Food security, nutrition, sustainable agriculture, land degradation, climate change and their interactions have all been major topics of discussion in the development of the United Nations (UN) post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. In 2011, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated:
“Obesity and malnutrition may seem like polar opposites. But more and more countries are suffering from both. And the answer to both is better nutrition… The Scaling Up Nutrition initiative has support from more than 20 countries. They understand that food and nutrition security is a human right. They know that food and nutrition security drives economic, social and human development.”
On August 6, the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) joined together with over 35 representatives from UN missions and organizations, other NGOs and community members in the United Nations Church Center to learn about and discuss these issues. After listening to formal presentations by the expert panelists, audience members participated for over an hour in a lively discussion. The afternoon ended with a thank you and summary statement, and many people stayed to continue the dialogue on climate-resilient solutions with each other and the panelists. The event was greatly informative and engaging, inspiring those attending to support UN work for sustainable solutions to food and nutrition security and strive for change in their own lives and communities.
In the past century, we have increased food production and have seen increasing climate change, partly as a result of activities related to agriculture. In addition, climate change is endangering food security and has many negative implications for agricultural production due to increased environmental stress including drought, heat, and shifts in water availability, with areas currently suffering from food insecurity most at risk. The increased demand for agricultural products (food, materials, bioenergy crops) of the exponentially growing world population has negative effects on agricultural systems such as the depletion of soil fertility, biodiversity, and water resources. In order to ensure food security, we need to work to reduce the amount of required production of food globally, meet food production needs of a growing and changing population, and minimize the effect of food production on climate.
Event organizer Molly Perchlik, from the UU-UNO Climate Change Initiative, first gave an introduction and discussed how climate change is interconnected with agricultural and industrial development issues. It was clearly illustrated that there can be no long-term solution to food and nutrition security without effectively dealing with its environmental impacts, including climate change. Next, the first panelist, Marc Levy, Deputy Director of the Center for International Earth Science Information Network, part of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, spoke about the interaction between governance and climate change resolutions. He emphasized the importance of stable government action and taking an integrated, evidence-based approach to implementing effective climate change solutions. The second panelist, George Bouma, Co-Director of the Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI), a cosponsored program by the UN Development Program and the UN Environment Program, described the role of institutions in providing sustainability and security for environment and climate change solutions. He stated, “There is no 'one size fits all' solution to food scarcity. Supply and demand differs in developing countries," and described the PEI approach to support governments to include pro-poor and environmentally sustainable natural resource use in development planning and implementation.
After the panelist presentations, audience members engaged in a dialogue and discussion with the panelists about the issue in five rounds of questions. Topics ranged from feedback mechanisms involved in food production between producers and consumers, to how we can better teach about climate change and nutrition, to dealing with conflicting development goals. The event concluded with a message from UU-UNO Executive Director Bruce Knotts, urging everyone continue to be involved, inspire action to mitigate the impacts of climate change and land degradation and support the work of the UN to implement responsible risk management for food and nutrition security.
Following the event, many attendees expressed how much they appreciated the clarity and directness of the panelist’s presentations and how powerful and valuable they found the group discussion. The event successfully brought together members of the UN and the broader community in a dynamic discussion on how to effectively support climate-resilient solutions to food and nutrition insecurity. The cosponsors of this event, the United Nations NGO Committee for Human Rights and the United Nations NGO Committee on Sustainable Development helped to make the event a success and their support is greatly appreciated.