What everyone was talking about at UNGA77

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What everyone was talking about at UNGA77

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The trending topic at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) this year was the escalation of the war in Ukraine. But the topic we heard discussed most in the halls and in the lifts of the United Nations headquarters in New York was food security and the global food crisis.

As the climate crisis escalates, outpacing predictions and fast-approaching critical tipping points, the 77th UNGA forged growing consensus that transforming food systems must become a priority for the future of humanity. We can’t have global food security without sustainable and resilient food systems. And without food security, peace and global stability will elude us.

As IFAD’s President-elect, Alvaro Lario, said to leaders gathered in New York, “We cannot drift from crisis to crisis. It is much less costly to invest in the medium-term. We need to change how we produce food and the whole food finance architecture.”

Despite the bleak short-term outlook and stark evidence that we are moving backwards in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, UNGA conveyed reasonable optimism, coupled with effective doses of realism. We have the solutions and the institutions to transform food systems while tackling the climate crisis. What we lack is the political will and investment to do so.

Given this, what are three things every government should do following UNGA77?

1. Invest in agriculture

Although fiscal space is limited following the COVID-19 pandemic, governments must prioritize investments in agriculture. The pay-offs are multiple, including reduced dependency on food imports and increased resilience for rural economies. To overcome decades of under-investment, both the international community and local governments must commit more to agriculture.

2. Keep trade open

During COVID-19, we saw how trade barriers and protectionism fail. Keeping trade open for food and fertilizers is essential to surpass the devastating effects on this year’s global harvest—the impacts of which we have yet to see their full extent. While many countries are currently struggling with escalating food prices, extreme weather events—such as the prolonged drought in East Africa and heatwaves in Europe—could also spell a food shortage crisis.

Rice production in particular—one of three global staple foods—may be seriously affected due to the unaffordability of seeds and fertilizers. What’s more, the world’s fourth largest exporter of rice, Pakistan, is experiencing historic floods which will no doubt affect supply. Once again, poor rural people will be the most impacted as the situation worsens, with some African countries particularly at risk.

3. Commit to climate finance

Countries must reinforce commitments and pledges to climate finance and consider the concept of climate justice (which recognizes that the adverse impacts of climate change are not felt equitably among people) from the perspectives of both the Global North and the Global South. Our survival as a species on planet Earth is at stake.

UNGA sets the stage for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) later this year. Here, governments can reinforce their climate commitments, while IFAD will be advocating for increased finance for small-scale farmers so they can adapt to climate change. Poor rural communities deserve opportunities that lead them to a vibrant, inclusive future, free of hunger and poverty, as IFAD envisions and is ready to implement.