Rome/Riyadh: QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Monday called on G20 members to address the impacts of COVID-19 on agri-food systems by boosting farmers’ productivity, scaling up social protection mechanisms and investing in digital innovation, among other measures.
“It is essential for the G20 to keep working on preventing this health crisis from becoming a global food crisis,” the Director-General said, adding that “the G20 is a highly important impetus and emergency response on global policy, coordination and leadership to develop an inclusive, resilient and sustainable world by leading responsible investment, enabling policies, innovation and capacity building.”
Speaking at the G20 Leaders’ Summit hosted virtually by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qu acknowledged the concrete efforts made so far by G20 members to keep food supply chains alive and food trade flowing amid the pandemic, and encouraged countries to continue using trade “to boost farmers’ productivity, income and sustainability.”
He stressed the importance of leaving no one behind by supporting the most vulnerable people and countries to have access to vaccines not only for human beings but also for animals as well as affordable safe and nutritious foods.
“The One Health approach, as promoted by FAO, WHO (World Health Organization) and OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health), has enormous potential to prevent the emergence of new zoonotic reservoirs from the current pandemic,” Qu said.
Promoting inclusiveness also requires scaling up social protection mechanisms to improve livelihood of the poor and increasing responsible investment to integrate smallholder farmers into development processes, Qu said, noting that Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Landlocked Developed Countries (LLDCs) need particular support and technical assistance to improve their supply chain and value chain.
The Director-General also called on G20 members to support investment in digital innovation and extension. “Let us work together to use the international platform for digital food and agriculture. Speed up digitalisation of agri-food systems by empowering youth and women in the villages and towns to fight against hunger and poverty,” he said.
Qu concluded his remarks by reaffirming that FAO is ready to continue to support G20’s collective actions, particularly through the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), which was set up in 2011 at the request of G20, the Hand-in-Hand Initiative, the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme and the recently launched the Food Coalition.
The Director-General, who spoke just after the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, congratulated the Saudi G20 Presidency for its unprecedented efforts to make a historical Leaders’ Summit and stressed that FAO is ready to have close cooperation with the incoming Italian G20 presidency and members, on the Food Coalition, food loss and waste, Pre-Food Systems Summit (FSS), FAO Youth World Food Forum (WFF) and the 2030 agenda, especially SDG2 (Sustainable Development Goals-1), SDG1 and SDG 10 for “better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life for the better future.”
It was the third time the Director-General addressed a G20 meeting in 2020. In March, he participated in the G20 Extraordinary Virtual Leaders’ Summit on COVID-19. In September, he spoke at the G20’s Agriculture and Water Ministers meeting.