The meeting is the United Nations’ highest-level coordination forum, and brought together the Principals of 31 UN system entities.
As CEB Chair, the Secretary-General gave an overview of the state of the world, reflecting on the future of multilateralism, beyond the immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What is clear today is the fragility of humankind and the planet. With all the scientific progress we still don’t know how to deal with a virus, we are so unprepared. It is clear there is not enough humility, unity and not enough solidarity in the world”, said the UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
Looking forward, now more than ever, nature- and science-based solutions must be at the centre of efforts to rebuild better post-COVID-19, said Qu.
The Board considered it to be the UN system’s collective responsibility to ensure recognition of 2020 as a ‘Super Year’ for nature, and seized the opportunity to act decisively to reset humanity’s relationship with nature. In this respect, the CEB members decided to develop a common approach to integrating biodiversity and nature-based solutions for sustainable development into the UN’s policy and programme planning and delivery.
As part of next year’s events, FAO will co-lead the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 with the UN Environment Programme.
The Director-General mentioned various FAO initiatives that help deepen understanding on biodiversity’s importance for our food, livelihoods and environment, and highlight agriculture’s role as a positive force for nature, including the first-ever comprehensive report on the state of the world’s biodiversity for food and agriculture.
Qu also noted that managing natural resources sustainably will be critical for preventing future pandemics and FAO will continue to work with other UN and specialised agencies on the One Health approach, which recognises the connection between humans, animals, plants and their shared environments, and applies integrated actions to reduce disease, pest threats and ensure safe food supply.
In relation to the COVID-19’s impacts on food and agriculture, Qu expressed concerns about the pandemic’s combined impacts on food systems, primarily at national level, but possibly extending to regional and global levels in the later part of 2020 and beyond.
“This food crisis is best characterized as an emergency within a pre-existing and now worsening systemic crisis. It is unfolding in many places, and potentially much larger than any crisis experienced since the onset of the Green Revolution,” said Qu.
Whilst food is available, the issue is about hundreds of millions of people across the world being unable to access adequate nutritious food due to loss of income and, increasingly now, disruptions in the operations of national and regional food markets.
There is a serious risk that the losses suffered by producers and distributors will lead to a significant contraction in production, and if measures are not taken fast, by late this summer and the end of the year, we can anticipate very significant rises in food insecurity and malnutrition across the world, including beyond the current hunger hotspots, warned the FAO Director-General.
Qu stressed that this scenario can be avoided, however, if social protection measures are scaled up, as well as frequent and near-real time data collection and analysis are undertaken to guide and ensure an appropriate response.
The COVID-19 outbreak exposed further the importance of data, and the need for quality, real-time information. In this respect, FAO has already issued guidelines on monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on food.
Qu reported on good progress made by FAO in the development of a science-based data-sharing and integration platform to support the rolling out of FAO’s Hand-in-Hand initiative.
The new platform – an open-data geospatial platform - integrates data sets provided by FAO and a large number of UN and public and private external partners.
The CEB also focused on data as a strategic asset to inform the post-pandemic recovery. The ‘Data Strategy of the Secretary-General for Action by Everyone, Everywhere: With Insight, Impact and Integrity’, was introduced as an overarching reference for data-driven leadership.