Director-General  QU Dongyu

FAO and European parliamentarians commit to agri-food systems transformation at Brussels briefing


21 May 2021, BRUSSELS/ROME – Assuring that everyone has access to adequate and healthy food produced in an environmentally-friendly way is a global challenge, and responses to that challenge must also be global, agreed participants at an event today organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations with the European Parliamentary Alliance against Hunger and Malnutrition.

“We urgently need to do things differently and act holistically to transform our agri-food systems,” said QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General, noting that “the table will need to be set” for up to 10 billion people in 2050. He pointed to the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit 2021 as a timely opportunity “to galvanize momentum, foster dialogue and present game-changing solutions.”

The parliamentarians, eager to participate in the Summit proceedings, invited the Director-General to reflect on how to make it a success.

FAO has been providing technical support to Members that are convening national-level dialogues on how to contribute to the Food Systems Summit, he said, noting that more than 111 countries are also conducting domestic multi-stakeholder dialogues on how to transform their agri-food systems at the country level.

FAO, with funding from the European Union, is also undertaking rapid agri-food systems assessment in 60 countries to help them develop and implement national “road maps” for transformation, he added.

Other speakers at today’s event included David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, and Members of the European Parliament Marlene Mortler, Paolo De Castro, Soraya Rodríguez Ramos, Isabel Carvalhais, Francisco Guerreiro and Petros Kokkalis. Officials from the European Commission including Claire Bury, Deputy Director-General for Health and Food Safety, and Carla Montesi, Director at the Directorate General for International Partnerships, also spoke, as did Rodrigo de Lapuerta, Director a.i. FAO Liaison Office with the European Union and Belgium, and Martin Frick, Deputy to the Special Envoy for the UN Food Systems Summit.

Joachim von Braun – president of the Food Systems Summit’s Scientific Group and acclaimed food security expert – gave the keynote speech.

Action for people and planet

A variety of themes were floated, many echoing the FAO Director-General’s emphasis that supporting the most vulnerable, increasing resilience, and integrating “Green Recovery” components are all urgent priorities. These are central elements of FAO’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme.

Attention to how agri-food systems and their desired transformation impact people even beyond local policies and actions is essential, participants agreed.

“The Summit must lead to action for people … (and) must lead to action for our planet,” von Braun emphasized, saying that the EU can play an important role in defining priorities in an arena where countries are not all in agreement yet.

While hailing the world’s agricultural sector for showing its resilience during the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must not “let the paradigms of the past be the engines of the recovery,” said Sassoli. EU Parliamentarians highlighted the need to take care of those who are adversely impacted by policy-driven changes and emphasized the importance of prioritizing women’s rights, not only because that is fair but also because that is demonstrably effective in improving food and nutrition security around the world.

FAO’s Director-General thanked the European Parliament and members of the European Parliamentary Alliance against Hunger and Malnutrition – as well as parliamentary alliances everywhere - for keeping the issues of food and nutrition high on the political agenda. “We can think together, learn together and contribute together,” Qu said.

He also pointed out that FAO is contributing robustly to the Scientific Group for the Summit, with both Chief Economist Maximo Torero and Chief Scientist Ismahane Elouafi playing leading roles; FAO is also  facilitating and co-hosting the Summit’s Science Days, on 8 and 9 July.