(WAM) — Today, World Food Day marks the 75th anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, of the United Nations.
Born on the wake of catastrophe – World War II, three-quarters of a century later, FAO’s mission to end hunger and nourish the world has been made more relevant because of another global scourge – the COVID-19 pandemic, said QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General.
Along the way, the world, and with it FAO, went from growing more food, to getting attuned to its environmental footprints, setting up regulatory frameworks in response, getting animal diseases under control, and, finally, seeing the fight against hunger as inseparable from other development goals.
Hence, also, this year’s World Food Day’s theme: grow, nourish, and sustain. Together.
“The present moment is again fraught with danger, complicated, and demands urgent action. As hunger grows once more, as the COVID-19 pandemic exposes the fragility of our food systems, history is calling upon us once more to rise to the challenge,” urged Qu.
The Director-General spoke today at FAO’s global 75th Anniversary/World Food Day virtual event in Rome, which brought together Pope Francis; Italy’s President; Lesotho’s King and Spain’s Queen – FAO Special Goodwill Ambassadors for Nutrition; UN’s Secretary General; and the heads of IFAD and WFP.
Saluting FAO’s anniversary, Pope Francis described the organisation’s mission as “beautiful and important”.
World Food Day is marked this year as global hunger rises for the fifth consecutive year and a healthy diet is out of reach for 3 billion people. Nearly 700 million people still go hungry, and the pandemic could tip up to 132 million more into hunger by the end of 2020.
This year’s World Food Day aims to galvanise and accelerate action towards ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms, and to make food and agriculture an essential part of the COVID-19 response.
Pope Francis urged for more support for FAO’s and all UN food agencies’ initiatives that promote sustainable and diversified agriculture, and support small farming communities and the rural development of the poorest countries.
Using the money that buys arms and covers military expenses for defeating hunger and rural development instead would also be a “courageous decision”, said the Pope.
“Hunger is not merely a disaster for humanity but also a disgrace… We cannot fail to respond or to act. We all are responsible,” said Pope Francis.
His words were echoed by UN’s Secretary-General António Guterres who called for intensified efforts to achieve the vision of Sustainable Development Goals – “a future where everyone everywhere has access to the nutrition they need.” To inspire action towards this vision, Guterres said, he will convene a Food Systems Summit next year.
Noting that his country was proud to host FAO’s headquarters, Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella said he welcomed FAO’s and its Director-General’s “commitment to work with Italy and many other countries in forging a “food coalition” aimed at containing the effects of COVID-19 on food systems.”
This is the moment of “crucial choices”, and of “a serious global commitment,” concluded Mattarella who expressed hope for the international community to rediscover a “profound meaning of the valuable goods the earth offers us” and the “responsibility to share and safeguard them for future generations.”
This year’s World Food Day also honoured all food heroes, who – despite all difficulties – continue to provide food to their communities and beyond.
Today, FAO and its partners are urging everyone to show gratitude for the food we eat and the people who produce, plant, harvest, fish or transport it.
Events in over 150 countries marked the World Food Day and celebrated the world’s food heroes and FAO’s anniversary.