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Natural resources vital to food security, FAO tells UN group


Sustainable management of the planet’s oceans, forests, mountains, and biodiversity is “vital to enable future food security, surmount rural poverty, and ensure much-needed environmental services”, remarked FAO Assistant Director-General Eduardo Rojas-Briales at the UN Open Working Group (OWG) consultations on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in New York on 4 February. 

Speaking in the OWG plenary at UN Headquarters, Mr. Rojas-Briales, FAO’s forestry chief, warned government, civil society and business leaders that unsustainable management practices were exposing life-sustaining natural resources to “severe stresses”. 

He listed “inadequate land use planning, weak governance, scant financial investment, and worsening climate change” as dangers to sustainability. 

The 8th and final Open Working Group consultative week (3-7 February) also witnessed numerous breakfast, lunch and evening “side-event” meetings. 

FAO, collaborating closely with member states, UN-system partners, and various other stakeholders, conveyed the importance of embedding rural women, forestry, mountains, fisheries and oceans into the post-2015 agenda, highlighting the strong linkages that exist between the management of natural resources and food and nutrition security and sustainable agricultural practices. 

Green Growth, Blue Growth 

Also participating in the OWG — which featured debates on oceans, forests, biodiversity gender, peace-building, and governance — were Arni Mathiesen (Assistant Director-General, Fisheries and Aquaculture), Gerda Verburg (Chair, Committee on World Food Security - CFS), and Thomas Hofer (Coordinator, Mountain Partnership Secretariat). 

“Major changes in how the planet’s marine resources are managed and used are needed to bolster global food security and ensure the wellbeing of coastal and island countries,” urged FAO ADG Arni Mathiesen, at a side-event hosted by the German Mission and organized jointly by SIDS nations, Iceland, New Zealand, the World Bank, and FAO. 

Rural women, agents of change 

In another side-event, Focusing on Rural Women in an SDG Framework (co-organized by FAO, IFAD, and WFP), Gerda Verburg — CFS Chair and Ambassador of the Netherlands to the UN’s Rome-based Agencies – delivered an impassioned call to “fully integrate the needs of rural women into the heart of the SDGs”. 

“The data,” she said, “convincingly demonstrates that women in rural areas are just as efficient as their male counterparts, but suffer from lower levels of access to productive resources and opportunity. 

“Rural women are active economic agents who, freed from constraints, could unleash major advancements in hunger eradication and development. Focusing on rural women in the post-2015 framework will bring about tremendous positive change.” 

The OWG will now move into a negotiation phase to decide on a set of SDGs to propose to the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) during its high-level meetings in September.