Direttore Generale  QU Dongyu

White House's Global COVID-19 Summit: Pandemic emphasizes need for agri-food systems transformation, FAO Director-General says


23 September 2021, Rome/Washington - The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the largest single-year increase in global hunger in decades, emphasizing the need to shift towards more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems, QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said Wednesday in a video message to the White House Global COVID-19 Summit “Ending the Pandemic and Building Back Better to Prepare for the Next”. The high-level virtual event took place on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly.

“Even before the pandemic the world was not on track to achieve Zero Hunger and end extreme poverty by 2030,” the Director-General said noting that 811 million people in the world went to bed hungry in 2020. The pandemic tolls were further exacerbated by extreme weather, conflicts and invasive pests such as desert locusts and other additional shocks, affecting the livelihoods of rural households in particular, he added.

In his address, Qu expressed his support to the President of the United States Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for their leadership in the global response to end the COVID-19 pandemic and help countries to build back better.  The FAO Director-General also called for boosting responsible and targeted investment for food and health security. He also stressed the need for a sustainable green recovery, with rural areas and agri-food systems being at its core.

In addition, the Director-General highlighted the importance of using digital technologies and innovation to assist smallholders in improving productivity, market access and value chain, as well as creating new opportunities for youth and women in agri-food systems. He also reaffirmed that FAO supports all efforts to ensure that extensive immunization is carried out in a science-based, timely, equitable and efficient manner, taking into particular consideration for the vulnerable and low-income countries.

From the outset, FAO mobilized all its resources across 150 countries, to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security and nutrition. FAO’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme aims to reach large portions of rural populations in the vulnerable countries including through the Hand in Hand Initiative.

The summit brought together world leaders, private and non-profit sectors, as well as civil society, philanthropists and non-governmental organizations with the aim to enhance shared efforts to create lasting solutions to combating COVID-19 and future pandemics.