… Urges prioritising human rights in post-pandemic economic recovery***
The UN food agency has launched an urgent appeal for action to reduce the amount of food that is wasted, saying lack of food, hunger and malnutrition affect every country in the world.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Tuesday that 17 per cent of all food available to consumers in 2019 ended up being thrown away.
An additional 132 million people face food and nutrition insecurity today because of the COVID-19 pandemic, FAO said, ahead of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, on Wednesday, 29 September.
The problem of food waste is a global one and not limited to wealthy nations alone, said Nancy Aburto, Deputy Director of FAO’s Food and Nutrition Division Economic and Social Development Stream, speaking at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
“Food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition are impacting every country in the world and no country is unaffected; 811 million people suffer hunger, two billion suffer micronutrient deficiencies – that’s vitamin and mineral deficiencies – and millions of children suffer stunting and wasting, deadly forms of under-nutrition.”
The FAO official warned that the high cost of “healthy” diets, meant that they were now “out of reach” of every region in the world, including Europe.
She also said that more countries needed to embrace innovation to reduce waste, such as new packaging that can prolong the shelf-life of many foods, while smartphone apps can bring consumers closer to producers, reducing the time between harvest and plate.
Reducing food loss and waste would improve agri-food systems and help towards achieving food security, food safety and food quality, all while delivering on nutritional outcomes.
According to FAO, it would also contribute “significantly to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as pressure on land and water resources”.
With less than nine years left to reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 on ensuring sustainable consumption, and target 12.3 to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels, there is an urgent need to accelerate action, up to the 2030 deadline.
And with just three months to go, during this International Year of Fruits and Vegetables, FAO has reminded that produce provides human nutrition and food security while working to achieve the SDGs.
“In the current health crisis we are facing around the world, promoting healthy diets to strengthen our immune systems is especially appropriate”, FAO chief QU Dongyu, said.
He also noted that food loss and waste in the fruits and vegetables sector remained a problem with considerable consequences.
He also pointed out that “innovative technologies and approaches were of critical importance”, as they can help maintain safety and quality, “increasing the shelf life of fresh produce items and preserving their high nutritional value”.
In the same vein, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet, on Tuesday called for greater coronavirus vaccine solidarity and prioritising human rights in post-pandemic economic recovery.
Bachelet who made the call at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, said the ongoing COVID-19 crisis had caused and perpetuated “truly shocking” inequality that has affected the world’s most vulnerable individuals.
She maintained that the inability of countries to uphold fundamental liberties – such as justice, quality education, decent housing and decent work – had “undermined the resilience of people and States”.
This had left them exposed to what she called a “medical, economic and social shock”, highlighting that an additional 119 to 124 million people had been pushed into extreme poverty in 2020.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights cited the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) data, indicating that food insecurity rose to an unprecedented 2.38 billion people.
“Vital gains are being reversed – including for women’s equality and the rights of many ethnic and religious minority communities and indigenous peoples.
“Cracks in the social fabric of our societies are growing wider” with “huge gaps between rich and poorer countries that are becoming more desperate and more lethal.
“We must ensure that States’ economic recovery plans are built on the bedrock of human rights and in meaningful consultation with civil society.
“There must be steps to uphold universal health care, universal social protections and other fundamental rights to protect societies from harm, and make all communities more resilient,” she said.
On the issue of glaring coronavirus vaccine and therapeutic shortages in many developing countries, the High Commissioner urged States to “act together, in solidarity”, to distribute the jabs.
“Today, hospitals in some regions have essentially collapsed, with patients unable to find the care they need, and oxygen almost completely unavailable.’’
She described it as a crisis of vaccine inequity (that) continued to drive deeper divides into the heart of the international community”.
Echoing those remarks, Nobel Laureate and economist, Prof. Joseph Stiglitz, described how COVID-19 had barely affected those at the top end of the global economy, while those at the bottom have suffered massively in respect of their jobs, health and their children’s education.
The coronavirus has not been “an equal opportunity virus”, he insisted; “it has had a devastating effect on the bottom parts of our economy, our society”.
He added “While those at the top, many of them have done very well. Most of them have been able to carry on, continuing their jobs on Zoom, continuing their incomes, almost without interruption.”
Stiglitz reminded the Human Rights Council that access to vaccines “is almost part of a right to life, and yet, access to the vaccines, while is very easy in the U.S. and other advanced countries, is extraordinarily difficult in emerging economies and almost impossible in most developing countries”.
Echoing that message, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, José Francisco Cali Tzay, expressed concern that post-pandemic recovery efforts by many States were continuing to have “negative impacts” on indigenous peoples.
“Nationwide measures to stop the pandemic are being applied to indigenous territories without their free, prior and informed consent and without taking into account the systemic barriers faced by recipients,” the Special Rapporteur said.