FAO Liaison Office in Brussels

Celebrating World Food Day in Brussels: FAO and partners add their voices for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all


FAO celebrates World Food Day each year on 16 October to commemorate the founding of the Organization in 1945. Events are organized in more than 130 countries, making it one of the most widely celebrated occasions in the United Nations calendar.

The FAO Liaison Office in Brussels celebrated the Organization’s 76th anniversary together with partners on the afternoon of 15 October. Hosted by the European Parliamentary Alliance against Hunger and Malnutrition, the celebration saw the participation of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), the European Commission, the Government of Belgium and the Regional Government of Flanders, as well as experts, farmers and other practitioners. The message that urgent and lasting changes to agri-food systems are needed, was strong, and this year’s theme: “Our actions are our future: better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life” was echoed in many of the discussions.

Raschad Al-Khafaji, Director of the FAO Liaison Office in Brussels, welcomed the participants and noted the importance of involving all stakeholders in the transformation of agri-food systems. “This is a transformation that seeks to ensure that everyone, everywhere, has access to enough affordable, safe and nutritious food to lead an active and healthy life,” he noted.

Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and of the European Parliamentary Alliance against Hunger and Malnutrition Isabel Carvalhais spoke on behalf of the Alliance during the high-level segment of the event and called for political action to help strike a balance between food production and food availability, as well as environmental, social and economic costs. Meanwhile, MEP Paulo De Castro underlined the link between healthy people, a healthy society and a healthy planet, based on the principles of both the European Green Deal and of FAO.

Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti, Secretary-General of OACPS, highlighted the theme of this year’s World Food Day by reaffirming OACPS’ commitment to improving food security and fighting malnutrition in its Member Countries.

Carla Montesi, Director for the Green Deal and Digital Agenda at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Partnerships, called on all parties to move from engagement to action. She repeated the European Commission’s pledge to make food systems fit for the future and the world.

Messages were also delivered by Stanislav Raščan, the Slovenian Acting Minister for Development Cooperation, and Mariko Kawabata, Partnerships Officer at the World Food Programme. The session was moderated by journalist Thin Lei Win.

Following the opening celebrations, a panel discussion addressed each of ‘the four betters’. This part of the event was moderated by Victoria Valenzi and Thomas Willems from the FAO Youth Committee.

Laurence De Wolf, policy officer on agriculture and food security at the Flanders Department of Foreign Affairs, and Rachel Mhone, a farmer from Malawi’s Mzimba District, discussed what better production means from the perspective of policy and agricultural practice.

In the panel on better nutrition, Marlene Mortler, Member of the European Parliament and of the European Parliamentary Alliance against Hunger and Malnutrition, discussed nutritious and healthy diets with restaurant owner Dominika Herzig.

Answering the question about concrete actions for a better environment, Hugo-Maria Schally, Head of Unit for Multilateral Environmental Cooperation at the Directorate-General for Environment, European Commission, talked about the global challenges of addressing climate change, biodiversity and environmental degradation. He was joined by Tarifa Al Zaabi, acting Director-General for the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture, who gave her own perspective from a part of the world that faces various environmental challenges.

The fourth panel featured Catherine Gigante, Head of Unit for Society Building and Social Development at the Belgian Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid, with Sofie Van Waeyenberghe, Coordinator for Agriculture and Rural Development at Belgian Development Cooperation Agency Enabel. Together they discussed the transition towards more productive, inclusive, efficient and sustainable agrifood systems.

Member of the European Parliament and of the European Parliamentary Alliance against Hunger and Malnutrition María Soraya Rodríguez Ramos closed the event.

The recording of the Brussels World Food Day celebration can be found here.

Young people and our European Commission partners join the World Food Day celebration

To honour World Food Day, the European Commission organized the second edition of the two-day Farm to Fork Conference. FAO speakers joined representatives of the European Commission and other institutions to discuss issues linked to the transformation of the world’s agrifood systems. FAO Brussels Director Raschad Al-Khafaji was invited to address the issue of innovation in agriculture and offer remarks ahead of World Food Day.

You can read more about FAO’s presence at the Farm to Fork Conference here.

On the occasion of this World Food Day, particular attention was paid to the role of youth. The FAO Liaison Office in Brussels engaged with young moderators at its own events, and the FAO Brussels Director supported and offered remarks at a number of events organized by and for young people.

On 14 October, the United Community of African Students (UCAS) at Wageningen University (WUR) in the Netherlands, with support from WUR’s Digital Agri Hub, organized a World Food Day conference on “Youth’s key role in the digital transformation of Africa’s agriculture”. The FAO Brussels Director spoke at the event on the key role of innovation and youth in transforming agri-food systems. The World Food Day video was also shown.

Al-Khafaji also highlighted the crucial role of youth in transforming agri-food systems during a Foodathon – a hackathon designed to empower young innovators from Europe and Africa in addressing challenges related to food systems – organized by the EIT Food and JA Europe. More than 100 students from secondary schools in Africa and Europe proposed innovative solutions to a range of significant agricultural challenges and generated new business and technology ideas during the event.

World Food Day public outreach campaign in Belgium

This year, as every year, World Food Day was a day that touched the hearts of the general public through advocacy and marketing activities that the FAO Liaison Office in Brussels organized throughout Belgium.

A virtual screening of the Greek film When Tomatoes Met Wagner, which addresses issues such as organic farming, the role of women in agriculture and the decline of rural areas, with humour, music and poetry, took place on 13 October, and was supported by the United Nations Regional Information Centre (UNRIC).

Following the screening, the audience enjoyed a lively discussion with FAO’s Chief Economist Máximo Torero Cullen and Deputy Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development Tassos Haniotis, as well as with film director Marianna Economou.

You can read more about the film screening here.

This year, FAO Brussels’ countrywide marketing campaigns were again supported by development partners, as well as by private and public sector companies. A photo exhibit inside Belgium’s most famous shopping arcade, the Galerie de la Reine, was dedicated to the theme of food heroes and was staged with support from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by the German Development Cooperation Agency, GIZ.

Throughout the country, major train stations, including those of Brussels North and Brussels Central, featured World Food Day animated visuals on large screens thanks to the support of Publifer. More than 50 cinemas screened the World Food Day video before each film with the support of Brightfish. Additionally, the World Food Day animations were shown on more than 30 digital screens around the city of Brussels for two weeks thanks to JCDecaux. Several Belgian radio channels featured the World Food Day Public Service Announcement.