Committee on World Food Security

Making a difference in food security and nutrition

10 May 2022 | Remarks by CFS Chair at the UNCCD COP 15 Ministerial High Level Segment Roundtable 1 – “Rights, Rewards and Responsibilities: The Future of Land Stewardship”

10 May 2022

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Thank you Ambassador.

Honourable Ministers,

With all protocols observed,

I am very pleased to join you today here in Abidjan. I thank the UNCCD for inviting me in my capacity as the Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security in FAO – the CFS.  

As you may be aware, the CFS was created as an intergovernmental committee in 1974 and reformed in 2009 to become the UN’s multi-stakeholder platform where today, 133 governments come together with UN agencies and other key stakeholders to negotiate and agree on science and evidence-based policy frameworks to address structural causes of hunger and malnutrition.

One such negotiations aimed precisely to agree on a rights-based framework to guide the governance of land tenure, which is the backbone of the landmark decision 26 on Land Tenure adopted by the UNCCD at the COP 14. As the Chairperson of the UN Committee where these Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests were developed, negotiatied and adopted in 2012, it gives me immense joy to join you in this ministerial Roundtable.

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Distinguished delegates, we meet today at a crucial moment for global food security and nutrition.

Today, more than 800 million people go to bed hungry. This number is growing by day. Healthy diets remain costly and out of reach for billions of people, and diet-related diseases have become the world’s number one killer. COVID 19 and the war in Ukraine have made the situation dire.

Through land degradation and soil depletion, rapid biodiversity loss and climate change, global food security is threatened, livelihoods of the most exluded populations endangered, and planet’s health (and ours) is jeopardized. Food and agriculture are very, very closely implicated.

All indications show that we are well not on track to achieving the SDG targets including for SDD 1, SDG 2 and SDG 15 by 2030.

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Colleagues, at a challenging time like this, land governance and secure tenure are mission critical.

Land is our number one lifeline. Land is the bedrock upon which food security and nutrition, nature and livelihoods rely.  When healthy and well managed, it supports biodiversity; fertile soil; water; crops, forests and livestock; and tradition and cultures.

Crucially, land supports small-scale and family farmers who are its custodians. According to FAO, land and soil supply over 95%  of the food we consume. It is the arena where the world’s smallholder and family farmers produce the 80% of the food we consume.

Yet paradoxically, almost a billion people across the world consider it probable, or highly probable, that they will be driven from their land or property in the next five years. Such insecurity of tenure rights is not only unsettling, but also a major driver of unsustainable land use and of the depletion of soils. On the other hand, secure access to productive land and other natural resources through recognized and protected ownership, tenure and rights leads to sustainable management of land and soils and sound management of natural resources. Tenure right is an incentive for productive investments, means to access finance and insurance and a catalyst for multiple benefits on income, the environment and equality. When it is women who have tenure rights, these impacts grow exponentially.

What is needed?

Tthere cannot be healthy soils, nor sustainable land use, without a combination of the following ingeredients: 

  1. responsible governance of land tenure that protects the full respect of human rights, legitimate and secure access to agricultural land, accompanied by corresponding responsible investments in agriculture;
  2. sustainable agriculture practices, in many cases led by responsible investments by the business community in agriculture and food value chains;
  3. the empowerment of small holders and family farmers especially youth and women.

Implementation of the CFS Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) can be a major driver of the transformation needed to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality, and to end hunger and extreme poverty.

Coupled with some of the other global policy consensuses achieved at the CFS, such as the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (the CFS RAI) or the Policy Reccomendations on Agroecology and Other Innovative approaches, these globally agreed and tested policy instruments are already improving the lives and livelihoods of millions around the world.

Still, much more needs to be done.

We meet today as we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the CFS VGGT. We commemorate this anniversary, rather than celebrate it, because the fact is that there is still a substantial gap between global guidance and actual practice by governments and businesses.

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As I conclude, allow me to underscore two priorities:

  • FIRST, recommit to utilize the CFS VGGTs as we agreed in 2012, adapting them within national policies, strategies, legislation, regulatory frameworks and business models.
  • SECOND, integrate, building on the connectors between the challenges and opportunities. Agri-food systems, territories and lanscapes are such connector. Reinforce territorial governance, work at the landscapes level. Bring together our NDCs, NAPAs, LDN and SDG strsategies and policies, under a coherent framework and an integrated financing framework. In doing so, it is more likely to build on existing win-win solutions for climate, biodiversity, resilience and sustainable human development.

We applaud UNCCD’s work linking the CFS VGGT to land degradation neutrality and further prevention of desertification.  I welcome UNCCD and FAO’s excellent technical report that will be launched here tomorrow as a follow up to the outcomes of UNCCD COP 14.

We are also thrilled to see the CFS VGGT at the heart of the Forests Pledge at COP-26 in Glasgow last November. 

And, if we can jointly work to ensure that land tenure, utilizing the CFS VGGT, is part of the UN Convention on Biodiversity (UNCBD)’s work, we will really be making substantial progress.

You can count on us to support your work. We are counting on you. Thank you!

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