In much of the world, hunger remains deeply entrenched and is rising. Countries continue to grapple with malnutrition in all its forms, including the growing burden of obesity. […] If the current trend continues, we will not achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 — zero hunger — by 2030. […] The transformation can begin now. […] We must make food systems more sustainable, resilient and inclusive — for people and planet. […] We must make healthy diets affordable and accessible for everyone.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Launch of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report, New York, 2020
Since 2014 the number of people affected by hunger globally has been slowly on the rise. An estimated almost 690 million people, or 8.9 percent of the global population, were undernourished in 2019. If current trends continue, the number of undernourished people will exceed 840 million by 2030. In other words, the world is not on track to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030 (State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 report). The United Nations system, including through the Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) and its High-level Committee on Programmes (HLCP), has been championing the importance of promoting inclusive, equitable and sustainable food systems with a view to achieving SDG 2.
In April 2018, at its thirty-fifth session, HLCP considered an analytical paper on the future of food, further to the CEB’s November 2017 request to undertake system-wide “deep-dive” policy and programme analyses regarding the impact of frontier technologies for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The paper had been prepared through an inter-agency consultative process under the leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Recognizing the need for inclusive, equitable and sustainable rural transformation in order to implement the 2030 Agenda, the Committee noted the potential of new technologies to positively influence such transformation. At the same time, the Committee acknowledged that technology would be only one of several important dimensions shaping the future of food that needed to be addressed holistically. Other aspects discussed by the Committee included governance issues, demographic changes, social dynamics, population movements, conflict and environmental and climate factors. The Committee reaffirmed “leaving no one behind” as the guiding principle of the 2030 Agenda and underscored that the United Nations system was committed to promoting inclusive, equitable and sustainable food systems by effectively playing its convening, policy and advisory role in support of the efforts of Member States.
Subsequently, at the CEB first regular session of 2018, the discussion paper was presented alongside two other HLCP analyses on the future of learning and education and the future of work to inform the Board’s deliberations on the socioeconomic implications of the “fourth industrial revolution” for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The importance of scientific and technological innovation for meeting many sustainable development challenges and for accelerating human progress is widely noted throughout the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The General Assembly, in its resolutions 72/242 and 73/17, also recognizes that the pace and scope of rapid technological change can have far-reaching implications – both positive and negative – for the achievement of sustainable development, requiring international and multi-stakeholder cooperation in order to benefit from opportunities and address challenges.
Under the chairmanship of Secretary-General António Guterres, CEB and its subsidiary committees have considered a selection of “frontier issues” to ensure that the United Nations system is positioned to provide timely and informed support and advice to Member States in today's quickly evolving technological context.
At its session in November 2017, CEB launched a process examining the risks and opportunities for sustainable development associated with new and emerging technologies and related developments, specifically considering artificial intelligence, cyberspace, biotechnology, and the peace and security implications of emerging technologies. The aim was to identify appropriate areas for engagement by the UN system on frontier technologies in support of Member States. The discussions were informed by analyses produced by HLCP, which was then tasked by CEB to conduct further policy and programme analysis regarding the impact of frontier technologies for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.