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Global Food Systems Need $400B Annually to Avoid $12T Cost

Following recent news that the fight against hunger has stalled, a gathering of global leaders taking stock of progress made in transforming food systems becomes even more urgent.

“The cost of inaction is much higher than the cost of action. If we really want to take people out of hunger, out of poverty, we need investments, not only (humanitarian) assistance. And those investment need to be very much focused on pro-poor rural policies,” said Alvaro Lario, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) during a high-level panel at the UN Food Systems Summit + 2 Stocktaking Moment today. He added that firm financial commitments and political will are needed to halt current trends and build a food secure future.

The Summit is convened by UN Secretary General António Guterres, who said in his opening address during the inaugural session: “In a world of plenty, it is outrageous that people continue to suffer and die from hunger.”

Later he added, “Starving food systems on investment means, quite literally, starving people.”

The emerging global vision is to create a new food financial architecture with governments, the private sector and development partners mobilising as much as US$400 billion a year until 2030 – far less than the cost of inaction estimated at $12 trillion a year in environmental, social, and economic damage to communities, families, livelihoods and lives.

Providing access to healthy diets

“Today’s food systems have failed to make nutritious diets accessible or affordable for all. Four out 10 people worldwide are unable to afford a healthy diet. We must build a world where healthy and nutritious food is available and affordable for everyone, everywhere. If we don’t act now, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate targets remain completely out of reach,” said Lario earlier.

According to the latest figures that the UN released on 12 July, 122 million more people are suffering chronic malnourishment since 2019. Currently, over 3 billion people in the world cannot afford a healthy diet. Food systems are responsible for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions, up to 80% of biodiversity loss and up to 70% of fresh-water consumption.

Financing food systems transformation: a cost within reach

“We need to massively scale-up investments in rural development and across food systems to help small-scale farmers produce more food and more diversified food, access markets, value chains and technologies and adapt to climate change,” added Lario. IFAD, the only UN fund that exclusively focuses on rural areas, is co-leading the financing agenda together with the World Bank Group.

“All the governments represented here today have committed to eliminating poverty and hunger, and to taking urgent climate action by 2030. So, I am here to say loudly and clearly that we will not succeed – that you will not succeed – unless we transform our food systems today. The stakes are higher than ever. The next few years are critical for financing food security,” said Sabrina Elba, who is receiving an honourable mention at the UN SDG Awards for her work as IFAD’s Goodwill Ambassador.

The Summit is taking stock over the next three days of the progress made to create inclusive, sustainable and resilient food systems. The event is hosting 2,000 in-person participants and thousands of virtual attendees from 170 countries – including 22 heads of state, 103 ministerial level delegates, close to 100 Food Systems National Convenors, 450 non-state actor (NSA) delegates, and high-level delegates from the UN system and other international organizations.

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