G20 countries tackle post-COVID-19 water, food security issues

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - UAE Minister of State for Food and Water Security Mariam Almheiri who served as a guest speaker for the meeting, said that “by 2050, the world’s food production and supply networks will need to sustainably feed more than 9 billion people, meaning they will have to produce food to meet demand that will be 60% greater than it is today.”

An employee stands next to a waste water collection pool at the Saline Water Conversion Corporation’s Ras Al-Khair Power and Desalination Plant at Ras Al-Khair, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS)

LONDON –  The world’s top 20 economic nations are holding virtual ministerial meetings to address pressing global issues such as poverty, health and energy amid the coronavirus pandemic ahead of its annual summit next month.

With many developing nations’ economies hard hit by COVID-19, G20 member states announced Wednesday they would suspend some $14 billion in debt of vulnerable nations after a meeting of the groups’ finance ministers and central bank governors. The decision, they said, will allow countries to allocate funds to urgent health needs and emergency stimulus programmes as they battle the virus this year.

The month before, representatives of G20 states focused on how to address the connected issues of water and food security in the aftermath of the global pandemic. Meeting September 12, the group’s agriculture ministers covered a range of issues involving food loss and waste, the role of technology in ending global hunger, responsible investment in agriculture and the ever-growing importance of free trade, all of which are crucial to ensuring overall economic stability and citizens’ well-being.

High on the meeting’s agenda were how to ensure water and food security, which carry profound implications for the welfare of all global communities, how to cope with emerging health and environmental challenges, such as biodiversity loss, disease and natural disasters and how to cope with an ever expanding global population that is increasingly interconnected and urbanised.

UAE Minister of State for Food and Water Security Mariam Almheiri served as a guest speaker for the meeting. She said that “by 2050, the world’s food production and supply networks will need to sustainably feed more than 9 billion people, meaning they will have to produce food to meet demand that will be 60% greater than it is today.”

“Ensuring adequate nutrition, water and sanitation for this growing number of people during a time of climate change, drought, and increasing desertification is in itself a momentous challenge, but it is one that has been further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.” she continued.

During the G20 meeting, the agriculture ministers reiterated their respective governments’ determination to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and emphasised that ensuring free movement and trade are critical to meeting the world’s water and food security needs.

They also reaffirmed commitments made in an April 21 ministerial statement to closely cooperate and take action to protect global nutrition and food security.

Almheiri added: “During the G20 virtual meeting we – as participating ministers – reaffirmed our governments respective commitment to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and reiterated our collective efforts to foster agriculture, food and water systems that are resilient, inclusive and sustainable.”

“Open, transparent and predictable trade that is consistent with World Trade Organisation rules, enhances market predictability, increased business confidence, and allows the free flow of agri-food trade. It is this unencumbered flow of produce that is the foundation of global food security,” she said.

The ministers specifically addressed the human toll of the COVID-19 crisis and its far-reaching nutrition and food security impacts.G20 countries

Plans to combat the crisis included recalibrating recovery and emergency measures, enhancing hygiene, water and sanitation services, working to make global food systems more sustainable and resilient and partnering with local and international organisations to effectively monitor and report on the pandemic’s impacts.

They also spoke of the importance of a “One Health” approach, defined by the One Health Initiative task force as “the collaborative efforts of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally, to attain optimal health for people, animals and our environment.”

The virtual G20 meeting concluded with participants acknowledging the need to strengthen cooperation between all stakeholders and intensify efforts to achieve more resilient water management and food security.

The G20 summit is planned virtually for November 21-22 this year.

Omar El-Huni is a contributor to The Arab Weekly on environmental issues. He is a graduate of the University of Reading on environmental matters. 

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