Africa: Engaging Youth to Secure the Sustainable Future of Food

Rome — FAO and the World Food Forum provide a platform for youth participation and leadership in the transformation of agri-food systems

“The future of food belongs to the young people of today,” said QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), at a side event of the 2021 UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), highlighting the importance of active youth engagement for a more sustainable food future for all.

The HLPF side event on youth and agri-food systems transformation, which was held today, provided young people with the opportunity to propose and showcase their ideas and ongoing actions for making agri-food systems more sustainable and building back from COVID-19 in a dialogue with governments, youth groups and other stakeholders.

The event was organized with the World Food Forum (WFF), a youth-led movement and network of partners launched by the Youth Committee of FAO. The WFF aims to spark a youth movement to transform global agri-food systems and achieve the SDGs, especially SDG 2 (zero hunger) and others under review in the HLPF 2021, such as SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities) and SDG 13 (climate action).

“The complexity of our agri-food systems requires a coordinated, multi-sectoral and inter-generational approach,” the FAO Director-General noted in a video message recorded for the event. “We need to create an open and meaningful space for youth engagement, participation and leadership,” he said, adding that “today’s side event is an important milestone on this path.”

High-level participants

Other speakers at the event included Fabiana Dadone, Italy’s Minister for Youth Policies, who encouraged the building of dialogues with young people based on trust and the recognition of the value of their contributions, and Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, who highlighted the need to turn good strategy into action and put young people at the heart of it. For her part, Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, said young people and the solutions they bring matter more than ever in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, adding that it is time to invest in young people and place them in the centre of global systems.

A panel session brought together young people from across the world to discuss agri-food systems transformation. Alberta Pelino, Chair of Y20 and President of the Young Ambassadors Society (Italy), explained why the topic is important for young people like her: “We believe that young people can and must make an important contribution, as protagonists of the future we are building today. Their voices can represent a breaking point with the past for a more sustainable future.”