Sunday July 21, 2019

Experts Call Next UN Food Chief Must Tackle Rising Hunger and Climate Change Threats

Levels of hunger have grown for the past three years, with one in nine people — or 821 million — worldwide without enough to eat, due to drought, floods, conflict and economic slowdowns

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UN, hunger, climate change
Nepalese children wait for the food to be distributed as they sit next to their houses damaged in a rainstorm in Bara district, 125 kilometers (75 miles) south of Kathmandu, Nepal, April 1, 2019. VOA

As candidates jostle to head the United Nations’ multibillion dollar food agency, experts called on Thursday for a strong leader to tackling rising hunger and climate change threats.

Levels of hunger have grown for the past three years, with one in nine people — or 821 million — worldwide without enough to eat, due to drought, floods, conflict and economic slowdowns, U.N. figures show.

“We don’t see improvement in terms of poverty and hunger. What we see is degradation and resources that would be lost for future generations. So there’s an emergency,” said Frederic Mousseau, a food policy expert at U.S.-based Oakland Institute.

“Agriculture and the way we produce our food and the way we consume our food has to have a major solution. That’s the key challenge for the new director.”

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has a budget of $2.6 billion for 2018 and 2019, employs nearly 6,000 people and works in more than 130 countries with governments to reduce rural poverty and hunger.

UN, hunger, climate change
A World Food Program plane takes off from Beira International Airport after dropping off supplies for survivors of Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, March, 31, 2019. VOA

The four contenders include a European Union-backed French agronomist, who could become the FAO’s first female head of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and an agriculture vice-minister from China, whose global influence is on the rise.

Georgia and India have also fielded candidates for the June vote by delegates from the FAO’s 194 member states.

“There is very much at stake in an election like this,” said Mousseau, adding that governments are under constant pressure “to expand the corporate-driven model of agriculture that is polluting and unsustainable”.

“We need someone strong enough at the FAO to stand against that and to be able to propose a different path which is about farmers and sustainability,” he added.

Rising populism and nationalism

The elections come at a time of rising populism and nationalism with major powers cutting aid budgets, including the United States — FAO’s largest funder.

UN, hunger, climate change
A man waits to receive food aid outside a camp for displaced survivors of Cyclone Idai in Dombe, Mozambique, April 4, 2019. VOA

The current director-general Jose Graziano da Silva, architect of Brazil’s landmark Zero Hunger program, has overseen a drive to push through ambitious internal reforms. His predecessor, Jacques Diouf, served an 18-year term amid donor criticism about inefficiencies.

Times have changed since FAO was founded in 1945, when hunger was the main concern, said Patrick Caron, chairman of the U.N. High-level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition.

“Food security is no longer only a question of food supply but also of nutrition,” he said, as limited progress is being made to tackle malnutrition, ranging from child stunting to adult obesity.

“Now is time for a new deal … We absolutely need a huge transformation of our food systems.”

France’s Catherine Geslain-Laneelle said her priorities would include boosting sustainable agricultural output to keep pace with population growth, building farmers’ resilience to climate change and creating jobs for young rural Africans.

 

hunger, climate change, UN
Levels of hunger have grown for the past three years, with one in nine people — or 821 million — worldwide without enough to eat, due to drought, floods, conflict and economic slowdowns, U.N. figures show. Pixabay

The former head of the European Food Safety Authority also said she was keen to support women farmers.

“Although they are present everywhere in the food system, sometimes women have difficulties to access land, to water, to the forums where decisions are made,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Davit Kirvalidze, former agricultural minister in Georgia said his experience growing potatoes during the difficult period when Georgia emerged from Soviet rule gave him an insight into the needs of farmers, “especially in times of trouble.”

ALSO READ: Women Live on Average 4.4 Years Longer than Men. Why?

“Not only did I manage to feed my family but also eventually my community,” said Kirvalidze, who also sits on the board of Washington-based non-profit Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture and advises Georgia’s prime minister.

Representatives from the embassies of India and China did not respond to requests to interview their candidates. (VOA)

Next Story

New York Governor Signs Ambitious Climate Change Bill with Goal of Slashing Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2030

He was joined by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who has made fighting global warming his life's work

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climate change
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, right, accompanied by former Vice President Al Gore, announces that he is signing the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, Thursday, July 18, 2019, at Fordham University in New York. VOA

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an ambitious climate change bill Thursday with the goal of slashing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 85% below what they were in 1990.

“Cries for a new green movement are hollow political rhetoric if not combined with aggressive goals and a realistic plan on how to achieve them,” Cuomo said before signing the bill into law. He was joined by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who has made fighting global warming his life’s work. “We still have it within our power to grab hold of this crisis,” Gore said.

The measure Cuomo signed looks to use renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, to generate 70% of the state’s electric power by 2030. It also includes construction of massive wind farms off the coast of Long Island, which Cuomo said would generate enough electricity to power 1 million homes.

It was unclear how Cuomo and future New York state governments planned to put the ambitious plan into action. The governor and other state officials will put together a 22-member panel to devise that.

climate change
As the federal government retreats from dealing with climate change, major parts of corporate America are moving forward anyway. Pixabay

Warning about costs

Business leaders and utility companies, however, warned residents to expect higher electric bills because of the initial investment needed to build up solar and wind capacity.

ALSO READ: Education Institutions from Across the World Declares Climate Emergency

Meanwhile, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said last month was the hottest June for the globe since at least 1880, when record-keeping began. NOAA said the planet’s average temperature was 15.9 Celsius, or 60.6 Fahrenheit.

Climate experts say global warming caused by greenhouse gases is to blame and say more records will fall before summer ends in the Northern Hemisphere. Many large U.S. cities can expect dangerously high temperatures this weekend, including Washington, where it is expected to feel like 43 degrees Celsius Friday and Saturday. (VOA)