FAO Director-General stresses importance of agri-food systems transformation at UN event to discuss building back better from COVID-19

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2 July 2021, New York/Rome –  Science, technology, innovation and data are key to transforming agri-food systems, said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu at the 2021 Integration Segment of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) on Friday.

The Integration Segment brought together high-level participants and experts ahead of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) beginning on 6 July. The virtual event hosted three panel discussions on ECOSOC’s and HLPF’s overall theme for 2021: ‘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’.

Qu Dongyu stressed that building back more resilient, healthy, equitable and sustainable societies is “one of the most critical issues currently facing humanity.”

He continued by saying that FAO’s Strategic Framework seeks to support the 2030 Agenda through the transformation of agri-food systems, stressing two important elements: “First, tapping into science, technology and innovation, ensuring it is accessible and relevant to all. Second, improving the use of data, especially big data, bringing together different sources to inform decision-making, thereby strengthening governance, institutions and human capacity.”

ECOSOC’s Integration Segment meets annually to help UN Member States and others map ways to achieve sustainable development, with an emphasis on cutting-edge issues of global concern.

Building back better from COVID-19

The panel was moderated by Juan Sandoval Mendiolea, Deputy Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations and Vice-President of ECOSOC. António Vitorino, Director-General of the International Organization for Migration, Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at World Health Organization and Peter Major, Chair of the 24th Session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development all joined Qu Dongyu on the panel.

The Integration Segment built upon three informal virtual conversations organised over the course of May and June, which identified the key policy options for integration issues and COVID-19 recovery to inform the event’s panel discussions. FAO led the preparatory Integration Dialogue on 10 June, with Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol presenting agri-food systems transformation and green recovery from COVID-19 as two major priorities going forward, highlighting some of FAO’s strategic actions and key programs working in those areas as examples.

Key takeaways from the preparatory conversations were that concerted efforts are needed to step up public and private sector investments in agri-food systems to address the nexus between food security, disasters and conflict, and that green recovery of agri-food systems will address both food security and climate risk. Science, technology, and innovation were also highlighted as important catalysts for progress, including the power of geospatial information to help bridge the digital gap across many communities and sectors.  Finally, it was stressed that global collaboration and action is fundamental to addressing all of the mentioned challenges.

High-Level Political Forum 2021

The ECOSOC Integration Segment meets just prior to the start of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF). Juan Sandoval Mendiolea, ECOSOC’s Vice-President, will share the key findings of the Segment’s panel discussions at the HPLF, highlighting the main policy recommendations and providing policy guidance on how to ensure a sustainable and resilient recovery from COVID-19 that puts us on track to realise the 2030 Agenda.

As a lead entity, FAO will participate in several high-level events and discussions during the HPLF, stressing the message that we must achieve MORE efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind, if we are to achieve the SDGs by 2030. FAO will advocate for agri-food systems transformation as a major driver of accelerated, sustainable and inclusive recovery from the pandemic and its economic shocks and the need to leverage accelerators, including technology, innovation, data, governance, human capital and institutions to fast track progress.

The HLPF 2021 is the core United Nations platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. It will take place from 6 July to 15 July 2021 and discuss Sustainable Development Goals 1 on no poverty, 2 on zero hunger, 3 on good health and well-being, 8 on decent work and economic growth, 10 on reduced inequalities, 12 on responsible consumption and production, 13 on climate action, 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions, and 17 on partnerships in depth. The Forum will also consider the integrated, indivisible and interlinked nature of the Sustainable Development Goals.


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