The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation on Thursday unveiled a global alliance to boost efforts to beat hunger and ensure sustainable agri-food systems amid the COVID-19 pandemic - an initiative that was proposed by Italy.
The alliance - called the Food Coalition - aims to prevent the international health emergency triggered by the novel Coronavirus from triggering a catastrophic world food crisis, FAO said in a statement.
COVID-19 could add up to 132 million more people to the world's malnourished this year, on top of the 690 million hungry people in 2019, FAO warned, highlighting the challenge that the pandemic poses to eradicating hunger by 2030.
"No leader should allow a world overflowing with food to let people be hungry," said Italy's prime minister Giuseppe Conte, opening the Food Coalition's launch in Rome with FAO chief Qu Dongyu and Netherlands deputy premier Carola Schouten.
"Faced with the pandemic we need to redouble our efforts and strengthen our traditional commitment to helping the most vulnerable," Conte continued.
Italy will promote the Food Coalition and its aims during its G20 presidency next year, Conte said.
Over 30 countries having already expressed interest in joining the voluntary alliance. A 'network of networks', the Food Coalition will support efforts to overcome the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and help countries get back on track to achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, especially those of ending hunger and poverty, according to the FAO statement.
"We must increase the exchange of knowledge and leverage global momentum to promote food security and nutrition," Qu said,
Qu hailed the Food Coalition as a lever to attract and harness innovative thinking and solutions.
"The aim is to build a global alliance with a network of national governments, international organizations, thought leaders, civil society and the private sector working together for a unified global action," Qu added.
"We drink water from the same river and we enjoy the sunshine under only one sky," he said.
The Food Coalition is an opportunity to show solidarity and make innovative solutions accessible and affordable to all, said Schouten.
The Dutch government applauds Italy for the initiative and has supported it from inception, she said.
"Knowledge is one of the few things that multiplies when you share it," Schouten stated.
Tawakkol Karman, winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize also spoke at the event, along with Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Prize. Both are members of FAO's Nobel Peace Laureates Alliance for Food Security and Peace.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made FAO the leading organization of efforts to end hunger, much as it was established to do after the scourge of world war, said Karman.
"Humanity today has sufficient capacity to put an end to this humanitarian crisis," Karman went on.
"Rural economies must be rebuilt as independent economies," Yunus underlined.
Government ministers from, Costa Rica, Israel, Italy and Nigeria participated in panel discussions held during the Food Coalition's launch, as well as ambassadors from China, the Russian Federation and the United States.