During an opening statement at the 43rd Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) held last October in Rome, the former United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, emphasized the interrelation between food security, sustainable development, and climate change. His words set the tone for the meeting, which was named “making a difference in food security and nutrition” and also figures as the subject of a previous blog post. In the speech, he remembered the collective effort to end hunger and invited parties to fulfill their roles in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement, topics that comprise the center points of this piece.
The CFS focuses on assuring food security and nutrition to all, especially those most vulnerable, food insecure, and malnourished. Its mission is, therefore, closely intertwined with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 associated targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by 193 countries in September 2015 as a beacon for advancing social protection. By and large, the commitment to ending poverty and hunger is tied to a development path integrating economic, social, and environmental dimensions, composing a holistic picture (FAO, 2016a). In the same vein, the CFS is reckoned as an important stakeholder in, for example, contributing to the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016-2025 and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development.
SDG 2 – end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture – is directly related to the FAO’s institutional purpose and to the work of the CFS in supporting country-led efforts to eradicate hunger and malnutrition. One of the key points here, but still in need to be further developed, is how the CFS could add to enhancing the means of implementation, follow-up, and review measures of the mentioned SDG. Considering the challenge, parties at the 43rd session recommended a more robust engagement with the High Level Political Forum (HLPF), a UN knowledge platform that aims to provide political guidance and to facilitate the sharing of experiences. The exchange of good practices and lessons, as happens with South-South and triangular cooperation, can too represent one way for the CFS to promote a better understanding of the linkages between SDG 2 and the overall content of the 2030 Agenda. Additionally, for its multistakeholder character, the CFS is to support the promotion of SGD 17 – revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.
Climate change and food security
Climate change, another topic that animated the 43rd section of the CFS, represents one of the greatest challenges of the current century. Building on the reaching of the much-awaited Paris Agreement in late 2015, the global collaboration to tackle harmful effects of anthropogenic actions is currently facing setbacks, such as the recent defection of the federal government of the United States from the accord. Amidst such turbulences, it is fair to say climate change is a serious threat to the successful implementation of the SDGs and to the eradication of hunger by 2030. In 2013, over 90% of natural disasters were climate related, as state the assistant executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Elisabeth Rasmusson. Adding to such dire circumstances is the fact that more than 80% of the world’s hungry people live in disaster-prone and environmentally degraded countries (FAO, 2016c).
There exists plenty of evidence on the deleterious consequences of climate change to food systems. Droughts, depletion of water reserves, storms, ocean acidification, and the spread of pests are just some examples. IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report goes further to affirm that “all aspects of food security are potentially affected by climate change, including food access, utilization, and price stability”, which is to cause greater damage to low-latitude countries in South America, Africa, and Asia. Related to this, food prices are to spike and to remain volatile, a trend that is especially pernicious to smallholders in developing countries. Wheeler and Braun (2013) add to the grim scenario, arguing that food utilization and commercialization can be impaired by loss of access to drinking water and by health damages associated to climate change.
Ensuring more resilient food systems that can properly mitigate risks is something that needs to go beyond governmental rhetoric and be practically implemented. More integration between the three Rome-based agencies, the Climate Secretariat, and the WHO is crucial for effective progress. Also, more attention should be given to the issue of food security in climate talks, which remains on the top of the international agenda. Related to this, parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) should abide to the voluntary commitments expressed in the submissions of their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) and fulfill the mandate of Paris not only on mitigating emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), but also implementing strategies to ensure adaptation to climate change and to minimize damage associated to extreme events. Technical interchanges and financial aid prove much needed in states most suffering the present and future effects of climate change.
In a nutshell, one should reckon that, taking into consideration present turbulent times for multilateralism and concerted action, the message from the UN Secretary-General echoes the importance of enhancing global cooperation for advancing common goals and promoting social protection. Following the director-general of the FAO, José Graziano da Silva, eradicating hunger, promoting sustainable agriculture, and addressing climate change are different facets of the same challenge (FAO, 2016d).
FAO. 2016a. CFS Engagement in Advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. CFS 2016/43/6. Rome: Committee on World Food Security.
______. 2016b. Guidance Note for CFS Contribution to the 2017 United Nations High Level Political Forum. CFS 2016/43/Inf.16. Rome: Committee on World Food Security.
______. 2016c. Statement by the Assistant Executive Director of World Food Programme. CFS 2016/43/Inf.10. Rome: Committee on World Food Security.
______. 2016d. Statement by the Director-General of FAO. CFS 2016/43/Inf.8. Rome: Committee on World Food Security.
Wheeler, Tim; Braun, Joachim von. 2013. Climate change impacts on global food security. Science, vol. 341, issue 6145, pp. 508-513.
Cover Image: FAO, available here.
This blog post is published as part of the Ambassador Series, which presents insights into social protection around the world from the viewpoint of our Ambassadors, a group of international online United Nations Volunteers who support the online knowledge exchange activities, networking and promotion of socialprotection.org.
 The UN Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016-2025 is an UN-wide initiative headed by the FAO and the WHO. See: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i6129e.pdf. For the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, see: http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/AAAA_Outcome.pdf, access in June 2017.
 The interdependence between climate change and sustainability of food security systems also features in the Paris Agreement. See: https://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf, access in June 2017.
 See: https://www.earthhour.org/content/5-ways-climate-change-challenging-our-food-security, access in June 2017.
 See IPCC’s AR-5 Chapter 7: http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg2/WGIIAR5-Chap7_FINAL.pdf, p. 488. Access in June 2017.