Stockholm +50: commemorating 50 years of the global environment movement
The Food and Agriculture organization of the UN led events at Stockholm+50 that presented solutions to halt environmental degradation through the transformation of our agrifood systems
2 June 2022, Stockholm, Sweden – “Stockholm+50 is an opportunity to start putting solutions into practice,” FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo told delegates as she opened a high-level side-event on day 1 of the meeting in Stockholm, Sweden.
Hosted by the Government of Sweden, with support from the Government of Kenya, the theme of Stockholm+50 was ‘A Healthy Planet for the Prosperity of All – Our Responsibility, Our Opportunity’, offering a chance to find ways to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, including the Paris Agreement and the establishment of the post-2020 global Biodiversity Framework, as well as the outcomes of the Fifteenth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), all of which are closely related to productive agrifood systems.
FAO, as a key partner in global environmental and cross-sectoral governance, actively participated in and led events advocating for the role of more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems, as an integral component of the solution to planetary crises: climate change, pollution, waste, biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation.
The meeting was not only a call to action but a 50th anniversary commemoration of the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm, the first world conference to make the environment an issue requiring global action. Alas, fifty years later the situation has not improved – in the words of the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, we are still in a ‘mess’.
Agrifood systems hold the solution
Our agrifood systems are on the frontline, challenged to feed a population that may reach close to 10 billion people by 2050 while curbing greenhouse gas emissions. They are responsible for a suite of negative and damaging effects on the environment, from food loss and waste to greenhouse gas and nitrogen emissions, but throughout the discussion at the Plenary and Leadership Dialogues, agrifood systems were central to debates and presented as offering multiple solutions to ensuring a stronger and healthier environment and vice versa.
Transformative action identified
At the side event ‘A Green and Climate Resilient Transformation of Agrifood Systems for People and the Planet’, Ms. Semedo highlighted local production as a way to support agro-processing hubs, improve urban-rural linkages and create off-farm job opportunities. This is an area of focus of FAO’s Green Cities Initiative. It is through this initiative that a ‘Green Cities Network’ is developing.
“We urgently need governments, financial institutions and the private sector to back local production – by scaling up targeted investments,” she explained.
By leveraging the power of science, technology, innovation and traditional knowledge we can enter a new paradigm to ensure that agrifood systems globally are green and climate-resilient. But this transformation will fail if it is not equal and inclusive. Smallholder farmers, fishers and foresters and their communities, including women, youth and Indigenous Peoples, are the key agents and beneficiaries of our agrifood systems.
Speaking at the event, Ms. Cherrie Atilano, President and Founding Farmer of AGREA Philippines, described the fundamental role of youth and the importance of tapping into their energy, interests and influence. The message was repeated in Friday’s Leadership Dialogue – youth must be fully immersed in changes and not just considered beneficiaries.
The reality of a bioeconomy
During several hours of discussion during ‘Leadership Dialogue 2’ on ‘Achieving a sustainable and inclusive recovery from the coronavirus disease pandemic’, a number of leaders, including Ministers and UN representatives were heard mentioning the positive role food and agriculture can play in environmental transformation if governments are onboard and committed to ensuring agrifood systems are sustainable, circular, inclusive and equitable – these are all elements underpinning FAO’s approach to sustainable and circular bioeconomy, which it leads at a UN system level. FAO’s work with Uruguay and Namibia are examples of the active role countries are playing creating national bioeconomy strategies, policies and programmes.
Tackling crises together
Discussions at Stockholm+50 also made it clear that crises including biodiversity loss and climate change are not only detrimental to our environment but are interlinked - we cannot tackle one without the other. Governments and policymakers need to ensure that the two issues are addressed together.
A recent FAO paper ‘Climate change, biodiversity and nutrition nexus’ identifies entry points within agrifood systems to improve biodiversity and diets, with recommendations for concrete actions by key stakeholders – governments, academia, and civil society, the private sector, and development partners. One example is pastoralists living on rangelands, whose entire lives, livelihoods and indigenous knowledge positively support food-production ecosystems.
In her closing remarks at the event ‘Nature-based Restoration and Multipurpose Use of Rangelands’, Ms. Semedo announced FAO’s role leading the 2026 International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists, and called on all countries and partners to invest in rangeland restoration in ways that are inclusive, community focused and sustainable.
Environmental multilateralism for One Health
“To safeguard human, plant, animal and environment health, together, we promote the One Health approach,” said Ms. Semedo speaking on behalf of FAO, the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, at Leadership Dialogue 2 on the last day of Stockholm+50.
“One Health” is an approach to designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research through which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes. It is a model on which to base future initiatives to carry forward transformative actions that will ensure agrifood systems can drive the global post-COVID-19 recovery. “Let’s move to action and let’s do it at scale, count on the Rome-based Agencies,” concluded Ms. Semedo.
FAO stands ready to work in partnership, changing mind sets, creating possibilities and ensuring that the world’s food security and nutrition is ensured by the environmental sustainability and resilience of our agrifood systems.