Address by Beth Bechdol, Deputy Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, to the Security Council meeting on climate change and food insecurity

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February 13, 2024

Beth Bechdol, Deputy Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said climate and conflict are the most important issues requiring urgent action to address global food insecurity.  Highlighting the alarming effect of climate change on agri-food systems — “how and when we produce, harvest, process and store our food” — she said the climate crisis spares no one, but it does not affect everyone equally or in the same way. The populations at greatest risk are those that depend on agriculture and natural resources because their livelihoods are vulnerable to climate change impacts, and their capacity to respond is limited, making them prone to disputes arising from the scarcity of natural resources.  Stressing that there is no food security without peace, and no peace without food security, she said it is no coincidence that half of the world’s hungry people live in conflict-affected zones.

Noting that 258 million people in 58 countries are facing high levels of acute food insecurity, she said that over two thirds — 174 million people — are there because of climate and conflict.  As much as 70 per cent of the most climate-vulnerable countries are also among the most politically and economically fragile.  The current limited area of food production will be further diminished by 10 per cent by mid-century under high-emission scenarios, she cautioned.  It is small-scale farmers, pastoralists, foresters and fisherfolk who will bear the brunt of climate impacts, due to their dependence on soil, water, land and other natural resources.  “I see this on my own family’s farm in the Midwest of the United States and I see it first-hand in Afghanistan, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and elsewhere,” she said, underscoring the need to equip farmers and communities to prepare for and respond to these crises.

Sharing more examples of the complex interlinkages between climate change and conflict, she pointed to how migratory routes for livestock herding in West and Central Africa have altered.  While such cross-border herding used to be peaceful historically, growing competition for already scarce natural resources has led to tensions.  She also highlighted the FAO’s efforts to mitigate such conflicts, including in Yemen, where it has implemented a “water for peace” project that empowers women as conflict-resolution agents.  The international community must prioritize investments to build climate-resilient agri-food systems.  The Council must request United Nations entities to regularly analyze and report on risks and links associated with climate change.  The world cannot afford to leave behind farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolk and foresters, she stressed.

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