FAO Liaison Office in Brussels

Director-General calls for “coordinated, coherent response” in European Parliament address

02/12/2020

The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, participated today for the first time at a session of the Development Committee of the European Parliament. The Director-General thanked the Development Committee for the invitation and for their commitment to fight hunger and poverty.

Chair of the Committee Tomas Tobé, thanked the Director-General for his presence and underscored FAO’s important mandate and activities. He noted that the exchange on how we can collectively ensure the vital functioning of agriculture and food systems came at a very timely moment.

“My message to you is this: We need a globally coordinated and coherent response to prevent this public health crisis from triggering a food crisis” said the Director-General. Prior to the pandemic, the situation was critical. Worldwide, almost 690 million people were undernourished in 2019. Three billion could not afford a healthy diet.Qu mentioned that FAO has called for 1.3 billion US dollars around seven priority areas of work in its comprehensive COVID-19 Response and Recovery Program, including One Health and the weak links in managing zoonotic health threats, and he welcomed the European Green Deal as well as the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, as an important contribution to One Health.

The Director-General gave a global overview of the latest initiatives FAO has launched in transforming agri-food systems and ending poverty and praised the key role of the European Parliament.

“I thank the European Parliamentary Alliance against Hunger and Malnutrition for their continued efforts to ensure that the issues of food and nutrition remain high on our political agenda”, said the Director-General.

At the end of his intervention, the Director-General put a particular emphasis on the importance of partnerships between FAO and all key stakeholders, including the European Union, and Parliamentarians from all around the world.

Read the full speech of the Director-General here.

Exchanging with the Members of the Development Committee

In their interventions, Members of the different political groups highlighted the need for increased multilateral efforts to improve food and nutrition security.

Marlene Mortler, EPP, Germany, highlighted also in view of the latest G20 discussions, the need for increased investment in agriculture, including investments to increase productivity of agriculture and in food supply systems. She stated that Europe can take a leadership role with the Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategy. In view of their international dimensions, she highlighted the need to increase investment in education and training, especially for youth and women.

Marc Tarabella, S&D, Belgium, called for a stronger role of nutrition in the EU’s policies and a strengthened commitment in view of the Nutrition for Growth Summit, as the SDGs cannot be achieved without investments in good nutrition as a top priority.

María Soraya Rodríguez Ramos, Renew Europe, Spain, referring to figures from the World Bank that between 88 and 115 million people will fall into extreme poverty during this year, called for making Zero Hunger a priority of the EU. She underscored that the EU should reinforce its commitment through programmes and sufficient financing, to ensure that during the United Nations Food Systems Summit we can renew this commitment. She underlined that particular attention needs to be given to the role of small-scale farmers and of women.

Bernhard Zimniok, ID, Germany , referring to rising food insecurity numbers in Afghanistan and the rural livelihoods of its population, raised the question of how alternative crops to breadseed poppy can be promoted in the country.

Michèle Rivasi, Greens/EFA, France, questioned the Director-General on FAO’s engagement with the private sector, especially with crop protection companies, also calling on FAO to strengthen agro-ecological approaches to food security while restoring eco-systems.

Caroline Roose, Greens/EFA, France, highlighted that already existing societal inequalities have been further triggered by the pandemic and their impact is most felt by already vulnerable populations. She stated that actions of the global community to help build more resilient food systems and ensure the right to food will be crucial.

Leonard Mizzi, Head of Rural Development, Food Security and Nutrition, DG DEVCO,provided Members with an overview on the Commission’s approach to food and nutrition security, which in a Team Europe approach, is putting together the building blocks to move away from a business as usual approach with the EU Green  Deal and the EU Biodiversity Strategy at the center in view of the many upcoming international engagements.  EU actions aim to contribute to the transformation of global food systems, putting sustainable value chains at heart and based on a One Health approach. He finally noted that trade also has a key role to play in this transformative process and that it will be key to increase equity in the process through improved participation of smallholder farmers, women and youth.