UN Agencies Vow to Tackle Migration Challenge through Improved Food Security and Rural Development

UN Agencies Vow to Tackle Migration Challenge through Improved Food Security and Rural Development

The UN Migration Agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the Permanent Missions of Mexico, Italy and the Philippines marked World Food Day at an event themed Change the Future of Migration: Invest in Food Security and Rural Development. Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

New York – IOM, the UN Migration Agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the Permanent Missions of Mexico, Italy and the Philippines, this year marked World Food Day at an event themed Change the Future of Migration: Invest in Food Security and Rural Development.

The Director of the FAO Liaison Office to the United Nations, Carla Mucavi, emphasized the need to create opportunities for rural people in their home communities.

“By responding to the root causes such as poverty, lack of jobs, food insecurity, natural resources degradation, and political instability and conflict, we can create conditions for people to choose. And migration should always be a choice and not a last resort,” said Mucavi.

Ashraf El Nour, Director of the IOM Office to the United Nations, noted the importance of bringing a migration perspective into the discussion on food security and rural development. “It is extremely important to recognize the positive elements of migration. Migration is a human reality of great relevance, as acknowledged in the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development,” noted El Nour.

This year, World Food Day took place in the midst of general alarm at the rise in global hunger. In 2016, an estimated 815 million people or 11 per cent of the global population was chronically undernourished, 38 million more than 2015. The increase is largely due to conflict, often exacerbated by climate-related shocks, which are also major drivers of migration. 

Speaking at the event, the President of the 72nd General Assembly, Miroslav Lajčák, highlighted that rural underdevelopment and food insecurity force people to urban areas and, sometimes, across borders.

“Migration from rural agricultural communities, especially by young people, may also threaten the sustainability of food production,” Lajčák said. “Our efforts to create decent jobs, especially for youth, would be bolstered by investing in agriculture as an employment generation industry.”

Lajčák added that regular migration presents opportunities for both communities of origin and destination.

African Union Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Victor Harrison, recalled the complex root causes of migration and food insecurity while also noting the potential of migration to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which aims to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and modernize agriculture for increased productivity in Africa.

The Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations Amina J. Mohammed urged all governments and partners to take collective action for zero hunger and safe orderly and regular migration.

“No one should feel compelled to leave their home for lack of food or opportunity. […] Let us commit to act together to achieve these goals by 2030 so the people can feel secure in their own homes and homelands and look forward to life peace and prosperity, dignity and opportunity on a really healthy planet,” Mohammed said in a World Food Day video message.

The Permanent Representative of Mexico to the UN and co-facilitator of the process on the Global Compact on Migration, Ambassador Juan Jose Gomez Camacho, pointed out that agriculture absorbs 22 per cent of the losses and damages caused by natural disasters. He added that thematic sessions being held in the context of the preparatory process of the Global Compact on Migration, hunger was recognized as one of the key factors driving people from their homes. He called on a 360 degree approach to tackle migration, so as to make migration a choice and harness the contribution of migrants to development, addressing needs of migrants and countries of origin, transit and destination.

The Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the UN, Ambassador Teodoro Locsin, recalled that the Philippines was a well-known migrant country but noted that movement from rural to urban areas within the country was higher than that of international migration. He expressed concern with impacts on food security, in particular regarding higher vulnerability to international food prices.

“The government continues efforts towards poverty alleviation, job creation, nurturing entrepreneurship and attracting investments to produce higher-paying, more skilled jobs so that Filipinos will no longer feel the need to leave the country,” he explained.

The Deputy Permanent Representative of Italy to the UN, Ambassador Inigo Lambertini, urged that we could not be indifferent to distress migration.

“We cannot afford to watch people migrate because of food insecurity, two years into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” he said. Lambertini added that, for Italy, changing the future of migration means strengthening cooperation with Africa, forging new partnerships to manage migration, protecting the rights of the vulnerable, and creating more prosperous societies in all countries.

Lee Sorensen, an expert in linkages between diaspora investments and agriculture, highlighted the potential of remittances to promote rural development in countries of origin. He pointed out that 5 per cent of migrant diaspora remittances go to agriculture, a total of approximately USD 21 billion, or four times the global Official Development Assistance (ODA). He also suggested that Member States could consider developing Formal Investment Mechanisms that facilitate diaspora and migrant investment in agriculture and supporting programmes that encourage migrants to share knowledge acquired in host countries.

Celebrated annually on 16 October to commemorate the establishment of FAO and to promote the importance of food security, World Food Day was marked this year as global hunger rises for the first time in over a decade, affecting 815 million people or 11 per cent of the global population. The increase is largely due to the proliferation of violent conflicts and climate-related shocks which are also major drivers of distress migration.

In 2018, FAO and IOM will co-chair the Global Migration Group (GMG), which brings together heads of international organizations to promote the wider application of all relevant international and regional instruments and norms relating to migration, as well as to encourage the adoption of more coherent, comprehensive and better coordinated approaches to international migration.

For more information, please contact Abdirahman Olow at IOM’s Office to the UN in New York, Tel: +1 212 681 7000, Ext. 239, Email: aolow@iom.int, or Bryce Seockhwan Hwang at FAO Liaison Office with the United Nations, Email: seockhwan.hwang@un.org

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