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20 Million People at Serious Risk Due to Extreme Hunger, Panellists Warn
Prior to adopting resolutions on tax evasion and the United Nations Forum on Forests, as well as a decision on geospatial information, speakers informed the Economic and Social Council that the world was facing a serious crisis, with the lives of more than 20 million people now under serious threat due to extreme hunger.
Adopted without a vote was the resolution titled “United Nations code of conduct on cooperation in combating international tax evasion” contained in the report of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters on its twelfth and thirteenth sessions (document E/2016/45).
The Council also adopted without a vote a resolution contained in chapter I of the “Report of the United Nations Forum on Forests on its 2017 special session” (document E/2017/10), titled “United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017-2030 and quadrennial programme of work of the United Nations Forum on Forests for the period 2017-2020”. In addition, the Council adopted a decision titled “Report of the Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management on its sixth session and provisional agenda and dates for the seventh session of the Committee” contained in chapter I, section A, of that Committee’s report (document E/2016/46).
As part of its continued 2017 Coordination and Management Meetings, the Council explored the nexus between food security, nutrition and climate change through panel presentations. Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the right to food emphasized that millions of people were facing famine, which was far more threatening and complex than simple hunger. A significant number of people were dying despite the dire warning from scientists that drought was imminent due to the effects of climate change. Famine was not simply a natural occurrence, but in fact, was man-made, she underscored.
Famine in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen called for urgent action, stressed Marie Chatardova (Czech Republic), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council. While saving lives was a top priority, long-term resilience could only be achieved with an integrated approach to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Furthermore, climate change had increased the risk of weather-related disasters, jeopardizing livelihoods, access to adequate food, clean water and sanitary conditions, all of which were essential for good nutrition, Ms. Chatardova continued. Unless action was taken, some 35 million to 122 million people could fall into poverty.
The resilience of food production was being challenged as a result of climate change, highlighted Amira Gornass, Permanent Representative of Sudan to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Chair of that agency’s Committee on World Food Security. Nevertheless, climate change could also present an opportunity to revert back to the production of traditional crops, which were often more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
Marcel Beukeboom, Climate Envoy of the Netherlands, joining the meeting via video link, pointed out that, as a climate envoy, his role was basically to “bring Paris home”; yet as soon as he began discussing climate, “too many people doze off”. Outlining some practical steps people could take to lower their carbon footprint, Mr. Beukeboom said the public itself could seek information about where their food comes from and cook it with sustainable energy.
Dietary changes towards more animal-based diets could increase agricultural and food greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 per cent by 2050, warned Stineke Oenema, Coordinator at the United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition. The focus must be on limited meat consumption, balanced energy intake, reducing food waste, choosing seafood from non-threatened stocks, and eating more plants, she suggested; continuing: healthy and sustainable diets were those that had low environmental impacts and protected against malnutrition.
In addition to today’s panel discussion, the Council also heard presentations on the work of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Committee on World Food Security, the United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition and the work of the United Nations Environment Assembly.
The Council will meet again Friday, 21 April, at 10 a.m. to continue its Coordination and Management Meeting.
Introduction of Reports
AMIRA GORNASS, Permanent Representative of Sudan to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Chair of that agency’s Committee on World Food Security, introduced the note by the Secretary-General transmitting the Committee’s main decisions and policy recommendations (document A/72/63-E/2017/11). The Committee’s forty-third session, held in October 2016 in Rome, had been attended by high-level United Nations officials who underscored the importance of working jointly to promote food security, improve nutrition and address climate change, among other challenges. As the primary intergovernmental platform for global coordination and policy convergence on food security and nutrition, the Committee ensured that the voices of all stakeholders had been heard throughout the session.
Also at the meeting, she said, the Committee had endorsed various recommendations, acknowledging that sustainable agricultural development was essential for poverty reduction, food security and nutrition. The General Assembly, through the Economic and Social Council, had been requested to endorse and promote the wide dissemination of those recommendations to all United Nations entities. With the commitment of all constituencies, the Committee endorsed a framework for stepping up its contribution to addressing malnutrition. It also was reviewing global progress on food security and nutrition, for which it relied on monitoring by the United Nations.
STINEKE OENEMA, Coordinator, United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition, underlined the Committee’s objectives, which included maximizing United Nations policy coherence and advocacy on nutrition and exploring new nutrition-related issues. Its nine policy and discussion papers had focused on and made linkages between climate and nutrition, and school food and nutrition. As well, several were still to be published, with a possible focus on migration and nutrition. The Committee advocated a human-rights-based approach to nutrition and worked on all forms of malnutrition. To that end, it had developed and updated global guidance on nutrition to be delivered by relevant United Nations agencies. The Standing Committee was also promoting knowledge-sharing across the United Nations system through various information products and social media campaigns. It was also active at the global level to support country-level action, particularly based on the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016‑2025).
Panel on Climate Change
The Council then turned to a panel discussion on “climate change and nutrition”, featuring presentations by Ms. Gornass and Ms. Oenema, as well as Marcel Beukeboom, Climate Envoy of the Netherlands, who joined the meeting via video link, and Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the right to food. Werner Obermeyer, Deputy Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Office in New York, moderated the discussion and Marie Chatardova (Czech Republic), Vice‑President of the Economic and Social Council, delivered opening remarks.
Ms. CHATARDOVA said climate change was one of the greatest challenges facing all nations and addressing it would be no easy task, with trade-offs involved. Climate change had increased the risk of weather-related disasters, jeopardizing livelihoods, access to adequate food, clean water and sanitary conditions, all of which were essential for good nutrition. Unless action was taken, some 35 million to 122 million people could fall into poverty.
Famine in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen called for urgent action, she stressed. While saving lives was a top priority, long-term resilience could only be achieved with an integrated approach to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change. She called for invigorated political momentum in that regard and synergies between climate action and the 2030 Agenda. Today’s panel would make the link between climate change and healthy diets, focusing on policies that promoted sustainable and healthy diets while providing climate solutions.
Mr. OBERMEYER underscored that areas with weak health infrastructure were least capable of responding to extreme weather events and ecosystem changes that posed risks to populations. Those areas were also prone to malnutrition and food insecurity, with women and children bearing the most severe consequences. Nutrition and food security issues impacted communicable diseases, as well as the fast-growing burden of non-communicable diseases associated with poor diets.
Ms. OENEMA said some 795 million people worldwide were hungry and some 2 billion were micronutrient deficient. The global food system remained one of the main contributors to climate change and environmental degradation. Dietary changes towards more animal-based diets could increase agricultural and food greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 per cent by 2050. Strengthening local food production and food processing, especially by family farmers, was critical, as was promoting the diversification of crops, including an increase of fruits and vegetables. Improving storage, preservation and transport technologies would reduce seasonal food insecurity and food waste.
Healthy and sustainable diets had low environmental impacts and protected against malnutrition, she continued, adding that the identification of such dietary patterns was a first step towards changing consumer behaviour and supply-and-demand chains. The focus must be on limited meat consumption, balanced energy intake, reducing food waste, choosing seafood from non-threatened stocks, and eating more plants. The few countries that included sustainability criteria in their food-based dietary guidelines included Sweden, Brazil, Qatar and Germany. Sustainable healthy food systems and diets required coherent policies across all sectors, from production to consumption, she said, adding that the 2030 Agenda had provided a framework for action to nourish the world sustainably.
Responding to a question from the moderator, Ms. Oenema noted that the study primarily examined the dynamics in higher and middle-income countries, although it did take into account low-income countries as well. In those countries, the adaptation aspects of climate change were very important.
Ms. GORNASS said that it was evident that food security and nutrition were severely threatened by climate change. The resilience of food production was being challenged as a result of climate change. However, climate change could present an opportunity to revert back to the production of traditional crops, which were often more resilient to the impacts of climate change. Food security and healthy nutrition needed to be integrated into climate change and related policies. In Somalia, where there was a serious drought brought on, in part, by climate change, food security and nutrition were at great risk. In north-eastern Nigeria a famine had been declared, which was closely related to the situation around the Lake Chad Basin, which had also been greatly affected by climate change.
Five years ago, the Committee had explored the linkages between climate change and nutrition, she continued. In those discussions, it had become clear that projected temperature increases, changes in precipitation patterns and the frequency of extreme weather events would all result in reduced agricultural productivity. Efforts to address the impacts of climate change must include actions to reduce food losses and waste and shift to sustainable production and consumption patterns.
Ms. ELVER said that many people did not understand the connections between nutrition, food and climate change. Agriculture was one of the major greenhouse gas emitters, but at the same time, climate change was negatively affecting food systems. In a sense, agriculture was both a victim and perpetrator of climate change. Millions of people were facing famine, which was far more threatening and complex than simple hunger. A significant number of people were dying despite the dire warning from scientists that drought was imminent due to the effects of climate change.
More than 20 million people were now under serious threat due to extreme hunger and in a very profound sense the world was facing a serious crisis period. A human rights approach needed to be taken when addressing the issue of food security. Discrimination needed to end, public participation needed to be increased and Governments needed to be held more accountable. Famine was not simply a natural occurrence, but was, in fact, man-made.
In responding to a question from the moderator, Ms. Elver noted that in many discussions about how to fix the current food system, the first suggestion was to improve productivity. However, it was important to remember that increasing productivity was extremely problematic in relation to sustainability.
Mr. BEUKEBOOM said that, as a climate envoy, his role was basically to “bring Paris home”. However, as soon as he would discuss climate “too many people doze off”. For that reason, it was critical to link climate to real-life issues that affected people’s lives directly. “What can we do to go over specific sectors, themes and topics and then come to action,” he asked, underscoring the need for greater synergy and cooperation between climate and nutrition. One example of addressing that question occurred in the Netherlands, where businesses, civil society, and local governments came together to discuss what climate change and the Paris Agreement meant to them. Many “interesting green deals” were signed that day, all pledging to reduce carbon emission by 17 megatons.
Once given a concrete opportunity people did act, he continued. The best ideas usually came from the sectors themselves as they were knowledgeable with the business and where gains could be found and real efficiency accomplished. He also emphasized the need to further research protein transition, which aimed at replacing animal protein with vegetable protein to curb emissions. Outlining some practical steps people could take to lower their carbon footprint, he said the public itself could seek information about where their food came from and cook it with sustainable energy. Information on the climate change nexus was still lacking, he added, calling for the discussions to continue and for partnerships to grow.
Responding to a question on how the United Nations could support the transition from concept to action, he said that discussing concrete issues with the food industry was vital. That industry was interested in reducing waste and energy input as it benefitted the bottom line.
A representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the climate change and nutrition nexus was at the cornerstone of its work. The impact of climate change on agriculture further undermined the ability to achieve food security. It also hindered and sometimes altogether destroyed people’s access to quality food. Climate change’s impact on agriculture also affected the quality of nutrition, causing a lower and poorer quality of zinc, iron, and protein, and driving people to increase their starch and sugar intake. She called for investments in improving water use and soil management, reducing food loss and waste, and increasing diet diversity.
Ms. OENEMA emphasized that the nutrition and climate change communities must join hands. In that regard, the Paris Agreement did open the door for greater collaboration. Investment into diversified production would increase the global resilience to climate change.
Ms. GORNASS said that partnerships would be extremely important for solving problems related to food security, nutrition and climate change. Governments would not be able to solve the challenges alone and all views must be taken into account. Issues of climate change directly affected the everyday lives of people.
Ms. ELVER said that as evident by the outcome of the negotiations on the Paris Agreement, the right to adequate food was a matter of serious debate for Governments. Nevertheless, many Governments were not yet ready to commit to that right.
Mr. BEUKEBOOM said that the link between climate and agriculture was a “tough nut to crack”. It could be beneficial to garner greater input from the private sector and gain better understanding of what it meant on a practical level to be a producer of basic commodities.
Ms. CHATARDOVA, in closing remarks, said today’s panel provided an opportunity to explore the interlinkages between the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement in the context of nutrition. Policies that promoted health and sustainable diets would not just reduce the overall carbon footprint of food production, but would also prevent diet-related non-communicable diseases and help save lives. Calling for further investment and research to provide knowledge on sustainable and healthy food systems and diets, she said the 2030 Agenda provided a crucial framework for such action.
JAMIL AHMED, Deputy Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), updated the Council on the implementation of outcomes from the second session of the Environment Assembly. That assembly had provided capacity development to United Nations country teams and their national counterparts for implementing the 2030 Agenda. It had coordinated with United Nations entities to help countries build capacity in environmental statistics and data, he said, underscoring the role of regional seas conventions, and the potential for an international legally binding instrument on marine diversity.
Further, he said, the assembly had launched an initiative to address sea litter, particularly plastics used in cosmetics and plastic bags. Resolutions adopted during the assembly stressed the link between sustainable development and the environment. As a follow-up to that gathering, UNEP was working with more than 100 partners, including businesses, think tanks, and youth and women’s groups, he said, stressing that cooperation would be critical in the lead-up to the assembly’s third session in Nairobi in December.
International Cooperation in Tax Matters
The Council then adopted a draft resolution titled “United Nations code of conduct on cooperation in combating international tax evasion” contained in the report of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters on its twelfth and thirteenth sessions (document E/2016/45).
Next, the Council adopted a draft decision titled “Report of the Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management on its sixth session and provisional agenda and dates for the seventh session of the Committee” contained in chapter I, section A, of that Committee’s report (document E/2016/46).
United Nations Forum on Forests
The Council, taking note of the document “Report of the United Nations Forum on Forests on its 2017 special session” (document E/2017/10), then adopted a draft resolution contained in that document’s chapter I, titled “United Nations strategic plan for forests 2017-2030 and quadrennial programme of work of the United Nations Forum on Forests for the period 2017-2020”.
The representative of the United States underscored that the actions outlined under the plan were voluntary and not required under any international agreements. The World Trade Organization was the appropriate forum for discussions of trade issues and the strategic plan did not alter any World Trade Organization agreement.