FAO Liaison Office in New York

Launch of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) 2021

The 2021 edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World provides the latest updates and trends in food security and nutrition, and offers some indication of what hunger would look like by 2030, in a scenario further complicated by the enduring effects of COVID-19. Progress in reducing child stunting has slowed significantly, and adult overweight and obesity has continued to rise in rich and poor countries alike. Thus, the report underscores that other major drivers were leading to food insecurity and malnutrition before the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded.

The report draws on and presents updates and additional analysis from a synthesis of the past four editions, which have pointed to the major drivers behind the recent trends in food security and nutrition. These are conflicts, climate variability and extremes, and economic slowdowns and downturns, which are exacerbated by the underlying causes of poverty and inequality. Evidence presented in this year’s report shows that, where these drivers co-exist, they create compounding effects. In addition, the report provides updated estimates of the cost and affordability of healthy diets around the world, which are linked to food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition, including stunting, wasting, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The theme this year, “Transforming food systems for food security, improved nutrition, and affordable healthy diets for all”, is a clear reflection of the fact that the world has recognized that agri-food systems – and their transformation – are central to building forward better after COVID-19, and to achieving the SDGs. Evidence of this recognition is the convening of the UN Food Systems Summit, which later this year will bring forward a series of concrete actions that people from all over the world can take to support a transformation of the world’s food systems.

The SOFI theme is also especially relevant to the 2021 HLPF theme “Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: building an inclusive and effective path for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development”.

Register | Concept note | AgendaEvent website | Previous SOFI reports | SOFI 2021 report

Speakers' bios

Welcome remarks



Munir Akram, Host and President, UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)

Munir Akram, Host and President, UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)

His Excellency Munir Akram was elected seventy-sixth President of the Economic and Social Council on 23 July 2020. Ambassador Akram is currently the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations in New York. Ambassador Akram assumed his position as Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, on November 1, 2019.

Ambassador Munir Akram previously served as Pakistan’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York for six years between 2002 and 2008, after serving as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva for seven years from 1995 to 2002.

Between 1988 and 1992, Munir Akram was Pakistan’s Ambassador to the European Council, Belgium and Luxemburg.

During his term at the United Nations, Ambassador Munir Akram served twice as President of the Security Council in May 2003 and in May 2004; President of the Economic and Social Council in 2005; Chairman of the Group of 77 and China (developing countries) in 2007, and Facilitator on UN Administrative Reform in 2006.

Among the positions he held in various intergovernmental organizations were: Member of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament; Chairman of the WTO Trade Policy Review Body; President of the Conference on Disarmament (June 1996). 

Ambassador Akram joined the Foreign Service of Pakistan in 1967, holding various positions in the Foreign Ministry as Additional Foreign Secretary and Director-General dealing with the United Nations.

He obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Law and a Master’s degree in Political Science from the University of Karachi. He is a prolific writer and has lectured and published several articles and papers on various strategic, political and economic issues.

In recognition of his selfless service and outstanding performance in the field of diplomacy and foreign policy, he was conferred the Award of Hilal-i-Quaid-e-Azam by the President of Pakistan.



QU Dongyu, Director-General, FAO

QU Dongyu, Director-General, FAO

QU Dongyu, who took office on 1 August 2019 as Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, has spent his life working on how to make sure the world is fed.

Born in 1963 to a rice-growing family in China’s Hunan Province, Qu studied horticultural science at Hunan Agricultural University and then plant breeding and genetics at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. He later added environmental science to his knowledge portfolio while earning a PhD at Wageningen University, in the Netherlands.

Before coming to FAO, Qu served as China’s Vice Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, where one of his achievements was to promote inclusive and innovative development and make sure information and communication technologies (ICT) were available in rural areas so that more than 400 million farmers could use their smartphones as a new farming tool.

As Vice Governor of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, one of China’s landlocked and poorest areas, Qu formulated action plans aimed at poverty reduction, disaster reduction and prevention, women empowerment, agritourism and mutual learning platforms designed to boost trust between ethnic groups.

Qu says he represents the combination of an “Asian soul” and a “global mind”. Recognized for scientific innovation as a young scholar, Qu has for 30 years been involved in international exchanges and orchestrated major events including the World Potato Congress, the International Rice Congress and the International Conference on Plant Protection, and participated in multilateral initiatives such as the World Trade Organization and the G20 as well as numerous bilateral initiatives involving Asia, Africa and Latin America. He has also directly helped design flagship South-South Cooperation projects with FAO and the World Bank.

Read the complete bio here.



Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

Henrietta H. Fore became UNICEF’s seventh Executive Director in 2018. She has worked to champion economic development, education, health, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in a career that spans more than four decades. From 2007 to 2009, Ms. Fore served as the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Director of United States Foreign Assistance. From 2005 to 2007, she served as Under Secretary of State for Management, the Chief Operating Officer for the U.S. Department of State. From 2001 to 2005, she was Director of the United States Mint. Immediately prior to her appointment with UNICEF, Ms. Fore was Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Holsman International, a manufacturing and investment company. Ms. 6 Fore has a Bachelor of Arts in History from Wellesley College and a Master of Science in Public Administration from the University of Northern Colorado.



David Beasley, Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP)

David Beasley, Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP)

David Beasley became the fourteenth Executive Director of the World Food Programme in 2017. At WFP, he is putting to use four decades of leadership and communications skills to mobilize more financial support and public awareness for the global fight against hunger. Before coming to WFP, Mr. Beasley spent a decade working in more than 100 countries, directing projects designed to foster peace, reconciliation and economic progress. As Governor of the U.S. state of South Carolina from 1995 to 1999, Mr. Beasley guided the state during years of economic transformation, helping to reshape the state’s economy into a healthy, diverse and robust market. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Clemson University and a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from the University of South Carolina and taught at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.



Dominik Ziller, Vice President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

Dominik Ziller, Vice President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

Dominik Ziller is Vice-President of IFAD. He gives strategic direction to the institution, and promotes corporate approaches and solutions. He has direct oversight of the budget, quality assurance and ethics offices. 

Prior to joining IFAD, Ziller was Director General for International Development Cooperation for International Development Policy at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. His responsibilities included the European Union's development cooperation, United Nations, World Bank Group, regional development banks, OECD, development processes of the G7 and the G20, the World Trade Organization and topics of financing for development and effectiveness/transparency. During Germany's G20 Presidency, Ziller chaired the Development Working Group.

Previously, he held various senior positions at the BMZ, including head of the Directorate for Asia and head of the Budget Division. Between 2011 and 2013, he worked for Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusam¬menarbeit (GIZ), where he was a member of the Executive Management Committee. 

He holds a Law Degree from the Ludwig Maximilian Universität München and Practical Law Degree from the Federal German State of Bavaria.



Zsuzsanna Jakab, Deputy Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO)

Zsuzsanna Jakab, Deputy Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO)

Zsuzsanna Jakab, a native of Hungary, was appointed Deputy Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2019, after having served as WHO Regional Director for the European Region for nine years. The Deputy Director-General’s portfolio includes WHO’s technical programmes for universal health coverage, the life course, communicable and noncommunicable diseases, healthier populations and antimicrobial resistance, alongside other programmes.

Dr Jakab has held a number of high-profile national and international public health policy positions in the last three decades. She served as the founding Director of the European Union's European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm, Sweden. Between 2005 and 2010, she built ECDC into an internationally respected centre of excellence in the fight against infectious diseases. Between 2002 and 2005, Dr Jakab was State Secretary at the Hungarian Ministry of Health, Social and Family Affairs. Between 1991 and 2002, she worked at the WHO Regional Office for Europe in a range of senior management roles.

2021 UN Food Systems Summit vision



Agnes Kalibata, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit

Agnes Kalibata, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit

As the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Dr. Kalibata works with the United Nations system and key partners to provide leadership, guidance and strategic direction towards the 2021 Food Systems Summit. She is responsible for outreach and cooperation with key leaders, including governments, to ensure the Summit serves as a catalytic process within the Decade of Action to improve food systems around the world to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Agreement.

Born in Rwanda to smallholder farmers displaced during the struggle for independence in the early 1960s, Dr. Kalibata grew up at a refugee camp in Uganda, where her parents grew beans and maize, and kept cows. The education of Dr. Kalibata and her siblings was funded through the family’s income from agriculture, ultimately allowing her to study entomology and biochemistry at Makerere University before earning her PhD from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

After graduating, Dr. Kalibata joined the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) at Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute, where she started a career as a research scientist through a combination of research and study between IITA and Makerere University, and the IITA and University of Massachusetts, before returning to Rwanda to become the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) from 2008 to 2014. In this time, Dr. Kalibata drove programs that supported smallholders like her father and helped the country recover from continued impact of the 1994 genocide to food security.

The success of Dr. Kalibata’s tenure as agriculture minister contributed towards moving her country from a food insecure to a food secure status, becoming a reference point for other countries that sought to deliver agriculture transformation.

Since 2014, Dr. Kalibata has also served as President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), where she leads the organization’s efforts with public and private partners to ensure a food secure and prosperous Africa through rapid, sustainable agricultural growth, improving the productivity and livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers in Africa.

Dr. Kalibata has a distinguished track record as an agricultural scientist, policymaker and thought leader. She has been awarded the Yara Prize, now the Africa Food Prize; an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Liège; an Honorary Doctorate from McGill University; and the Public Welfare Medal of the National Academy of Sciences for her work to drive Africa’s agricultural transformation through modern sciences and effective policy thereby improving livelihoods of smallholder farmers. 

Setting the scene



Máximo Torero Cullen, Chief Economist, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Máximo Torero Cullen, Chief Economist, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Máximo Torero Cullen was appointed Assistant Director-General of the Economic and Social Development Department at FAO in January 2019, before being appointed to his current role as FAO Chief Economist.

Prior to joining FAO, he served at the World Bank Group as Executive Director for Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. Before the Bank, he led the Markets, Trade and Institutions Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, D.C. He is a Professor on leave at the University of the Pacific, Peru and an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at University of Bonn, Germany. He holds a Ph.D. and a Master degree in Economics from the University of California (UCLA), Los Angeles, and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of the Pacific in Peru.

Members' segment


Interventions from the floor.



Lana Wong

Lana Wong

Lana Wong is a moderator, emcee, former BBC television host, photographer and creative director of projects that inspire. Harvard and Royal College of Art alumna who lived abroad in London, Nairobi and Paris for 17 years, she is currently based in Washington, D.C. and is leading communications for the Education Commission.

She is a founding member of the diverse collective Moderate The Panel, and excited to moderate and emcee events that touch on international development, education, environment, the arts, youth, and the power of personal storytelling. In 1997, Lana founded Shootback – a youth photography and development project in the Nairobi slums that harnessed the creative voices of young Kenyans so they could tell their own stories.

The youth’s powerful photos and words became the basis of a book, an international touring exhibition, a documentary film, and more. More than 20 years later, the project continues, offshoot slum photography and film groups have developed, and many Shootback students are now professional photographers and filmmakers. Inspired by this experience and her creative collaborations with international organizations, local NGOs, foundations, and artists, Lana is dedicated to harnessing the power of media, the arts, and youth voices for advocacy, education, and sustainable development.