Over 270 participants from across the UN and its Member States took part in a virtual conference to discuss mitigating the potential impacts of COVID-19 on food availability and supply.
The Joint Statement from the four convening ministers - Brazil, Canada, Egypt, and Italy - highlights that many countries rely heavily on regular imports of basic staples and food distribution channels.
The ministers call for ensuring that trade measures do not restrict the flow of food and critical agricultural inputs across borders in the short and long term.
Leaders from governments around the world expressed concern that the COVID-19 pandemic could trigger a food crisis, especially in Africa and small island developing States (SIDS). They stressed that a food crisis would imperil the health and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people, particularly those already in fragile contexts.
These and other concerns were expressed during an extraordinary video conference that took place on 17 April 2020, under the auspices of the Group of Friends of Food Security and Nutrition. The conference brought together over 270 participants from across the UN and its Member States to discuss actions to mitigate the potential socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 on food availability and supply, and to attain food security.
The ministers look towards the 2021 Food Systems Summit to help galvanize the post-emergency recovery.
The conference was convened by: Emanuela Claudia Del Re, Italy’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, as Chair of the Group of Friends of Food Security and Nutrition in New York; Karina Gould, Canada’s Minister of International Development; Orlando Leite Ribeiro, Brazil’s Secretary for Commerce and International Relations, Ministry of Agriculture Livestock, and Food Supply; and Mohamed Edrees, Egypt’s Permanent Representative to the UN.
In a Joint Statement, the convening ministers from Brazil, Canada, Egypt, and Italy highlight key elements of the discussion during the ‘Extraordinary High-Level Meeting of the Group of Friends of Food Security and Nutrition on the impact of COVID-19 on food availability and supply’. They note that many countries rely heavily on regular imports of basic staples and food distribution channels. The statement points out particular vulnerabilities in countries where agriculture is “the backbone” of the economy and employment.
The conference also highlighted the need to strengthen the resilience of food systems to withstand multiple shocks. In this regard, speakers underlined the importance of addressing the needs of smallholder farmers, fishers, pastoralists, and food processors to obtain inputs, plant and harvest their crops, and sell their products for a fair price in a safe environment.
The Joint Statement calls for, inter alia:
- the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) of the G20 to continue monitoring global food markets and policies, and provide timely and reliable information;
- working together in a coordinated and integrated manner and in coherence with the three pillars of action of the UN system: peace and security, sustainable development, and human rights; and
- new collaborative initiatives, including further details regarding Italy’s proposed ‘Food Coalition.’
The Joint Statement notes that the four convening countries “stand committed to supporting the UN system at the global, regional and country level,” as well as to engaging the World Trade Organization (WTO), the international financial institutions (IFIs) and the Group of 20 (G20) to “ensure that trade measures do not restrict the flow of food and critical agricultural inputs across borders in the short and long term.”
The ministers emphasize that open, transparent, and predictable trade is critical to keep food supply chains going and prices stable during and after the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. They look forward to the outcomes of the G20 Agriculture Ministers’ meeting in April 2020.
The Joint Statement also looks towards the 2021 Food Systems Summit, which “provides a timely opportunity for all food systems actors to strengthen the resilience and sustainability of our food systems to help galvanize the post-emergency recovery through a set of initiatives focused on innovation, financing, technology, partnerships and new levels of regional and global collaboration and information sharing.”
Participants in the conference included ambassadors from across the UN membership as well as the President of the UN General Assembly, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), the Chief Economist and Assistant Director General of Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), and the Special Envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit.
In her statement to the conference, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed emphasized that the SDGs “are exactly the tools we need to beat this pandemic and build back better. They provide a guide we can follow now, today and tomorrow to build the world we want to live in.”