The United Nations opened a three-day summit in Rome on Monday aimed at addressing a world’s food system that is in short supply as the number of people suffering from hunger and starvation increases.
An additional 122 million people suffered from chronic hunger over the past three years, according to the United Nations, indicating the failure of global efforts to reduce hunger.
The situation was further complicated by Russia’s suspension, a week ago, of the Ukrainian grain export agreement across the Black Sea.
“In a world of plenty, it is outrageous that people continue to suffer from hunger and starvation,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in his opening remarks.
Guterres called on Russia to return to the grain agreement with Ukraine because its withdrawal led to an increase in food prices, “which is a devastating factor, especially for weak countries that struggle to feed their people.”
“The higher food prices, the lower the hopes of developing countries,” he said.
“Global food systems are failing, and billions of people are paying the price,” he added. He pointed out that more than 780 million people suffer from hunger all over the world, while about a third of the amount of food in the world is wasted or destroyed.
He added that while 462 million people are underweight, more than 2 billion are overweight or obese.
In this context, the summit is being held to address food systems and aims to allocate additional funds to invest in more productive and sustainable food systems all over the world.
Representatives of the three Rome-based UN food agencies, namely the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Program (WFP), as well as state leaders, government representatives and delegates, will participate in the summit, which will last until Wednesday.
The Food and Agriculture Organization noted the need for a “radical shift in the way food is produced, processed, marketed and consumed” to feed the world’s population as its numbers grow.
Guterres called for at least $500 billion annually to help developing countries make long-term investments in better food systems.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development pointed out that “inaction costs” $12 trillion annually, while food industry revenues amount to $10 trillion annually, and rich countries allocate $700 billion to support their farmers.
The Rome meeting takes place ahead of a summit in New York in September on the Sustainable Development Goals. The International Fund for Agricultural Development believed that the Rome meeting would allow countries to discuss progress made in fulfilling previous commitments, while identifying failures.
Making food systems more sustainable is a complex task that cuts across multiple sectors.
Summit director Nadine Gbousa told reporters that progress will require coordination and more funding. “Not financing this transition would be a death sentence for the planet,” she warned, adding that the private sector also played a key role. “The public health bill of malnutrition is among the highest in the world,” she said.