World Food Forum 2021 kicks off in Rome
By Han Shuo
People's Daily app

Rome (People’s Daily) - The first World Food Forum kicked off online on Friday in the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in Rome, calling for a joint response to the food problems facing the world.

Photo provided to People's Daily

The forum brings together youth from a broad range of backgrounds and expertise with the aim of spurring action to help transform agri-food systems and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 2 ("No hunger").

The live-streamed opening ceremony in Rome saw opening remarks delivered by the president of Costa Rica Carlos Alvarado Quesada.

"More than half of the world's population is young people aged less than 30 years. The present and the future belongs to them," said the president, who, at the age of 41, is one of the youngest heads of state. "To inherit a planet that survives, we need your commitment. You know where changes that can no longer be postponed need to be made."

The African Union Commissioner for Education, Science, Technology and Innovation Sarah Anyang Agbor expressed appreciation for the forum's ambition to serve as "a premier platform to harness the passion and innovation of young people and identify solutions to create a better food future for all."

The virtual gathering is the first follow-up to the United Nations Food Systems Summit, which was held in New York just over a week ago.

The summit, which ended with the slogan "From New York back to Rome," tasked the FAO and other Rome-based UN agencies to ensure urgent efforts to make the world's agri-food systems more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.

The five-day flagship event will end with a Youth Action Assembly tasked with coming up with practical advice to governments and key stakeholders.

"We are here to find solutions and ways to build back better for the future. We cannot go forward with the old thinking patterns and behaviors. We must innovate outside of the box," FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said.

A better food future

The forum was conceived by the Youth Committee of the FAO. Working with youth networks at the other Rome-based UN food agencies, the forum is aligned with the core principles of the Food Systems Summit.

It aims to listen to young voices and empower younger generations to help forge a future of better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life for all.

Today there are 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 - the highest number in history.

The forum is based on the realization that while the younger generations have the most at stake, they also offer the kind of creativity, inventiveness and resilience needed to overcome the challenges.

"Never before has there been such a singular opportunity for leveraging the passion and energy of youth for a better food future. And the World Food Forum is harnessing that energy," Qu said.

The forum isn't just using innovative ways to discover and scale up young people's most promising ideas, it is also providing young talents with tools and resources.

The Transformative Research Challenge, for example, has made mentors available to young researchers to help them translate their ideas into top-notch research papers, grant proposals and policy suggestions.

The Startup Innovation Awards has been connecting entrepreneurs with leaders in the investment, technology and policy communities.

Masterclasses have offered lessons such as The Success Mindset, Food Systems and Nutrition Education, and Blockchain 101.

Friday's opening ceremony ended with FAO and the Government of Switzerland announcing the winners of the second edition of the International Innovation Award for Sustainable Food Systems. More than 400 nominations from 83 countries were submitted.