeholder, multi-sectoral alliance that will activate and mobilize political, financial and technical assistance in support of countries severely affected by the pandemic. Further to that effect and in order to tackle food insecurity in the long run, FAO will be actively participating in the 2021 Food Systems Summit, convened by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres with the aim of launching new, bold actions that will transform the way the world produces and consumes food.

The presentation by Kostas Stamoulis is available here.