2 months ago

Sheikh Hasina's 5-point proposal at UN summit resonates the voice of millions

Published :

Updated :

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently attended the UN Food Systems Summit+2 Stocktaking Moment (UNFSS+2) at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) headquarters in Rome, Italy. Notably, the summit was attended by over 20 heads of State and Government.

While addressing the official opening ceremony of the Summit, Sheikh Hasina raised five-point proposals to ensure a sustainable food system. The writer will try to examine the significance of Sheikh Hasina's proposals to ensure sustainable global food security.

The first proposal was: 'Financial incentives and policy support at the international level are needed to encourage multilateral development banks and private entrepreneurs to invest in modern agriculture.' 

Being a perilous field of investment due to climate change and weather-related uncertainties, market fluctuations, and the risk of long-term return, investors or entrepreneurs are often discouraged from spending on agriculture. In addition, the lack of financial incentives and international policy support can demotivate future enthusiasts of modern agriculture to spend in this field. 

It should be noted that focusing on modern agriculture can endorse social benefits such as creating more employment opportunities, encouraging small-scale farmers to continue farming and lowering gender inequalities in rural areas. 

Above all, granting incentives and international support to the multilateral development banks and private entrepreneurs will bring more funds into the arena of modern agriculture, which, in the long run, will contribute to mitigating global food insecurity issues. Thus the first proposal maintains paramount importance in mitigating world food insecurity.   

The second proposal was taking concerted actions required to remove any trade barrier, including lifting restrictions on food and fertiliser exports, to continue the effectiveness of the Black Sea Grain Deal initiated by the UN secretary-general. 

First of all, it should be mentioned that amid a lack of trust among partners, the Black Sea Grain Deal facilitated the export of 33 grains in July, of which 61 per cent was transported to low and middle-income countries, according to a news report in The Guardian

The report also includes that the World Food Programme bought 75000 tons of Ukrainian grain and immediately shipped it to Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan, thereby decreasing the price from $1360 to $800 per ton. However, the deal was disregarded by Russia as the Defense Ministry declared any ship departing a Ukrainian port would be a legitimate military target. Russia justified their action by saying that the Russian food and fertiliser sanction was not lifted enough. 

Thus a concerted action to lift barriers and restrictions is necessary to continue the effectiveness of the Black Sea Grain Deal, which has been proven beneficial for low and middle-income countries amid the global food crisis. In the words of Hasina, "If we can collectively adopt and implement the necessary action plans, we'll be able to achieve sustainable global food security".

In her third proposal, Sheikh Hasina emphasised that the international community should come forward to establish global and regional 'food banks' to deal with emergencies and also help developing countries transform the food production systems in the situation given by climate change. 

The PM indicated a crucial factor in confronting the emergency food crisis. In times of immediate need, 'Food Banks' could be used to provide food and minimal nutrition needs to the vulnerable and the poorest. 

For instance, due to the Ukrainian and Rohingya crises, millions of people are forced to take refuge in neighbouring countries, where they are compelled to live destitute. A global or regional food bank, if there were any, could provide them with necessary food relief, and they did not await donors to fund their food crisis. On the other hand, many people face short-term food crises due to a lack of sufficient food production due to climate change. In that case, a regional emergency food bank can negotiate their necessities. Therefore, the international community should come forward by allocating funds to create an emergency food bank.

Sheikh Hasina also pointed out that nanotechnology, bioinformatics, and advanced agricultural technologies developed keeping pace with the 4th industrial revolution in agricultural education and research should be made available to all. 

It has already been recognised that immersion in nanotechnology and bioinformatics in agriculture can revolutionise the agricultural sector by making it more reliable, sustainable, environment-friendly, efficient, and resilient to global climate challenges. 

Using this cutting-edge technology can boost agricultural production significantly, and, at the same time, it can be taken as a tool to confront the global food crisis amid the potential menace of climate change. However, the technology should be made available to all countries; otherwise, its benefits will be unutilised. 

It should be noted that the portion of the world with the most population is also the most impoverished while lacking the proper technology, education and research. Thus, the statement of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina holds profound importance in this regard.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also emphasised developing a massive social movement involving young people to prevent the waste of about one-third of the food produced worldwide yearly. While it feels astounding to hear that roughly a third of the world's food is wasted every year, people involve themselves in squandering 1.3 billion tons of food annually. 

The reasons for this are many. Food is wasted in many processes, such as in the field, post-harvest handling, distribution and consumption. In addition, a huge amount of food is lost simply because of our extravagant nature. People buy more food to satiate their minds, not their stomachs and throw away the remaining food. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a massive social movement to suppress this kind of food waste. We need to involve the young generation in this movement so that they can understand the importance of food while thinking critically about the global food crisis.

After analysing these five proposals, one can argue that Sheikh Hasina has been the voice of millions of people from the global South.

Dr Md. Shariful Islam is an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Rajshahi. He is also an adjunct Research Fellow at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs, Dhaka. E-mail: [email protected]

Share this news