The Food Coalition has been launched. It is a big opportunity for the international community to rally as one to the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown in the path of the Sustainable Development Agenda and the drive to zero hunger.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is proud to lead the Food Coalition, which is conceived to leverage political, economic and technical capital to bolster the resilience of agri-food systems and vulnerable people around the world and prevent the current health emergency from becoming a hunger crisis.
Rarely has there been a more compelling case for coordinated global cooperation. As I said at the launch of the initiative on 5 November, we drink from the same river and enjoy sunshine under the same sky.
The Italian Government has played a crucial role by proposing the Food Coalition, an idea also backed by the Italian Parliament. This strong political commitment has been key in helping the initiative move from proposal to reality in just a few months.
As Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte noted at the launching ceremony, Italy considers food security a fundamental right for the dignity of all human beings and has always made it a pillar of its action for development. He also noted that there is plenty of food in the world; therefore, leaders should not allow people to go hungry.
The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to add as many as 132 million people to the 690 million who are already food insecure. Deep recessions in many countries will severely pinch household budgets, putting agricultural livelihoods in jeopardy and driving many to reduce the quality of their diets, exacerbating malnutrition trends that already trouble more than 3 billion people.
We can and must mitigate this immediately and put the world back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger) by 2030.
Ending hunger is not a utopian dream. One of the main agendas of FAO’s work, and especially amid the COVID-19 crisis, is to make sure that the safe and nutritious food that exists is available where it is needed. We have been focused on this from the outset of this fast-moving pandemic.
The world’s agri-food systems have managed to perform well. But they have also been damaged, and now it is time to look beyond the emergency and address their wounds and also deeper structural problems that have been exacerbated. The Food Coalition will engage in finding ways to make that happen, working as a unified global action, including the private sector, academia and other stakeholders – a “coalition of the willing” as Prime Minister Conte described it.
The Food Coalition will involve a dedicated trust fund and a web-based hub allowing participants to access a basket of project-focused information and data, as well as the funding and types of assistance needed for many on-the-ground projects. It will raise awareness, mobilize financial resources and technical expertise, and source innovation and knowledge in support of those countries and populations most in need.
The Coalition is set up to help promote the transformation of agri-food systems so that they are more sustainable in economic, social and environmental ways, turning this crisis into an opportunity to rethink and reshape how we produce and consume foods.
It will also act as an inclusive and amplifying platform in support of FAO’s expanding work through the Hand-in-Hand Initiative and the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme, leveraging for on-the-ground impact FAO’s expertise in areas ranging from the design of social protection policies to accelerating the use of geospatial data by FAO's new data hub.
Of course, the Food Coalition will need financial support, but its human capital is going to play the key role. We want to attract the most innovative thinking and solutions to the many, diverse and concrete challenges faced by countries.
More than 35 countries have expressed interest in joining the Food Coalition, and the recent launch in Rome featured participation by some of the world’s largest food exporters. Italy’s G-20 presidency in 2021 will be a key opportunity to keep enthusiasm high and support concrete actions on the ground.
FAO is honored to lead the Food Coalition and looks forward to a robust partnership with Italy and all other partners, who join this remarkable initiative for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life.