(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Madame Deputy Director General
Ladies and gentlemen,
For many of us, this is a special season. As the year comes to an end, people around the world prepare to celebrate Christmas and other festivities with their families and friends.
It is a time of joy and expectations. But also a time when the inequalities of our world become especially clear.
While some throw away edible food just to make room in the cupboard, others struggle to feed their families.
Some get sick from eating too much. Others from starving.
This is the food and health paradox of our time.
The world population is growing rapidly. Five years ago, the world welcomed its seven billionth citizen. By 2050, we are expected to be more than nine billion people.
First and foremost: This is good news! Thanks to improved health care and affordable vaccines, more people get to enjoy long and healthy lives. More mothers and fathers get to see their children grow up.
However, a growing population also places greater burdens on our ecosystems.
While the number of mouths to feed is growing, the number of planets that we have to our disposal stays the same.
We only have this one, where resources like land and clean water are limited, and where climate change is making the future very difficult to predict.
In the next 30 years, we are facing a 50 percent increase in demand for protein. Producing that much more meat will not be an option. We will have to look to other sources of protein.
The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses, such as dry beans, dry peas, and lentils. This kind of crop, with strong nutritional benefits, is a critical part of sustainable food production.
I would also like to underline the importance of sustainable seafood.
Fish is already the largest source of animal protein in the world. Half of it comes from aquaculture, the other half is ocean harvested.
But while the global population is growing, the growth rate of fish production is on decline.
Almost 60 percent of all stocks are already fully fished and 30 percent are even overfished. So the situation is urgent. All fish, whether farmed or wild-caught, must be produced in a sustainable way, the alternative is not “un-sustainable” fish, - it is in fact no fish at all.
In essence, life below water and life on land presents us with the same challenges and responsibilities: increasing productivity while strengthening sustainability. Because we have no other option!
I am honoured to have been appointed by the United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as an Advocate to promote the global sustainable development goals.
I am grateful for the opportunity to deepen my engagement in the challenges we face – like poverty, inequality and climate change.
One key insight is that the seventeen global goals are not a list of targets. But rather a network or a system. The only way to achieve one goal is by working on the others as well.
This high level meeting is an excellent example of that. To end hunger and poverty, we also need to work toward gender equality.
Women play an important role as smallholder farmers and fisherfolks. Their participation is key to rural and economic development. Still, women often have limited possibilities to own land or to invest in new technical solutions.
If female farmers were given access to the same resources as their male counterparts, food production could be increased by 20 to 30 percent. This would mean saving about 100 to 150 million people from living in hunger!
In building a sustainable future, rural women represent a resource that we simply cannot afford to overlook.
To conclude: We need to make the right decisions – and we need to make them now!
We all have a responsibility, so let’s take that responsibility to support those willing to take the leadership: in making the decisions needed for our Planet, our future, and for the coming generations!