Read the Youth Co-Host of the Food Systems Pavilion statement, where they urge to ensure a truly sustainable present and future with biodiversity and human rights at its core.

 

As we navigate the challenges faced by our world today, from climate crisis to food insecurity, our call for transformative change within agriculture and food systems becomes increasingly urgent. At the forefront of this crucial conversation are youth voices, like ours, seeking to address critical issues and drive systemic change.

Reflecting on the halfway mark of the 2030 Agenda and the lagging progress towards the Paris Agreement’s goals, we cannot overlook the need for integration and consideration of vulnerable populations, especially us, the youth. The escalation of global challenges, including the risks and uncertainties like COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts, and climate disasters, has exacerbated inequalities, leaving a dire impact on our access to food and livelihoods, affecting billions worldwide, and hitting the vulnerable population the most.

In response to these pressing concerns, YOUNGO Food and Agriculture working group (official children and youth constituency to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), submitted policy position paper highlighting essential themes for the Sharm El-Sheikh Joint Work on implementation of climate action on agriculture and food security (SSJW). This submission emphasised the necessity for cross-cutting views, prioritising food sovereignty, agroecology, education, and the inclusion of vulnerable populations in decision-making processes.

The urgency for action is evident. The SSJW was urged by the YOUNGO to develop a comprehensive action plan with defined goals and objectives. Proposals for four pivotal workshop topics were put forward – agroecology, food systems and sovereignty, people in vulnerable situations, and food, agriculture, and environment in the school curriculum—are aimed at bolstering implementation efforts and inclusivity.

As the SSJW gears up for further discussions, we raise additional demands as the Youth Co-Host of the Food Systems Pavilion, emphasising the critical need to consider of a biodiversity approach, adequate funding for youth projects, the necessity of sustainable food systems, ensuring rights to land, water, and food during conflicts, and promoting gender equality while preserving Indigenous knowledge.

As the Youth Co-host of the Food Systems Pavillion, our collective mission is to revolutionise global food systems through innovative strategies and holistic approaches. So we urge the following points to be taken into consideration:

 

1 – We call for the adoption of agroecology as a way to promote and restore biodiversity

Our demand for a holistic food system stems from the understanding that nature resides within us, and that the production of food is a social and ecological issue. We need to amplify youth voices and prioritise agroecology to champion biodiversity restoration and to address the food systems transformation in a holistic and systemic way.

Governments and organisations should heed the call of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) and combat the critical loss of biodiversity. We cannot afford to work in silos. The negotiators negotiating agriculture issues should prioritise agroecology as one of the promising solutions for food systems transformation in the midst of climate crisis.

 

2 – We demand high quality and high quantity funds targeted towards youth-led solutions in food systems

With 1.8 billion young people aged 10 to 24, the current generation of youth is the largest in history. We often speak about the potential of youth-led projects and leadership of youths in grassroot levels which is enabling solutions for climate change adaptation and mitigation. But often the projects and organisations led by youth are underfunded, unsupported or running with very minimal resources.

Supporting youth-led projects and small-scale farmers in the Global South, particularly in the context of food and agriculture, is crucial for sustainable development and addressing the challenges of our time. These young leaders bring fresh perspectives, innovative solutions, and a deep connection to their communities. Proper funding, infrastructures and support should be provided based on the specific circumstances.

 
3 – We urge the adoption of a sustainable food systems perspective

Our commitment to transformative actions in agri-food systems aims to combat the far-reaching effects of climate change on food security. As youth in the climate and food space, we advocate for addressing the issue surrounding our food systems through a food systems perspective, promotion of inclusive practices, marine biodiversity conservation, and equitable access to nutritionally balanced diets.

It’s urgent to join hands to promote responsible production, distribution and consumption and disposal. The SSJW should start negotiating on different issues around agriculture and food systems through a food systems lens and should consider re-wording the program itself.

4 – We need to safeguard children and youths rights to land, water and food during times of conflict and non-conflict

We urge parties and the civil society to prioritise youth and children’s access to basic resources like land, water and food to create a foundation for a more equitable and just society, where the potential of every young mind is nurtured, and their well-being is upheld, promoting a future of peace, stability, and prosperity.

Moreover, parties and governments should never use hunger as a source of power in the context of wars and conflicts to target vulnerable communities. It is our collective responsibility to advocate for and safeguard these essential rights, fostering an environment where every child can grow and thrive.

5 – We demand for people in vulnerable situations to be at the heart of the food systems transformation

In order to transform food systems, we need to prioritise the perspectives and roles of women, youth, Indigenous Peoples, and small-scale food producers as right holders in our food systems.  Ancient wisdom preserved by indigenous people is crucial. They connect with nature properly, understand its cycles, respect its rhythm, and are the forest guardians. We need to embrace indigenous wisdom and promote gender equality to ensure an inclusive future in which no one is left behind.

6 – We call for transformative and holistic education in the school curriculum and beyond

We need to equip this generation and the one coming after us with the necessary knowledge and tools to be able to take up challenges and contribute to the systemic transformation of the agrifood systems. Moreover, we recognise the need for transformative education that goes beyond the school curriculum to non-formal and informal education, nurturing a reconnection with nature and food systems and ensuring that everyone, regardless of age, has access to learn and deepen their knowledge on critical issues.

After all, our youth-led advocacy calls for a shift towards sustainable practices, amplification of our voices, and bridging systemic disparities within the global food landscape. By championing holistic approaches, nurturing inclusivity, and prioritising sustainability, our voices seek to drive actionable change towards a more resilient and equitable future. With resounding clarity, we echo the imperative for immediate and concerted global action to safeguard our planet’s resources and secure a bountiful future for generations to come.

Written by:
Aya Mounir – YOUNGO Food&Agriculture WG x IAAS, Cândida Schaedler – EmpoderaClima, Candy Darkwa – Green Africa Youth Organization, Esha Mitra – IFSA, Neville N. Suh – ASDEV, Pramisha Thapaliya – World Food Forum

Edited by:
Aya Mounir – YOUNGO Food&Agriculture WG x IAAS, Cândida Schaedler – EmpoderaClima, Glindys Virginia Luciano – YPARD, Sophie Healy-Thow – Act4Food

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