At the 2020 International Borlaug Dialogue

Remarks by His Majesty King Abdullah II

At the 2020 International Borlaug Dialogue

16 October 2020
Keynote Address
(Via teleconference)

كلمة جلالة الملك عبدالله الثاني في حوار"بورلوغ" الدولي الذي تنظمه مؤسسة جائزة الغذاء العالمية

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,

Thank you, President Stinson.
Dear friends,

My great thanks for the opportunity to join your conference this week, especially on World Food Day. It is a day to celebrate the people who put food on the world's tables—growing, transporting, storing, and distributing this essential of life, and keeping us safe in this time of COVID.

But today is also a day to remember the fact that for too many millions, this is not a day of food. It is another day of hunger. Let's ask ourselves: Why, in the 21st century, are nearly 690 million people hungry? Why, in this day and age, do almost 9 million people die of malnutrition or related causes every year?

As long as scarcity and hunger exist, we have work to do.

And as you have all been discussing over the past few days, the threat did not begin with COVID. This pandemic has had a massive impact on the food systems we depend on. But other, serious challenges to food security were already there to see—climate change, global threats to fresh water, global economic crises and regional turmoil, and an unprecedented global refugee crisis, burdening food supplies for refugees and host communities alike, an issue Jordan is all too familiar with.

So the question isn't whether to act; the question is, what kind of action will take us where we want to go. It won't be enough, after COVID, simply to rebuild the old ways. We need to seize the moment, to create a better, more effective, more inclusive global system. This is why I have been calling for re-globalisation—strengthening collective global action for mutual benefit, and focusing on the innovative spirit the future will demand.

Re-globalisation would steer global resources as needed into key areas such as agricultural infrastructure. Let's ensure adequate support for advanced ideas for production, supply, storage, knowledge sharing, and connectivity. At a time when so much resources are being invested into arms, let’s prioritise the health of peoples. Support is especially important for farmers in developing countries, who need better access to finance and training to serve their communities. Let's leverage new agri-tech solutions, to diversify crops and create strong food security safety nets.

Collaboration is key to regional, as well as global action. Jordanians have long taken pride in being a source of support for our neighbours. Our strategic location—at the crossroads of Africa, Asia, and Europe—allows Jordan to serve as a facilitator of broad international action and as a regional food hub. This would also help speed up and strengthen the world's response to food crises and disasters, such as the tragic blast in Beirut last August, which destroyed food silos and vital port facilities.

Responding to global threats means recalibrating our world and its systems. To build global food security and nutrition, there must be strong regulatory and policy frameworks, including fiscal instruments, better global exchange of agri-tech know-how, and increased investment in scientific research. And we need to move forward now. Coordination is essential to prevent the global crisis of hunger and malnutrition that could occur, if we aren't ready for new pandemics and crises in the days ahead.

My friends,

In the Middle East, we have a deep understanding of food security and the promised better life it can bring. Some ten-thousand years ago, my region was home to the first agricultural revolution, when human beings first began to grow and trade crops. Those ancient peoples, of our lands and others, looked beyond the old ways of doing things, and the innovations they made, liberated early humankind to look to the future.

Today, we need to act no less boldly, and look to our own future with new eyes.

Before the harvest, always comes the work—planning, planting, watering, caring, meeting change with change, and finding new ways to help life grow and thrive. We have a responsibility to safeguard today's fields and farms and harvests, and more; it is up to us to plant new seeds, so that future generations can live and thrive.

Planting seeds for the future is what you are doing, in this dialogue and other efforts to achieve global food security. God willing, your work will result in a worldwide harvest—a safe and nutritious food supply that is sustainable, affordable, good for the environment, and accessible to all.

We must keep working together, if we wish to succeed. Thank you.