Global Food Security Forum day two: How Canada is taking on world hunger

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ANNOUNCER: Please welcome to the stage founder of the Srivastava Family Foundation Sharon Srivastava.

SHARON SRIVASTAVA: Hi. Our world is riddled with inconsistency. Why do some go hungry and others have more than enough is something that I’ve thought about for as long as I can remember. Many circumstances beyond one’s control play a critical role: your postal code, your ability to get an education, your support system, your gender, your race, your economic status.

I’m Sharon Srivastava, and my husband, Gaurav, and I founded the Gaurav and Sharon Srivastava Family Foundation. It is because of my husband’s unwavering commitment and service that we’re here today. And we’re honored to have partnered with the Atlantic Council, Fred Kempe, the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Indonesia, and the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Investment of the Republic of Indonesia, my dear friend Anie and her husband, Pak Hashim, on this most important forum about the state of global food security. Thank you for attending and for being part of the conversation with us.

As an American, I live in part of the world which thrives on abundance. We pride ourselves on equality and on philanthropy. But sadly, we do still have millions who go hungry every single day.

In Los Angeles, where I live with my husband and our children, we have astronomical rates of hunger. Neighborhoods have become food swamps with people unable to find accessible, affordable, and nutritious food choices. And we’re talking about one of the wealthiest cities in the wealthiest country in the world.

Nearly 30 million American children rely on their school lunch as their sole nutrient-rich meal of the day, and while great programs have been implemented to ensure that they get fed at school, one meal a day is not enough for a developing child.

When my children come home from school each day and make a dash to the fridge, I know it’s stocked with healthy options for them. But I know that for far too many mothers that’s not the case. So many mothers and fathers are forced to make the impossible choice every day of buying food or letting their kids go hungry so that they can afford other basic necessities—food or health care, food or transportation to work—and it shouldn’t be an either/or scenario.

Food insecurity is everywhere, and regardless of location, the impact on a child and a family can’t be overstated. I have seen children unable to attend school or to get an education that could help lift them and their families up out of poverty simply because they don’t have enough food to fuel their bodies and their brains. Far too many children and adults don’t know when their next meal will come.

Nearly a hundred years ago a covenant was created. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 established food as a basic human right. It was intended to ensure that our nations protect people from hunger, from starvation. And that’s nearly 80 years ago that our nations united to speak in one voice and say food is a human right.

Yet still these impossible choices between food or other necessities are being made by parents around the world each and every day. So what are we going to do about this?

Today we are called upon to have these difficult conversations, and I implore you, as you are doing through these panels and conversations, to reflect on what we have done to help achieve food security and on what we, as a collective, must do to move forward.

And with that, it’s my distinct pleasure to now introduce Christopher MacLennan, Canada’s deputy minister of International Development, and personal representative of the prime minister for the G20 summit to the stage to offer his insights as to how Canada has been stepping up as a global food security leader and where its food and humanitarian priorities lie ahead of the G20 summit and beyond. Thank you.

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CHRISTOPHER MACLENNAN: Thank you. Thank you very much, and thank you very much to the foundation, to the Atlantic Council for inviting—actually you didn’t invite me; you invited the prime minister. My deepest apologies. I am a very poor stand-in, but the prime minister will be arriving a little bit later as we all know, in advance of the G20, the leaders summit which begins in two days.

So, as all of you know, we are facing an unprecedented global food crisis. Global food prices are at historic highs, and hunger and malnutrition have been on the rise since at least 2015. It is estimated—and I’m sure you’ve heard lots of numbers today and you will hear many more—it is estimated that 828 million people were facing hunger in 2021. A heartbreaking 345 million people now live with acute food insecurity, and 50 million are on the brink of famine.

A number of factors have led to this increase in the rate of hunger; notably conflicts, climate change, and COVID-19. All these factors have been inducing more and more vulnerability into already strained food systems and are reducing the likelihood of achieving the sustainable development goal of reaching zero hunger by 2030.

Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated this crisis. The invasion has driven the cost of food, fuel, and fertilizer to record highs, which the United Nations Global Crisis Response Group is calling the largest cost-of-living crisis of the 21st century.

High food prices are affecting everyone in the world, but it’s the poorest and most vulnerable who are disproportionately affected as they spend most of their income already on food and other basic needs. This is especially true in Sub-Saharan Africa where the numbers of hungry and malnourished are growing faster than anywhere else. This food crisis is expected to worsen in the next year as agricultural productivity declines, driven largely by reduced fertilizer affordability alongside climate and conflict.

In these challenging times, we are also deeply concerned by Russia’s continued disinformation over the causes of global food insecurity and their use of energy, food, and fuel as weapons of war. It is unacceptable that Russia prevents food from reaching markets and then spreads disinformation that sanctions are to blame while, in fact, no sanctions address food, fertilizers, or foodstuffs.

As one of the breadbaskets of the world, Canada has a long history of being on the forefront of solutions to world hunger and is committed to doing its part to address the global food crisis. Today, in 2022, Canada has allocated a record amount of more than 615 million for humanitarian food and nutrition assistance. This funding is essential for saving lives and alleviating the suffering.

However, humanitarian assistance is not designed to address the root causes of hunger and malnutrition. This immediate support must be accompanied by critical investments to strengthen the resilience of global food systems in the longer term. This is why Canada provides support for agricultural development and food system transformation to developing countries, disbursing over 600 million in 2021.

Now in 2020, the Series 230 Initiative estimated that governments and donors would need to double their levels of investment in development assistance for agriculture and food systems, and spend an additional 33 billion US per year to achieve zero hunger by 2030.

As we step up to address the global food crisis, I would like to highlight a few priority areas for the government of Canada in our efforts globally. First, we need to ensure sufficient nutritious food is produced in a climate-smart way; sustainably increasing domestic production in countries where agricultural productivity has been underrealized; ensuring farmers, particularly women, have access to land, seeds, and essential inputs is fundamental to these efforts. Fertilizer—and we’ve heard a great deal about fertilizer already; I enjoyed the panel—is a vital input to many agricultural systems, and it’s at its least affordable levels since the 2008 food crisis. High prices can reduce use and undermine future harvests. We heard General Wesley Clark mention just the increases in Iowa alone on corn. Improving access to and sustainable use of fertilizers alongside sustainable soil health choices must be a priority.

Second, we need greater diversification and a better flow of goods along agrifood value chains. In the past, food systems and value chains have been designed primarily for economic efficiency. However, given all of the disruptions we are seeing—unforeseen, foreseen and increasing—they must be redesigned for resilience. This can mean diversifying import sources; diversifying the staple crops that are grown; having strong local, regional, and export-oriented value chains, or diversifying diets through expanding nutritious food options.

When shocks do arise—and they will—and we know there will be more shocks, implementing effective and coordinated responses to maintain the flow of goods is key. We’ve seen the importance of efforts like the Black Sea Grain Initiative to get grain moving out of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. We saw these efforts reduce global food prices for all, as well as to ensure humanitarian shipments get to the poorest and the most vulnerable.

Third, we must listen to and work with our partners in the Global South. We must prioritize country-led, locally-owned, and participatory approaches to ensure that actions are informed by local realities and needs, and contribute to strengthening local capacities. I was very happy to hear General Clark, as well, mention the importance of not undercutting local markets with food—with food exports. This includes working with women, indigenous peoples, and other marginalized groups in the decision-making processes on food.

Fourth, we should do more to help directly poor and marginalized farmers maintain their operations in the face of shocks through risk-sharing tools like credit and crop insurance.

Finally, as a fundamental priority across all of these actions, we underscore the need to take gender-transformative approaches if we are to build resilience in our food systems at all. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by food insecurity and malnutrition. In fact, 60 percent of the world’s malnutrition are—malnourished are women. At the same time, women are key players as both consumers and producers of food, making up nearly half of all the world’s smallholder farmers. Canada recognizes that women are powerful agents of change and can actively contribute to advanced, climate-smart agriculture and improve food security and nutrition. This is why our Feminist International Assistance Policy aims to recognize and address the barriers that limit women’s success in agriculture and food production.

As we help build more resilient food systems, we need to take a gender-transformative approach that disrupts the current ways of working and puts those most impacted in the driver’s seat. Only then can we hope to reach zero hunger by 2030.

On a final note, I would like to thank you again for the opportunity to speak today and to share how Canada is focusing our efforts in response to the crisis. I look forward to the continuing discussions that are taking place today. I think, quite honestly, a year ago food security was not on the G20 agenda, not at all. I was at last year’s G20 in Rome. It is a fantastic sign that groups like the Atlantic Council are pulling together—with the help of the foundation, pulling together conversations like this because these types of conversations are what underpin the policy and political discussions that need to take place to respond so critically and so quickly as we’ve needed in responding to the food crisis. So thank you very much.

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ANNOUNCER: Please welcome the Coordinating Minister of Maritime and Investment Affairs of Indonesia Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.

MINISTER LUHUT BINSAR PANDJAITAN: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Bali and welcome to Global Food Security Forum. I’m glad we can gather here in Bali to discuss how can—how we can solve food security problems and create a solution to achieve food security and resilience.

Amid the current worsening condition with the pandemic, the peak of global inflation, Ukraine-Russia conflict, it affect the significant increase of food and energy prices. Crude oil prices are expected to be above $120 a barrel in the remainder of 2022. Previously, only $42 a barrel in 2020 and $70.42 a barrel in 2021. On average, in July 2022, compared to January 2022, energy like coal prices increased by 91.26 percent, natural gas by 40.5 percent, and crude oil by 25 percent. On average, in July 2022 compared to January 2022 food prices, such as corn, increased by 1.5 percent, soybean by 14.75 percent, and wheat by 7.26 percent.

[There are] several challenges in the agriculture sectors. First, global warming make the climate even more unpredictable and cause crop failure. To mitigate future courses, Indonesia enhanced national determined contribution target, national policy in departments, climate change adaption policies, and transparency frameworks in the agriculture sector. This way, it leads Indonesia back toward net-zero emission by 2060 or sooner and is able to reduce greenhouse emission from a business-as-usual scenario by 31.89 percent unconditionally and 43.20 percent by 2030.

Second, insufficient of supply chains due to the highly fragmented industry with many intermediaries producing supply-demand mismatches. Also, infrastructure has not yet been established evenly throughout the remote areas. Processing facility is also far from the farming areas.

Third, the low interest of younger generation farmers due to the cost of farming in Indonesia and the low yield. The fertilizer price is high due to an interrupted supply chain. Farming technologies and machinery are expensive compare, so Indonesia farmers still do the operation manually.

To this matter, the government of Indonesia is formulating a presidential resolution for national food security… top priority commodities such as rice, corn, soybean, shallot, tea leaf, garlic, and sugarcane. The government of Indonesia also continuously improving several key factors. First, increase the land area for these commodities. Pursuing cultivation research and development in superior seed. Forming innovation in technology and food processing. Improving the supply chain through an integrated Food Estate program and necessary infrastructure so we can cut costs and deliver a better product. Boosting the interest in farming in the younger generation and continuously enhancing formal and informal training.

In addition, we have established a Food Estate program where there will be an integrated ecosystem and a good collaboration between the government, farmer, investors… The government will provide essential infrastructure surfaces, machinery, mechanization equipment, permit, and farmer partnership with investors…. Investor will provide the working capital for the farmers based on the agreed-upon cost analysis between farmers and investors. And there will be a profit-sharing scheme between investor and farmers.

As a pilot project, we have established Food Estate in Humbang Hasundutan, North Sumatra, where approximately 12,000 hectare cultivate horticultural plants starting from potato, shallot, and garlic. We also integrate the project with science and technology park for herbal and horticulture. There will be genomic sequencing research… produce superior seed cultivation and understand herbal and horticulture profiles in Indonesia. This project is an integrated hub with the collaboration between private and international experts and companies, local and government universities, and local farmers. We hope this project can also contribute to economic development to ensure economic equality in the surrounding area as it provides a new employment opportunity and a vocation for local people. Next, we will build Food Estate in Central Sulawesi and Central Kalimantan focusing on crops such as corn, sugarcane, cocoa, and cassava.

Ladies and gentlemen, we can indeed participate in securing global food security. Start from you contributing to your community. It contributes to your country and the world. I’m sure that today all Global Food Security Forum participants will have a fruitful and productive event.

I would also like to thank to the Atlantic Council and Ministry of Defense for co-hosting this event, and I hope through this forum we can create a solution to achieve Sustainable Development Goal to end hunger, achieve food security, and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. Thank you and enjoy Bali.

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