Warning issued on UN’s world hunger targets

A United Nations special envoy says it is important for countries to realize how the decisions they make can affect others

As the United Nations’ Food Systems Summit planned for next October approaches, warnings are going out that the world is not on track to meet its 2015 sustainable development goals, including the one to end world hunger.

“We are off track,” said Agnes Kaliabata, the UN secretary general’s special envoy for the summit, during her appearance at the University of Guelph’s Arrell Food Summit Nov. 18.

“(The summit will) transform the way the world produces and consumes food, delivering progress on all 17 sustainable development goals,” according to its website.

However, Kaliabata said first there needs to be more consensus on how to reach those goals.

“We need to come up with tangible solutions,” she said, noting food systems mean different things to different communities, creating a challenge when trying to build consensus at a country-to-country level.

“The idea is to make sure each country can look at its challenges, but also the opportunities,” she said.

Challenges to overcome will continue to focus on the enormity of the problems — world hunger, climate change — as well as the role different parties, including corporations, will play in finding solutions.

Kaliabata said “the way we produce food is contributing to climate change” and those who are doing so are making money, creating a road block for change. Beyond that, she said “the way we process food is impacting our health.”

Despite the enormity of these challenges, she says change is still needed.

“We need it for survival of mankind. We’re losing so many people because of how we eat food,” she said. “Those are some of the triggers we need to think about.”

Asked about how the cost of the environmental impact of food can be paid for without the cost being passed onto farmers or consumers, Kaliabata said it depends on the area of the world.

“From my part of the world, climate change is costing us everything. Our systems are not resilient enough, so it is costing us everything,” said the former Rwandan agriculture minister and current president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

She said farmers in Africa can’t cope with the cost of climate change, and the global community needs to work as a collective to help mitigate this and other issues.

“What you do in Canada will impact us here in Kenya, and vice versa. Our world has become that small, so we need to appreciate that and start working together,” she said.

Kaliabata said the pandemic demonstrated how “shaky the food system is” worldwide, showing how easily millions of people can struggle to access the proper quality or quantity of food.

“We need to do better at building resilience into our system,” she said, saying that looks like many different things but much of it relies on the continuance of free and open trade.

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