Annual Conference closing session
Annual Conference 2022 session 5 summary
Sunday, Apr 17, 2022
Pascal Lamy, President of the Paris Peace Forum, Vice President of Europe Jacques Delors, started the closing session by examining the future of agriculture in the context of global trade trends. He mentioned how previously, the debate had focused on the costs and benefits of protecting producers. That era is receding, mainly because prices for agriculture, and to some extent food, are on the medium to long-term rise. “I think we are now moving in what I call the era of precaution, much more than protection. Producers are not the main issue in agri-food policy.”
He identified three key factors – nature, health and security – as “the new set of objectives and targets in addressing the model of future farming and food in the European Union and this entails a transformation of the EU agri-food system”. This involves a move towards more regenerative agriculture, regulation to protect human health and adoption of the necessary precautionary measures to ensure availability and affordability of food. He made a clear distinction between food security, which he supports, and food sovereignty, which he does not. The first “is about providing food at an affordable price”. The second “is about producing what you eat”.
Pascal maintained that the Green Deal transition will require serious change in the common agricultural policy and that this had so far been “significantly overlooked”. The debate must be seen from a wider spectrum and involve a whole range of stakeholders.
The former World Trade Organization Director-General said that the impact of the war in Ukraine was a good example of what happens when global food markets are disrupted. He strongly advised against introduction of export restrictions which would simply make matters worse, particularly for countries heavily dependent on Russian and Ukrainian cereals.
In her address to the Forum, Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations & Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group, warned that every single Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is in danger, as finance is channelled into “short-term profit, rather than long-term resilience”. This affects SDG 3 which calls for ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all ages. “We must make healthy diets central to the transformation of food systems,” she said in a video message to the Forum, identifying ways this could be achieved.
Targeted investment is needed to improve food quality and diversity; the food and agricultural sectors must be supported to increase availability of diverse, safe and nutritious foods; a food systems approach can make healthy foods cheaper and ensure access to affordable, sustainable diets for all; and measures must be in place to withstand shocks such as pandemics and climate change. The UN Food Systems Summit identified over 2,000 solutions. “Let’s use these tools to transform food systems, nourish humanity and build a healthier and more sustainable world for all,” she said.
Janez Potočnik, Chair ForumforAg 2022 and Chairman RISE Foundation, bringing proceedings to a close, pointed out that the latest International Panel on Climate Change report made grim reading. “Climate-related impacts are heating the world at the high end of what most of us predicted and at an accelerated rate.” The choice ahead is either to use the small window of opportunity that exists to manage “the transition needed in an organised way or to wait till the consequences will force us to change. I do not need to explain to you what that will mean in real life.” He called for an intergenerational impact assessment to be mandatory for all policy proposals. After thanking all involved in the day’s events, he repeated his earlier plea for an end to “the insane war” and suffering in Ukraine. But finished on an upbeat note: “Despite everything, stay optimistic. One should never forget optimists live longer and better.”