Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently attended the UN Food Systems Summit+2 Stocktaking Moment (UNFSS+2) at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) headquarters at Rome, Italy. Notably, the summit was attended by over 20 heads of State and Government.
While addressing the official opening ceremony of the Summit, Sheikh Hasina raised five point proposals to ensure sustainable food system. This write-up examines the significance of Sheikh Hasina’s proposals to ensure sustainable global food security.
The first proposal was that “Financial incentives and policy support at the international level are needed to encourage multilateral development banks and private entrepreneurs to invest in modern agriculture”. Being a perilous field of investment due to climate change and weather-related uncertainties, market fluctuations, and the risk of long-term return, investors or entrepreneurs are often discouraged to spend on agriculture. In addition, the lack of financial incentives and international policy support can demotivate future enthusiasts of modern agriculture to spend in this field. It should be noted that focusing on modern agriculture can endorse social benefits such as creating more employment opportunities, encouraging small-scale farmers to continue farming and lowering gender inequalities in rural areas. Above all, granting incentives and international support to the multilateral development banks and private entrepreneurs will bring more funds into the arena of modern agriculture, which, in the long run, will contribute to mitigating global food insecurity issues. Thus the first proposal of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina maintains paramount importance to the mitigation of world food insecurity.
The second proposal was taking concerted actions is absolutely required to remove any trade barrier, including the lifting of restrictions on food and fertiliser exports, to continue the effectiveness of the Black Sea Grain Deal initiated by the UN secretary-general. First of all, it should be mentioned that amid a lack of trust among partners, the Black Sea Grain Deal facilitated the export of 33 grains in July, of which 61% was transported to the low and middle-income countries, according to a news report in The Guardian. The report also includes that the World Food Programme bought 75000 tons of Ukrainian grain, which was immediately shipped to Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan thereby decreasing the price from 1360$ to 800$ per ton. However, the deal was disregarded by Russia as the Defense Ministry declared any ship departing a Ukrainian port would be a legitimate military target. Russia justified their action by saying that the sanction on Russian food and fertilizer was not lifted enough.
Thus a concerted action to lift barriers and restrictions is necessary to continue the effectiveness of the Black Sea Grain Deal, which has been proven beneficial for the low and middle-income countries amid the global food crisis. In the words of Hasina, “If we can collectively adopt and implement the necessary action plans, we’ll be able to achieve sustainable global food security”.
In her third proposal, Sheikh Hasina emphasized that the international community should come forward to establish global and regional ‘food banks’ to deal with emergency situations and also help developing countries transform the food production systems in the situation given by climate change. Prime Minister Sheik Hasina indicated a crucial factor to confront the emergency food crisis. In times of immediate needs, “Food Banks” could be used for providing food and minimal nutrition needs to the vulnerable and the poorest. For instance, due to the Ukrainian crisis and Rohingya crisis, millions of people are forced to take refuge in neighbouring countries, where they are compelled to live destitute. A global or regional food bank, if there were any, could provide them with necessary food relief and they did not await for donors to fund their food crisis. On the other hand, many people face short-term food crises due to a lack of sufficient food production, which is a result of climate change. In that case, a regional emergency food bank can negotiate their necessities. Therefore, the international community should come forward by allocating funds to create an emergency food bank.
Sheikh Hasina also pointed out that nano-technology, bioinformatics, and advanced agricultural technologies developed keeping pace with the 4th industrial revolution in agricultural education and research should be made available to all. It has already been recognized that the immersion of nano-technology and bioinformatics in agriculture can revolutionize the agricultural sector by making it more reliable, sustainable and environment-friendly, efficient and resilient to global climate challenges. Using this cutting-edge technology can boost agricultural production significantly and, at the same time, it can be taken as a tool to confront the global food crisis amid the potential menace of climate change. However, the technology should be made available to all countries otherwise its benefits will be unutilized. It should be noted that the portion of the world, which contains the most population is also the most impoverished while lacking the proper technology, education and research. Thus, the statement of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina holds profound importance in this regard.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also emphasized on developing a massive social movement involving young people to prevent the waste of about one-third of the food produced worldwide every year. While it feels astounding to hear that roughly a third of the world’s food is wasted every year, people involve themselves in squandering 1.3 billion tons of food annually. The reasons for this are many. Food is wasted in many processes such as in the field, post-harvest handling, distribution and consumption. In addition, a huge amount of food is lost simply because of our extravagant nature. People buy more food to satiate their minds not their stomachs and through away the remaining food. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a massive social movement to suppress this kind of food wastage. We need to involve the young generation in this movement so that they can understand the importance of food while thinking critically about the global food crisis.
After analyzing these five proposals, one can argue that these proposals need to be taken into consideration by the international community to address global food insecurity. It can also be said that Sheikh Hasina has been the voice of the millions of people from the global South.
– Dr. Md. Shariful Islam is a Research Fellow at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs, (CBGA, Dhaka). He is also an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Rajshahi.
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