High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
His Excellency Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser
KEYNOTE SPEECH: SECOND PLENARY SESSION- FOURTH WFID 2017
“INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE FOR FOOD SECURITY AND COMMUNITY RESILIENCE:
ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS IN ACHIEVING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE”
Baku – Azerbaijan | 6 May 2017
Your Excellency, Mr Abulfas Garayev,
Minister of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan,
Excellencies, from International Governmental Organizations,
Distinguished Guests, from Civil Society and Private Sector,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to be speaking again in the Forum with a new focus for more broadly defined human security. As you know by now, the four pillars of the Alliance: education, migration, youth and media, with the added priorities of sports, music, arts and food is intended to promote cultural diversity worldwide. We are pleased to work with FAO on the last issue.
During the Sixth Global Forum of the UNAOC, which took place in Bali, Indonesia in 2014, FAO in partnership with UNAOC organized a side event on diversity in food production. It explored the role that food production systems play in supporting diversity within societies around the world. It also highlighted the important role of family farmers in these production systems and explored the role that communication plays in sustaining diverse agricultural communities worldwide. The event was part of an MOU signed between UNAOC and FAO to increase public awareness on how food systems are a bridge for commercial and cultural exchange between cultures. Through food we learn to know and appreciate diversity.
Having this conversation on the importance of food security and community resilience is so timely because we live in a world where hundreds of millions of people suffer from hunger and malnutrition every day. “There are now 1.4 Million children at risk of dying from famine and 20 million people on the verge of starvation in the four countries of Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Nigeria.” As we well know, the United Nations, FAO, UNCTAD, WTO and other related entities are leading the effort to tackle this widespread threat to human welfare in developing countries. But, it will take sustained cooperation, dialogue and understanding among all stakeholders to find enduring solutions.
To provide an overall perspective on Food Security and the 2030 UN Development Agenda within the framework of the intercultural dialogue, I wish to cover several points regarding: (1) the legacy of the World Food summit in 1996, and the world Fair in Milan in 2015, (2) the Right to Food, (3) Food and community resilience, (4) Food and Intercultural understanding, (5) Food as an opportunity to bring together cultures and people, (6) Food and youth employment, and (7) Food, sustainable development and peace.
However, I would like to focus on the 4 last points due to their relevance to our work.
It is hoped that governments, the business sector and civil society take this seriously as a means to end poverty by empowering vulnerable communities and societies to achieve food security.
(4) Food and intercultural understanding
While eating is basic to human existence, food should also be celebrated as a form of social and cultural exchange, based on a wide variety of practices, beliefs, and norms.
What happens when people from different cultures are brought together around a meal? When we are invited to discover new ingredients, new flavors, new cooking techniques, and new table manners, we engage with others. Sharing a meal gives us an intimate insight into the cultural heritage and the social manners of our host. Food allows first-hand immersion into cultural diversity. It is the most universal vector of intercultural sharing.
(5) Food as an opportunity to bring together cultures and peoples
When arriving in a new country, food becomes a central element to the way migrants cope with having to live far from home. But the food cooked by migrants is influenced, not only by their traditions, but also by new ingredients and practices they encounter in their host country and incorporate in their meal preparation.
In recent years, Europe has witnessed the rise of grassroots organizations using food as a means for cultural exchange between refugees and local communities. Some have developed cookbooks, some have organized cooking classes led by migrants, and others have launched their own mobile restaurants to invite the local population to discover the marvels of the culinary diversity brought by refugees.
The goal of these organizations is to create a new sense of togetherness between migrants and locals and to achieve long-lasting integration, tolerance and understanding. Beyond sharing a meal, these initiatives lead to deeper intercultural exchanges between refugees and locals, and foster mutual respect. It gives refugees the opportunity to interact with the local population in a friendly setting, and it gives the host community the chance to learn about new cultures and traditions.
(6) Food and youth employment
Through their energy, imagination and initiative, young people have a crucial role to play in meeting current challenges. As their elders, we have to listen to them and encourage them to actively take part in the global effort for peace and the achievement of the 17 SDG’s. From local to global level, a growing number of initiatives is seeking to create employment opportunities for young people across sectors connected to food. With jobs created, we are protecting our youth from falling victims to radicalization and marginalization.
(7) Food, sustainable development and peace
Agriculture is key to achieving food security and sustainability. It is a major provider of employment and livelihoods, especially in developing and emerging economies. Making agriculture more sustainable is essential. Beyond addressing crucial environmental issues such as climate change and water management, we should also make sure to provide adequate working conditions and employment opportunities that remain compatible with local customs and traditions.
Population growth has exposed new global insecurities. It is the main driver behind the ongoing changes in food production and consumption across the world. Rapid urbanization poses enormous challenges in many countries, particularly in the Global South where urbanization rates are progressing rapidly. While it has led to improvements in infrastructure and availability, it has also triggered changes in diets with considerable economic and environmental impact. The next few decades will see unprecedented urban growth and it is expected that nearly 70 percent of the world population will live in cities by 2050. Therefore, the links between urbanization and food security should not be underestimated.
Let me conclude by paying tribute to His Holiness Pope Francis for his “Food Waste Campaign” that was launched two years ago. It’s a project that should inspire our combined efforts to fight poverty and hunger. It also has its place in the inter-religious and inter cultural Dialogue. Both approches are based on respect for the “other” and the consideration we give to hungry people.