The 2023 World Food Forum (WFF) kicked off today with a dynamic opening ceremony at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome. The flagship event, a vibrant global platform that unites individuals from all walks of life and sectors, is dedicated to reshaping the future of agrifood systems.
“We are all here to accelerate, amplify and scale up the transformations the world needs right now,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, underscoring that by creating efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable agrifood systems it is possible to accelerate progress to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
With the overarching theme of “Agrifood systems transformation accelerates climate action’’, the Forum will see over the week a diverse array of experts, dedicated changemakers, and visionary leaders from various sectors, and intergenerational. The WFF aims to address the pressing issues surrounding agrifood systems and forge new paths towards a more sustainable, resilient, inclusive, and hunger-free future.
“Transforming agrifood systems must be a central part of the global climate solution,’’ Qu highlighted.
The WFF’s flagship event comprises the WFF Global Youth Forum, the FAO Science and Innovation Forum and the FAO Hand-in-Hand Investment Forum, supporting the need for an intergenerational dialogue among leaders and agrifood systems’ partners.
A spotlight on collective action
Today’s opening ceremony was an important display of unity, emphasizing the global commitment to addressing the challenges related to agrifood systems and the climate crises. It featured inspiring speeches from influential leaders and youth activists who stressed the urgency of the situation and the need for collective action.
The high-level guests expressed their support for the three pillars of the World Food Forum and reaffirmed their countries’ commitments to agrifood systems transformation.
Edmondo Cirielli, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, FAO’s host country, highlighted that food security is a significant global challenge, and transformative, innovative solutions are needed to address it. He recognized the importance of involving youth, the private sector, and science and technology in transforming agrifood systems sustainably and said that they were priorities for Italy and that the government aims to promote them as a key topic during its G7 presidency.
King Letsie III of Lesotho said that his nation was a landlocked country with agricultural struggles that currently faces many challenges and emphasized the need for the transformation of national agrifood systems, particularly to improve smallholder farmer productivity and reduce food insecurity. He expressed hope that FAO initiatives like the Hand-in-Hand could facilitate policy dialogue and attract private investment.
Prince Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan underscored the importance of addressing multi-dimensional poverty and child hunger and suggested that it was time to develop “virtuous intelligence” to tackle these pressing global challenges. He also highlighted the potential of Jordan to serve as a regional hub for food security and knowledge-sharing, calling for more localized and region-specific solutions, and with a focus on preserving human dignity in addressing these issues.
Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, called for a fundamental shift in thinking, moving beyond simply adjusting the existing models to new, more sustainable and ecologically sound practices in agriculture, such as agroecology. The President also stressed the importance of addressing the structural causes of food insecurity, focusing on where and how food is produced, and the role of diverse agricultural developments, particularly in food-insecure regions.
Faustin-Archange Touadéra, President of the Central African Republic, underlined the challenges posed by conflicts, climate shocks, geopolitical tensions, and rapid population growth in agricultural development. He called for international solidarity to enhance the seed system, mechanization, food storage, value chains, and human resource development.
Abdul Latif Rashid, President of Iraq, highlighted the historical importance of water and agriculture, underscoring the significance of resolving water-related issues. He urged collective action to enhance water management, information sharing, and global cooperation to achieve water security and mitigate water-related crises, emphasizing the link between water security and food security.
Kassim Majaliwa, Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania, spoke about the nation’s agricultural achievements, including over two decades of more than 100 percent self-sufficiency in food production. He underscored Tanzania’s commitment to enhancing relations with FAO and other partners to ensure food security, economic development, and environmental sustainability.
Lyonchhen Dr. Lotay Tshering, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan, highlighted the nation’s agricultural reforms and efforts, including a fruit tree planting project under royal command to enhance nutrition and incomes. He also called for global collaboration to ensure food security and emphasized the need for resilience against climate change and sustainable farming practices, underlining the importance of initiatives like the FAO Hand-in-Hand to eradicate hunger and poverty.
Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships, emphasized the role of young people in leading toward a fairer, greener, and more sustainable future. She addressed the urgency of fixing broken global food systems to combat food insecurity and hunger, while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.
The event also featured musical and dance performances by young artists from Liberia, Malaysia, Perú, and Zimbabwe.
The three pillars
The 2023 World Food Forum, a testament to the power of intergenerational collaboration and creativity, will have events under its three interlinked pillars:
• WFF Global Youth Forum: The youth forum will focus on the active participation of the younger generation, recognizing their critical role in shaping the future. It aims to empower and engage young individuals in the mission to transform agrifood systems and combat climate change. This year the Youth Forum will also include in parallel the United Nations Global Indigenous Youth Forum (UNGIYF), which is celebrated biannually.
• FAO Science and Innovation Forum: Experts worldwide will come together to share the latest research and innovative solutions to the challenges facing agrifood systems. New technologies to tackle and adapt to climate change will take centre stage.
• FAO Hand-in-Hand Investment Forum: This forum is dedicated to discussions on investment strategies and financing mechanisms for projects and initiatives that promote sustainable and resilient agrifood systems. It aims to ensure that adequate resources are allocated to achieve the goals set during the event.
Over the week, participants will engage in meaningful dialogues, workshops, and discussions across various domains, including policy, science, innovation, education, culture, and investment. These exchanges aim to catalyze action, create a lasting impact, and accelerate progress at local, regional, and global levels.
Creative and informative exhibits
After the ceremony, the FAO Director-General also inaugurated the World Food Forum exhibits at FAO headquarters. An array of specialized booths dedicated to youth, culture, investment and science and innovation, will show creative and informative displays over the week.
Among others, there will be a booth to experience first-hand how nuclear techniques and biotechnologies are used in food and agriculture; an exhibit for a Carbon and Water Footprint Tool; an interactive world map showcasing the reach and importance of the Hand-in-Hand projects; a visual display of biodiversity seeds and crops; an Indigenous People’s food and Knowledge demonstration; a coffee-powered bike to show how much energy it takes to make breakfast; a virtual reality station to learn about pollination and biodiversity and soft skills training; interactive quizzes and video displays; and a simulation game for anticipatory climate governance and climate-resilient agrifood.
The exhibit area will also see different events and the launch of innovative initiatives to transform agrifood systems.