Madrid – I thank the Governments of Spain and Colombia for hosting this High-Level Consultation. I understand you have had a fruitful gathering, and I welcome this opportunity to join you for the closing and to share a few thoughts with you.
I attach the greatest importance to the issues of hunger, nutrition and food security.
When I was born, four out of five Koreans lived in rural areas, but very few of them actually owned the land they farmed. Most were very poor, and many experienced hunger. The war years, of course, were especially dire. The United Nations helped come to the rescue, not just militarily but with sacks of grain and other forms of sustenance.
When small farmers finally gained access to land and inputs, they were able to move beyond subsistence and contribute to the country’s progress. Today, the Republic of Korea is ranked 12th on the Human Development Index.
There is a message for the world in Korea’s achievement: Hunger and malnutrition can be eliminated. With the right policies and investments, we can make dramatic progress in one generation – not in some distant future but in our own lifetimes.
Many of the world’s emerging economies, such as Brazil, China and India, understand that achieving food security can unlock the potential for exponential growth. They know that agricultural and rural development reduce hunger and poverty, so they are putting it at the top of their political agendas. I applaud this emphasis on human capital.
But eliminating hunger is not easy. And much more needs to be done. Tomorrow marks 1,000 days until the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Right after this session I will be launching a call to action to accelerate our work. We must keep the millennium promise that world leaders made to the human family’s poorest and most vulnerable members.
Spectacular economic growth in some countries has enabled us to cut extreme poverty in half. But the tide of prosperity has not lifted all boats. To succeed before the end of 2015, we need a concerted effort focused on support for smallholders and better nutrition for women and children.
Beyond 2015, we will need to transform virtually every aspect of food production and consumption. Farmers, fisher folk, pastoralists, indigenous groups and young people all need to be empowered, and granted equal access to assets and resources.
Everyone – especially pregnant women and young children – needs access to nutritious food, through well-functioning markets or social protection services. We need to address all forms of malnutrition, including nutrient deficiencies and obesity. Food safety is paramount.
Food systems must be sustainable and resilient in the face of climatic and economic shocks. We cannot afford to waste water, soil or food and we cannot allow our food systems to damage the very ecosystems they depend on.
Some progress has been made since the food price crisis of 2007 and 2008. The Zero Hunger Challenge that I launched last year is being taken forward by more than a dozen countries.
I thank you very much for your careful deliberations in this high-level consultation today. This event is an important part of the global discussions aimed at defining a post-2015 development agenda.
My high-level panel has now had its final public meeting, and has heard from a wonderful spectrum of voices and stakeholders. The panel will submit its report to me in May. I will then draw on that work and my own efforts to take the world’s pulse at this time, and present my broad vision to the Member States in September.
Our shared goal is a coherent, ambitious agenda that is every bit as inspiring — and successful — as the MDGs have been.
Thank you for your commitment to building the world we want: a future free from want, hunger and malnutrition.