ROME, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- Multilateral organizations are lining up to confront the world's hunger problems made more severe by the coronavirus pandemic, but major challenges remain and the problem may still worsen despite the redoubled global efforts.
In an unusual move, the just-completed Group of 20 agricultural ministers' meeting in Italy and the United Nations Food Systems Summit set to get underway Thursday in New York have aligned their priorities to address the challenges that the pandemic, climate change, political instability, and other factors represent to the world's fragile food systems.
The overall problem has only been getting worse. According to the UN, some 957 million people in 93 countries do not have enough food to eat this year, and the problem will get worse without significant action.
According to analysts, the acute problem of hunger is forcing a shift in the way multilateral groups are confronting the global hunger problem, focusing on creating more resilient food systems rather than looking at access to food as an economic challenge.
The G20 concluded a two-day agriculture-focused meeting in the central Italian city of Florence on Saturday with a joint declaration vowing to "recognize the need to identify paths for sustainable and resilient food systems and to find appropriate institutional, collaborative, and financial frameworks for their implementation, to overcome short- and long-term challenges."
The closing came days before the UN Food Systems Summit. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced the creation of the one-time Food Systems Summit in 2019, "with the aim of maximizing the co-benefits of a food systems approach" to reaching the UN' 2030 sustainable development anti-poverty and anti-hunger goals.
In its final communique, G20 agricultural ministers formally welcomed the food systems summit, stating that "now, more than ever, we need decisive, inclusive, sustained and coordinated action to ensure that our food systems can step up to address the shared challenges we face." The communique called the work of the G20 and the UN in this area "mutually reinforcing."
David Nabarro, a senior adviser on Food Systems Summit Dialogues and a veteran UN and World Health Organization official agreed, referring to the G20 communique as a "welcome shift away from looking at food as a commodity" in response to a press briefing question from Xinhua. Nabarro called food systems "the connective tissue that connects questions of food, nutrition, and health."
According to Daniele Fattibene, an analyst with the Institute for International Affairs (IAI), a Rome-based think tank, it's significant that the two events are taking place back to back.
"The coronavirus pandemic has called attention to the vulnerability of global food systems and so countries are taking action," Fattibene told Xinhua. "It's more of a priority now than it has been in the past."
He noted that while there is some overlap between the two processes, they are broadly focused on different countries -- the G20 is made up of the world's largest economies while the UN Food Systems Summit is focused mostly on the world's most vulnerable countries -- which means that the dual focus will cover more of the world's population and more of the food system needs.
"There are natural synergies when both negotiation paths are taken at once," Fattibene said.
Carmelo Troccoli, director-general of the Campagna Amica Foundation, part of the Italian agricultural union Coldiretti, said that the fact that multilateral talks are focusing on food issues this year has symbolic importance as well.
"The world is increasingly taking notice that many of the world's biggest challenges, whether nutrition, poverty, biodiversity, the environment, rural depopulation, poverty, that they are all related to food systems," Troccoli told Xinhua. "The time is right to be addressing these issues." Enditem