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Global Food Security Summit kicks off in London

Anadolu Agency WORLD
Published November 20,2023
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addresses the opening session of the Global Food Security Summit at Lancaster House in London on November 20, 2023. (AFP Photo)

The Global Food Security Summit kicked off in the British capital on Tuesday with the attendance of representatives from more than 20 countries.

Focusing on international attention on the deepening global food security crisis, the event, co-hosted by the UK, the UAE, and Somalia, also discusses ways to boost efforts to achieve zero hunger and end malnutrition.

Launching the summit, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak highlighted the importance of using all the expertise and tools to help people "now and for the long term."

"With your help, we can get the Sustainable Development Goals back on track, deliver a world of Zero Hunger and transform millions of lives for years to come," he noted.

He said taking action is necessary to address the underlying and often unseen causes of global food insecurity.

Earlier, International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell stated that cutting-edge science and innovative partnerships will help to create a healthier, more secure, and prosperous world for all.

"Today we will launch the UK International Development White Paper, setting out our long-term vision for addressing critical global challenges, including preventing and treating child wasting, through new partnerships and sources of finance," he noted.

In a statement on the summit, the UK Foreign Office said Monday that up to £100 million (nearly $125 million) humanitarian funding is being released to countries worst hit by food insecurity, including Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Afghanistan, and to countries reeling from climate-related cyclones and droughts, like Malawi.

"The UK is also helping to avert future food and nutrition crises in Somalia by building resilience to climate shocks and strengthening health services," it added.

For his part, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, President of Somalia, emphasized the magnitude of food security challenges, saying that the UK has been contributing a lot with its investments in Somalia with its stabilization program.

"We have more per capita arable land than many other African countries, global countries. But unfortunately, some of the circumstances that were hindering Somalia are still there," he added.

"The African continent, in general, is working hard to remove the barriers to economic development, like establishing the continental free trade area, whereby huge development and access to the markets will be within the African countries in the East African region, where the climate change is affecting a lot of millions of livestock, a lot of children die, and the agricultural land is transforming," he added.

In her speech, Mariam Almheiri, UAE's Minister of Climate Change and Environment, stood at the COP28 presidency in Dubai, saying that in their presidency, the session will start with a high level on food and climate on the very first day.

She discussed the importance of addressing food systems in the context of global initiatives like COP28. When attendees were asked about their perspectives on success in food systems, two common themes emerged: the need for a global framework and the necessity of political will from countries.

Almheiri highlighted collaborative efforts, resulting in unveiling the COP28 Food Systems and Agriculture Agenda at the UN Food System Summit in Rome four months ago.

"The world is not in a good place right now. And so I think it's even more important that we, as the global community, really do everything we can because we see ourselves as responsible global citizens, and I think it's in our hands to make COP 28 a success," she added.

Attending the meeting via pre-recorded video, Bill Gates represented the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He emphasized today's complex geopolitics and how it can devastate supply chains for essentials like grain and fertilizer.

"South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the places that already have the highest malnutrition rates, the temperatures are rising quickly, affecting the harvest of small farmers, making them less reliable. Progress and fighting hunger slowed during the pandemic and we haven't recovered that progress," he said.

Gates also discussed the initiatives of their foundation, which focuses on improving the supply of nutritious food amid challenges such as climate change. He expressed enthusiasm about various projects, particularly mentioning the development of seeds like drought-tolerant maize with a significantly higher yield.

Additionally, he noted that the foundation is involved in creating digital tools to provide farmers with weather information for optimal planting times. Gates anticipates that these efforts will enhance agricultural productivity, leading to benefits such as poverty reduction and the transformation of poor countries, including those in Africa, into net exporters.

"Not only will it reduce malnourishment, but the extra money will help those families be resilient and send their kids off to school," he said.