UN Secretary-General's remarks at the Food Systems Summit

Excellencies, distinguished participants, honoured guests,


Food is life.


But in countries, communities and households in every corner of the world, this essential need – this human right – is going unfulfilled.


Every day, hundreds of millions of people go to bed hungry.


Children are starving.


Three billion people cannot afford a healthy diet.


Two billion are overweight or obese.


462 million are underweight.


And nearly one-third of all food that is produced is lost or wasted.


We must build a world where healthy and nutritious food is available and affordable for everyone, everywhere.


Yet we know the challenge before us. It is not new.


But the COVID-19 pandemic has made this challenge much greater.


It has deepened inequalities.


Decimated economies.


Plunged millions into extreme poverty.


And raised the spectre of famine in a growing number of countries.


At the same time, we are waging a war against nature – and reaping the bitter harvest.


Ruined crops. Dwindling incomes. And failing food systems.


Food systems also generate one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions.


And they’re responsible for up to 80 per cent of biodiversity loss.


At the same time, food systems can and must play a leading role in addressing all of these challenges to realise the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.


We know that well.


Over the last 18 months, you’ve been part of a remarkable global engagement.


As the pandemic physically pushed us apart, the preparations for this Summit brought us together.


Through national dialogues, governments gathered together businesses, communities and civil society to chart pathways for the future of food systems across 148 countries.


Over 100,000 people came together to discuss and debate solutions – many of which are now being shared at this Summit. 


You injected new life into multilateralism.


And you are leading the way to food systems that can drive the global recovery in three fundamental ways.


For people. For the planet. And for prosperity.


First – we need food systems that support the health and well-being of all people.


Malnutrition, hunger and famine are not forces of nature.


They are the result of the actions – or inactions – of all of us.


As a global community, we need to ramp up emergency food and nutrition systems in areas affected by conflict or climate emergencies.


We need to invest in early-warning famine prevention systems.


And we need to shock-proof all of the systems that contribute to nutrition – from food systems themselves, to health, water and sanitation.


Nutritious and diverse diets are often too costly or inaccessible.


This can lead to poor consumer choices – or no choice at all.


I urge governments and businesses to work together to increase access to healthy diets, including by incentivizing new behaviours.


For instance, I’m pleased to see many Member States rallying around universal access to nutritious meals in schools.


A great example of how social protection can support resilience, food security and the rights of children and young people.


Deuxièmement, nous avons besoin de systèmes alimentaires qui protègent notre planète.


Nourrir une population mondiale croissante tout en sauvegardant la planète, c’est possible.


Cela demande des modes de consommation et de production durables et des solutions fondées sur la nature.


Cela demande une gestion intelligente et viable des ressources naturelles – de l’agriculture jusqu’à la pêche.


Et cela demande des pays qui viennent à la COP26 à Glasgow avec des plans audacieux et ciblés pour tenir les engagements pris dans l’Accord de Paris.


La guerre livrée à notre planète doit cesser, et les systèmes alimentaires sont une des clés de la paix.


Partout, nous devons renforcer la résilience des systèmes alimentaires locaux face aux chocs externes tels que les conflits, le changement climatique et les pandémies.


Troisième et dernier point, nous avons besoin de systèmes qui favorisent la prospérité.


Pas seulement la prospérité des entreprises et des actionnaires.


Mais surtout la prospérité des personnes qui travaillent dans les secteurs agricole et alimentaire – et, ainsi, celle des milliards de personnes dans le monde qui dépendent de cette industrie pour leur subsistance.


Travaillant dans les champs, transportant la nourriture vers les marchés et jusque dans nos maisons – et ce, pendant une période exceptionnelle marquée par les confinements et les restrictions de déplacement – ces femmes et ces hommes ont été les héros méconnus de ces 18 derniers mois.


Or, trop souvent, ces travailleuses et travailleurs sont sous-payés, voire exploités.


Pourtant, les systèmes alimentaires représentent 10 pour cent de l’économie mondiale.


Ils peuvent fortement contribuer à un redressement inclusif et équitable après la pandémie de COVID-19.


Mais seulement si nous changeons la façon dont nous les soutenons.


La communauté mondiale doit transformer son approche des subventions agricoles et des aides à l’emploi.


Et nous devons repenser notre façon de considérer et d’apprécier la nourriture: non plus comme une simple marchandise à échanger, mais comme un droit inhérent à chaque personne.




Above all, meeting our goals across these three principles depends on partnerships.


Only by working together can we maintain the extraordinary momentum generated from this Summit.


The United Nations family is proud to be taking this journey with you and we pledge our full support.


The entire system – led by our Rome-based agencies – will continue to champion this vital effort.


Our Resident Coordinators and UN Country Teams will continue to lend their leadership and support at the country level.


And we will continue this journey together, convening again in two years to take stock of our progress and preserve the energy through the Decade of Action.


We also need more businesses to join this work – from food producers, to the transportation and marketing industries.


We need the advocacy and voice of civil society to continue calling for change.


And throughout, we need the engagement of the people at the centre of our food systems.


Family farmers, herders, workers, Indigenous Peoples, women, young people.


Let’s learn from each other – and be inspired by one another – as we work together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.




Dear friends,


Food is life – and food is hope.


Change in food systems is not only possible, it is necessary.


For people. For our planet. For prosperity.


This is our moment.


Let’s get to work.


And thank you.