European Union External Action

Remarks by Ambassador Skoog: Transforming agrifood systems and fostering inclusive rural development in the context of COVID-19 to end rural poverty

02/12/2020 - 20:04
News stories

2 December 2020, New York - Remarks by Ambassador Olof Skoog, Head of the European Union Delegation, at the Side Event on Transforming agrifood systems and fostering inclusive rural development in the context of COVID-19 to end rural poverty

2 December 2020, New York - Side Event on Agrifood Systems

Excellencies, colleagues,

Ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is clear: eradicating poverty in a sustainable way, in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, is more than ever urgent.  This implies, regarding the topic of today, addressing food security and ensuring proper nutrition. The health emergency we have been facing has also shown us how vital our food systems are and has underlined the intricate interlinkages between food and health. Throughout the world the effects of COVID-19 are leading to increases in hunger and malnutrition. The rural poor in particular have been heavily affected by the pandemic, with women and children bearing most of the brunt.

We are now slowly moving towards the recovery phase in the pandemic, and as mentioned by President von der Leyen when she announced the Green Recovery Initiative, this recovery should be a green, just and resilient recovery, one where we will build back better and one where we take action to fight poverty  In the lead up to the Secretary-General’s 2021 Food Systems Summit, we will need strong multilateral cooperation and joint efforts to put in place innovative approaches to ensure our food systems are sustainable, resilient and inclusive, especially in the face of future challenges and stresses. The EU is already taking steps in that direction as you know. Our Farm-to-Fork Strategy will guide the EU’s actions in terms of food systems during the Decade of Action.

The strategy recognises the strong interlinkages between healthy people, healthy societies and a healthy planet. A core part of the European Green Deal, it supports a shift to a sustainable food system by promoting sustainable livelihoods for primary producers and transitioning towards healthy and sustainable diets. Unsustainable agricultural practices are a key driver of climate change and environmental degradation and so a shift towards sustainable agriculture is a necessity to ensure resilient and robust food systems.

This shift will only be possible with the involvement of smallholder producers, and the protection of their livelihoods. For example, sustainable fisheries are vital to safeguard the livelihoods and income of  numerous communities across the world, and contribute to food security, a healthy and balanced nutrition and protect our environment and natural resources. The Agreement on Port States Measures to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, is a critical component in that regard, and is a means of ensuring long-term conservation, addressing biodiversity loss and sustainable use of living marine resources and ecosystems, and we encourage all parties to ratify it.

In fact, we cannot talk about sustainable agri-food systems without addressing the issue of biodiversity loss. Increased biodiversity loss threatens our health, food and water security and hundreds of millions of livelihoods and leads to a worsening of the climate crisis, and this in turn has negative impacts on food security and access to safe and sufficient nutrition. The EU’s Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 is another core component of the European Green Deal, and much like the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs, these different strategies are all inextricably linked to one another. If we do not succeed in one, we will not succeed in others. On the global stage, the EU will spare no efforts to ensure the success of the 15th COP to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Organised next year in Kunming, China, it represents a unique occasion to put in place a global biodiversity framework, which will be beneficial to all.  Other examples include in the Sahel, where the EU aims to support a mosaic of local and national actions on integrated rural development and landscape management. A “Green Sahel” initiative would contribute to carbon capture, improved food security and livelihood opportunities for the most vulnerable, among others.  

Finally, the Farm to Fork strategy also stresses the need for an appropriate coordination of humanitarian and development interventions, particularly in fragile contexts, in order to build resilient food systems, prevent food crises, and respond efficiently when these occur.

What do we need for more sustainable food systems? There are many ways to address this including by reducing the use of chemical pesticides and antimicrobials, placing an emphasis on organic farming and moving towards sustainable consumption patterns, amongst others. This transition to sustainable food systems will require a collective approach involving public authorities at all levels of governance (including cities, rural and coastal communities), private-sector actors across the food value chain, non-governmental organisations, social partners, academics and citizens.

And we need to bring experts from all relevant fields closer together. An example is the “One Health Approach”, an integrated approach to environmental, human, animal and plant health, will be crucial to prevent future health threats, and in particular zoonotic diseases, and make us more resilient for future global shocks, which will in turn reduce the vulnerabilities of the rural poor.

Excellencies, this brings me to my final point. The fight against poverty should be guided by the 5Ps of the 2030 Agenda: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership. In line with the 2030 Agenda, the EU supports a rights-based approach which encompasses all human rights with the aim to leave no one behind, and to promote inclusion and participation, non-discrimination, equality and equity, transparency and accountability. Human Rights Defenders play a crucial role in that regard, and, in line with the SG’s Call to Action for Human Rights, we call upon all states to protect human rights defenders, both domestically and when engaging with the UN System. Finally, the Right to Food and its progressive realisation is part of this international effort, with a specific focus on reducing hunger and malnutrition.

The EU will be engaging in the different events that will take place next year, including the Food Systems Summit, the Nutrition for Growth Summit, the Biodiversity COP 15, and the Climate COP 26 to raise the ambition on this holistic and all-encompassing approach to achieve the 2030 Agenda.  We need to all work together to build sustainable and equitable agri-food systems, which provide safe and healthy food, sustain livelihoods, create decent jobs and maintain and restore ecosystems and biodiversity.

I thank you.

Editorial Sections: