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World Food Day 2021: The future of agri-food systems rests on human rights

News - 21.10.2021

21 October 2021, Rome-  This year’s World Food Day was held at a critical moment, as global hunger, the climate crisis and COVID-19 remain huge challenges. The right to food of millions –many children among them- is at stake, while many efforts to transform food systems are underway.

In his remarks during the celebrations organized by the World Sustainable Urban Food Centre (CEMAS), the Right to Food Observatory of the School of Nutrition of Uruguay (ODA-EN) and the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM), Juan Carlos García y Cebolla, FAO Right to Food Team Leader, called for the application of a human rights-based approach and the improvement of governance.

Agri-food systems are unsustainable, putting food security, agriculture and the planet at stake. "As long as we are not able to solve these problems, not everyone will enjoy an adequate standard of life”, said Carlos García y Cebolla.

"Although it seems more complex, a human rights-based approach continues to be the option that will give us the best results in the medium and long term," he stressed. “Human rights can foster the creation of a new social compact towards the eradication of poverty, the reduction of inequalities and the inclusive prosperity of the planet”, he added.

A menu of solutions

Agri-food systems are a network of activities that encompass the production, processing, handling, preparation, storage, distribution, marketing, access, acquisition, consumption, and loss and waste of food, as well as such as the products of these activities, including social, economic and environmental outcomes. The connections between all these elements must be taken into account when dealing with the problems of agri-food systems.

García y Cebolla indicated that all people must participate in decision-making, particularly the most vulnerable, so that actions have a real impact. In addition to taking part in decision-making and discussions, implementing actions that enhance the development of their abilities and skills contributes to increasing their influence and being heard.

The expert advocated for gender equality, decent employment policies, and recognition and shared responsibility in care work – women are responsible for over 75% of care.

During the activity organized by CEMAS, the mayor of Valencia, Joan Ribó, recalled that over 50% of the world population now lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase by 75% by 2050. It is vital to strengthen municipalities, as well as collaboration between administrations at all levels and technical areas. "It is a great political exercise, which needs research and the social economy as catalysts for change," he pointed out.

During the event, the ODA-EN coordinator, Alejandra Girona, emphasized the importance of food prices to ensure access to healthy diets. In Uruguay, the cost of the basic nutritional food basket has not only increased in recent months, but is equivalent to almost half the national minimum wage. Government assistance programs are very helpful, although they are limited.

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