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Young People Show Leadership In Shaping Outcomes Of UN Food Systems Summit

Youth voices were strong throughout the three-day Pre-Summit declaring they are ‘the leaders of today’

July 28, 2021, ROME – At the closing of the three-day United Nations Food Systems Pre-Summit in Rome, Italy Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio started his closing remarks by commending youth for their leadership in the transformation of food systems.

In the same closing event with a room full of delegates from around the world, youth leader from Lebanon Rayan Kassam said the main message for governments to take forward to the Summit in New York in September is that “we want to sit at the table with you when you make decisions about our future food systems.”

Young people are fully incorporated into leadership positions within the UN Food Systems Summit with the architecture intentionally designed to include young people from around the world. From the five Action Tracks to the Champions Network, young people have played a key part in preparations for the Summit in September.

“This is honestly the first Summit I have seen youth leadership at the heart of the Summit itself, in decision-making positions, and I’m really really hoping this can serve as a role model for future UN Summits,” said Marie-Claire Graf, a youth leader from Switzerland.

Youth have led Summit dialogues and created a self-organizing group. Through a month-long online consultation process and a pledge initiative, youth are given the opportunity to deliberate and identify solutions and priorities they will take forward beyond the summit.

Close to 10,000 young people from around the world have participated in the Summit process, including a dedicated Global Youth Dialogue in May and their participation and leadership across other dialogues in 145 countries over the past two years.

“Throughout the whole year, the youth have had an outstanding contribution towards the Food Systems Summit process. The youth have led from the front, and are actually exemplifying that we are not the leaders of tomorrow, we are the leaders of today,” said Victor Mugo, a youth leader from Kenya who spoke at the Pre-Summit session on youth actions for food systems.

The session at the Pre-Summit comes on the heels of the launch of a UN report on youth and agriculture, which underscores the urgent need to make food systems more appealing to young people to secure the future of global food security and nutrition.

The growing youth population is raising issues of health, education and employment for the next generation, with forecasts that more than half of the population in Africa will be under 25 by 2050.

Young people have also been disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with youth employment falling by 8.7 per cent in 2020 compared with 3.7 per cent for adults, according to UN figures.

Against this backdrop, the youth delegation at the Pre-Summit have created a statement of action to advocate for governments to among others things “smooth barriers” and provide better access to financing, risk mitigation measures, information and knowledge, as well as ensure minimal and decent wages for people working within food systems.

Lana Weidgenant, youth leader from Brazil and Action Track Vice-Chair, UN Food Systems Summit 2021, said, “We invite your partnership today to turn youth momentum into policy results as we look forward to the September UN Food Systems Summit.”

About the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit
The UN Food Systems Summit was announced by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, on World Food Day last October as a part of the Decade of Action for delivery on the SDGs by 2030. The aim of the Summit is to deliver progress on all 17 of the SDGs through a food systems approach, leveraging the interconnectedness of food systems to global challenges such as hunger, climate change, poverty and inequality. More information about the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit and list of Advisory Committee and Scientific Group members can be found online: https://www.un.org/foodsystemssummit

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