FAO stresses the importance of innovative approaches during meeting of the Committee on World Food Security

CFS High-Level Event seeks to strengthen global governance for food security and nutrition

13 October 2020, Rome - Promoting innovation and applying digital technologies in agri-food systems, as well as reducing food loss and waste, are vital to step up the fight against hunger and poverty. This was FAO's main message at the opening of the High-Level Special Event on Strengthening Global Governance of Food Security and Nutrition organised by the Committee on Food Security (CFS), taking place from 13 to 15 October.

The first session of the three-day high-level virtual event featured addresses by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, President of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Gilbert Houngbo, Executive Director of World Food Programme (WFP) David Beasley, and the CFS Chairperson Thanawat Tiensin. The heads of the Rome-based UN Agencies (RBAs) reflected on how to improve food security and nutrition and their collaborative commitment to CFS. 

In his opening remarks, FAO Director-General QU Dongyu encouraged the Committee to use comprehensive and inclusive approaches in its work, with a wider perspective in mind, pointing to promoting innovation and addressing food loss and waste as areas of great importance.

"I strongly believe in the power of innovation and digital technologies as a central tool to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG2 (hunger) and SDG1 (poverty)," he said.

Qu noted that FAO has taken big steps to support its Members to boost innovation, highlighting that a new Office of Innovation was created, major initiatives on big data have been introduced and the first Chief Scientist in FAO's history has been selected.

The Director-General encouraged the CFS to put strong emphasis on innovation at large, being a central element in the efforts of all members in transforming agri-food systems.

Referring to food waste as "a matter of instilling a sense of responsibility into the whole society", the Director-General also called on CFS to bring all its members on board for this important issue with the aim of raising awareness and creating a public momentum towards eliminating food waste.

In relation to food loss, he stated that its reduction requires improvements along the value chain as well as the introduction of varieties with a better shelve life, underscoring the need for investments in post-harvest treatment and agricultural infrastructure, from roads, to cold-storage houses and facilities.

The FAO Director-General concluded by stressing the need for more "synergy and complementary activities between CFS and FAO" and pledging the UN Agency's continued support to CFS in turning its policies and products into concrete action at country level.

For his part, the CFS Chairperson said that "we are at a critical turning point for humanity", with COVID-19 and conflicts putting additional pressure on our food systems, and stressed the need for a radical transformation of our diets and food systems, if the international community wants to achieve truly sustainable development and the goals of the 2030 Agenda.

The President of the IFAD reminded the audience on how much the world relies on small-scale farmers who produce half of all our food calories and underscored the need for strong political will and increased investment to transform rural areas and restructure our food systems. We need food systems that are sustainable, climate adapted, provide nutritious food, inclusive, resilient and above all do not underestimate the small-scale producers, he added.

Referring to conflicts, climate extremes and now the COVID-19 pandemic as primary drivers of food insecurity, the Executive Director of the WFP stressed the need to address the hunger pandemic together with the health pandemic, otherwise we risk seeing the number of people dying from an economic deterioration and food supply chains disruption by times higher than what we have seen in a hunger death rate so far.

About CFS high-level special event

The three-day virtual event brings together ministers and other high-level government officials, United Nations agencies, civil society and non-governmental organizations, the private sector, philanthropic foundations, international research centres for food security, and international and regional financial institutions.

The CFS High-Level Special event seeks to keep food security and nutrition front and center on the global sustainable development agenda. Three plenary sessions will take place one per day to:

• take stock of the global food security situation guided by the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) 2020 report and the CFS High-Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) report on Building a Global Narrative towards 2030;

• reflect on the impacts of COVID-19 on global food security and nutrition and efforts needed to "build back better" using the HLPE issues paper on Impacts of COVID-19 on Food Security and Nutrition: Developing Effective Policy Responses to Address the Hunger and Malnutrition Pandemic; and

• discuss the draft CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition and the draft CFS Policy Recommendations on Agroecological and Other Innovative Approaches, and consider their relevance to the objectives of the UN Food Systems Summit.

To complement the plenary discussions and to give partners and stakeholders an opportunity to highlight their work, CFS will provide space for 12 virtual "Partners Events" over the three days.

The CFS is the leading international platform for policy coherence and convergence on food security and nutrition. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the CFS Bureau decided to reschedule the CFS 47 Plenary session to 8 - 12 February 2021.

Photo: ©FAO/Luis Tato / FAO
A member of FAO Kenya uses her mobile phone to enter coordinates on eLocust3 app while tracing hopper bands of locust in a remote area in Turkana County, Kenya.