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UNGA Debates Agricultural Development, Food Security

5 November 2012: In meetings of the UN General Assembly's (UNGA) Second Committee, Member States called for increased efforts to address agriculture and food security in the international development agenda, stressing that climate change exacerbates food security concerns.

Nikhil Seth, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), introduced two documents of the UN Secretary-General - his report on agricultural development and food security (A/67/294), and his note on the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) (A/67/86–E/2012/71). Seth noted connections between agriculture and energy policies, emphasizing that biofuel use should not increase food prices or decrease food availability, and calling for attention to the nexus of climate change, energy, food and water.

Many speakers identified food security as a national priority. The Group of 77 and China (G77/China) urged increased international, regional and national efforts to address agriculture and food security. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) highlighted regional policies to boost Caribbean agriculture through sustainable agriculture and tackling hunger among the most vulnerable, while noting challenges posed by food imports and natural disasters. Benin suggested that lack of financial support contributed to difficulties in tackling hunger, and welcomed initiatives supporting least developed countries (LDCs) in addressing agriculture, food security and nutrition. Bolivia looked forward to the launch of the International Year of Quinoa in December.

Many speakers welcomed the affirmations on reducing hunger and recognizing food security within sustainable development at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20). Several supported the “Zero Hunger Challenge,” launched by the UN Secretary-General at Rio+20. Brazil said the Rio+20 Outcome Document recommends focusing on rural areas in developing countries, where hunger and malnutrition are prevalent. The G77/China said reducing hunger was critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Nigeria said agriculture and food security are fundamental in achieving the MDGs, and urged assistance for developing countries to achieve these goals.

Some speakers called for incorporating food security into the post-2015 development agenda, including the G77/China, Egypt, Myanmar, Nepal and the Russian Federation. Canada said the role of women in sustainable agricultural development should be a top priority for the post-2015 agenda. Others also stressed attention to gender dimensions of sustainable agriculture, and recommended policies specifically targeting women.

Many speakers stressed the impacts of climate change, including climate-induced desertification, droughts, land degradation and natural disasters, which exacerbate food security challenges. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) called for continued efforts on food security within the context of climate change, natural disasters and natural resources management. New Zealand highlighted the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, which aims to increase food production without increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. He also noted the effects of climate change on oceans and the availability of fish stocks. Ukraine highlighted the mitigation potential of agricultural development and land management.

The EU encouraged implementation of Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests. Chile welcomed the Guidelines, saying they would contribute to achieving food security and integrating the three pillars of sustainable development.

The UN Secretary-General's report on agricultural development and food security examines the challenges of achieving food and nutrition security, and provides an update on implementing sustainable agricultural policies and practices. It calls for, inter alia: growth in climate resistant agriculture; improvements in agricultural productivity, agricultural trade and food system diversity; and improvements to early warning systems. The note on the CFS describes, inter alia: the Committee's reforms; food price volatility; the development of the voluntary Guidelines; a global strategic framework on food security and nutrition; and principles for responsible agricultural investments. [UNGA Press Release, 1 November] [UNGA Press Release, 5 November] [Publication: Agriculture Development and Food Security: Report of the Secretary-General] [Publication: Report on the main decisions and policy recommendations of the Committee on World Food Security: Note by the Secretary-General]