Food insecurity and malnutrition will remain a key challenge given the intensification of its drivers, including conflict, climate variability and extremes, and economic slowdowns, combined with the high cost of nutritious foods and growing inequalities.
Working together in the spirit of multilateralism
In challenging circumstances like this, we are all called to come together, united in common responsibility, to address and solve the problem. As the UN secretary-general says: “It takes a world to fix the world.” For us, inaction is not an option.
We call on the international community to urgently support affected people, communities and countries through coordinated action. We welcome and laud several initiatives that have been launched over the past months by governments, institutions and political fora. These are mobilising leadership, finances, political will and a wide range of policy responses to the global food crisis.
To succeed, all of us must work together to ensure our actions to address the crisis converge. Millions of lives are at stake and the world’s most vulnerable do not have the luxury of time for duplication or wastage of efforts.
Priority policy responses
Thankfully, we know what we need to do, together, to raise our ambition and deliver concrete actions.
First, stepping up humanitarian response for those already in need. However, addressing this crisis and the vicious cycles it creates calls for an approach that looks at the emergency today with our focus firmly fixed on strengthening livelihoods against future shocks.
Second, urgent stabilisation of markets, debt and commodity prices to immediately restore the availability, accessibility and affordability of food to enable all people everywhere to realise their right to food. We urge countries to continue releasing strategic food stockpiles and inputs into markets, minimise hoarding and other speculative behaviour, and avoid unnecessary trade restrictions.
Third, encourage increased local production by family farmers, small-scale food producers, small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and cooperatives, as well as increased consumption of diverse food varieties; diversify sources of imported foods; and reduce food loss and food waste.
Fourth, restore fertiliser availability ensuring sustained and affordable access by smallholders and family farmers. This should go hand-in-hand with transformation to sustainable and inclusive production as promoted by the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit, including a commitment to increased efficiency in the use of energy and fertilisers, unleashing the potential of agroecology and other innovative approaches to sustainable agriculture.
Fifth, reinforce social protection systems needed to prevent vulnerable communities from sliding into poverty and furthering malnutrition. Examples of such measures include the time-proven school meals programme to address the impact of this crisis on children’s malnutrition, or cash transfer programmes to boost the purchasing power of poor households.
Sixth and last, countries need financial resources and the fiscal space to support strong national responses to the crisis. We need to fund existing international financing mechanisms; with the IMF and the international financial institutions (IFIs) playing an essential role. We urge countries that were proposing cuts to Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments to reconsider their decisions and instead respect the target to direct 0.7 percent of their national incomes to ODA.
Lessons from the 2007-08 food crisis, as well as from the COVID-19 pandemic more recently, show that meaningful and principled policy response should support country-led coping strategies that involve all of society: from farmers to consumers, civil society, and businesses, especially those most affected by the food crisis.
Gladly, we have seen many countries around the world, including those that are affected most, put in place a raft of solutions to cushion their people against the crisis. These solutions should be encouraged and supported. The UN secretary-general’s Global Crisis Response Group is providing joint analysis and policy recommendations from the whole of the UN System.
We must ensure that our responses are consistent with and guided by the SDGs, which are the comprehensive blueprint for sustainable developmen.
More importantly, we must remain committed to sustainable transformation of our food systems. Only then will we deliver sufficient, safe, affordable, and nutritious food for all people, provide employment and income particularly in rural areas, while at the same time fully respecting planetary boundaries.
The imperative to act on the transformation of our food systems is greater now than it was in September 2021 when the UN Food Systems Summit was held.
We must do everything possible to end this food crisis and forestall future ones. We have the tools and resources to make it happen. It is time to act together to ensure no one is left behind.