On 29th June 2021, the Italian city of Matera, famous for its Sassi named UNESCO World Heritage site, has hosted the meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers of G20, the international forum that brings together the world’s major economies since 1999. In addition to this meeting, for the first time in G20 history, a joint session of the Foreign and Development Ministers has been held to determine the international agenda referring to nutrition and food system challenges during Covid-19.

Background of the international nutrition system:

In September 2015, the General Assembly of United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which includes the 17 sustainable development Goals, with the objective of “leaving no one behind”. Referring to the nutrition system, Global Goal 2 is poised to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. For this SDG, eight targets and thirteen indicators were defined by the UN. The targets include ending hunger, universal access to safe and nutritious food, ending all forms of malnutrition, implementing agricultural productivity, sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices, genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals, investments, research and technology.

Even if food insecurity, defined by FAO as the “situation when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development”, was already on the rise before Covid-19, the pandemic is an additional threat to the food system. In fact, the lockdown has placed a tremendous amount of pressure on agricultural production, disrupted the global value and supply chain. Subsequently, this has raised issues of malnutrition and inadequate food supply to households with the poorest of them gravely affected, and it is in this global challenges’ context that the 2021 G20 sessions have been taking place.

The purpose of the joint meeting:

While the Foreign Affairs meeting focused on global governance and multilateral relations with a specific focus on sustainable development, the joint Foreign and Development Ministerial Meeting focused on territorial development. It took place intending to adopt concrete actions for global food security and nutrition and achieve the Zero Hunger goal by 2030. In the press conference of the summit, the Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio pointed out how hunger is currently affecting 850 million people worldwide and, due to the pandemic, it could affect another 100 million. In this frame, Ministers of the G20 claimed the vital role of poverty reduction, food security, and sustainable food systems to eradicate hunger and encourage social cohesion and community development. Thus, at the end of the joint session, the Declaration of Matera has been adopted by G20, officially named Matera declaration on food security, nutrition and food systems. A call to action in the time of the covid – 19 pandemic and beyond.

Content of the Declaration:

The first part of the document emphasizes hunger, stressing that the number of people affected by hunger globally has been on the rise since 2014. For this reason, the world is not on track to fully achieve the 2nd goal- Zero hunger- of the SDG of the 2030 Agenda. Ministers also agreed to deliver on food security priorities by enhancing efforts in ensuring safe and adequate nutrition for all, ending all forms of malnutrition, preserving agrobiodiversity, and relying on science, innovation, advanced business practices and responsible behaviour. The objective of the G20, whose countries account for almost 90% of global GDP, is to provide an inclusive approach with all stakeholders, private and public, and pursue concrete and actionable programs.

Consequently, the other paragraphs of the Declaration called for global mobilization to implement the urgently needed actions to recover from the crisis. Among them, actions for women and youth empowerment in the rural-urban continuum, measures for social protection in particular for people living in vulnerable situations and investments for food security and territorial development as part of the substantial COVID-19 emergency funding.

G20 Ministers encourage partners and stakeholders to join the Food Coalition launched by FAO, whose goal is to build a global alliance to trigger coordinated action in response to Covid-19 – with a focus on the thematic priorities around food systems, mobilize political, financial, policy and technical support based on needs and demands of developing countries, smallholder farmers, women and youth. Moreover, the Food Coalition should provide for its members’ leadership to raise awareness on food security, nutrition and sustainable food systems, and promote, voluntarily, operational coordination of responses to country and regional needs and priorities – both horizontally across thematic areas and vertically from local to global, including among all relevant UN agencies and International Organisations.

The future of food system policies:

In order to reach a wider public and amplify its impact, the Declaration underlines the need for coordination with the G20 Ministers of Agriculture and existing initiatives and leveraging international processes such as the upcoming Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit in December 2021, COP26, WTO 12th Ministerial Conference and UN Biodiversity Conference in Kunming. Once again, international cooperation seems to be the best option to overcome global food and Covid19-related challenges that we are facing. The meeting in Matera has prepared the ground for important policies to support food systems after the pandemic. These are also at the centre of the discussion in the UN “Food System Pre-Summit” that took place on 26th July at the FAO headquarters in Rome, while the works of the G20 will culminate in the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Rome on 30th October 2021.

Edited by Ronnie Mondal

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