Food in Focus at the UN Financing for Development Conference

The world has been meeting in Addis Ababa last week for the United Nation’s (UN) third international conference to discuss Financing for Development, and agree the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which will be finalised at UN summit in September.

According to Robynne Anderson, Director General of the International Agri-Food Network and secretariat to the Private Sector Mechanism to the UN Committee on Food Security, the dialogue was positive on the role and contribution of the private sector, not only in financing, but innovation, capacity building and through multi-stakeholder partnerships.

The United Nations has said, the expected Addis Ababa Accord on Financing for Development will serve as a roadmap for future investments in development that are people-centred and sustainable and a crucial pillar of the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals.

In quotes to media on financing the SDGs, Li Yong, Director General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) said, “In my view, this challenge is so immense that no single country or institution will be able to overcome it on their own. I firmly believe that it can only be resolved through effective multi-stakeholder partnerships bringing together all the major players in the development process.”

The major sticking points in the UN’s negotiations at the conference were taxation, debt, and ‘common but differentiated” responsibilities. Despite these, the final text for the outcome of the meeting was still agreed by Wednesday evening, well in advance of the conference closing.

Some highlights for the food & agriculture sector in the final outcomes document included:

• Food security and agriculture are mentioned several times, particularly in relation to the poverty reduction potential of growth in agriculture sector and the need for further investments, and also in relation to concerns about volatility in commodity prices and the impact on food security;

• There is also a specific mention of the need to ‘correct and prevent trade restrictions and distortions in agricultural markets, including through the elimination of agriculture export subsidies’.

The thirteenth SDG that was agreed, specifically addresses ‘scaling up efforts to end hunger and malnutrition’, which has direct relevance to the dual burden of malnutrition taking place in the Asia region.

The UN outlined that it was ‘unacceptable that close to 800 million people are chronically undernourished and do not have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food’ and undertook to ‘support sustainable agriculture, including forestry, fisheries and pastoralism and also take action to fight malnutrition and hunger among the urban poor’. Further on, recognising the large investments needed in these areas, the UN encouraged both the public and private sectors to play a role.

Within the SDGs were further recommendations for the establishment of a global infrastructure forum, to be managed by the development banks to help coordinate and increase investments in infrastructure. There was also encouragement for supporting corporate social responsibility and reporting on social and environmental impacts by companies.

Finally out of the conference there was agreement to hold an annual forum on financing for development under the Economic and Social Council, to last up to 5 days, and possibly a follow up conference in 2019.

The Third International Conference on Financing for Development gathers high-level political representatives, including Heads of State and Government, and Ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation, as well as all relevant institutional stakeholders, non-governmental organizations and business sector entities.

The full outcome document can be viewed here.

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