Emirates Declaration: Global Leaders Commit to Sustainable Agriculture at COP28

Global leaders have officially endorsed the ‘Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action’ during the second day of the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

This unique declaration, a result of a year-long negotiation process led by the COP28 Presidency and supported by farmer groups and civil society organizations (CSOs) from Africa, places a significant focus on integrating food considerations into climate discussions.

The African Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) had recently advocated for robust commitments to enhance security at COP28. In their document titled ‘African Civil Society Common Position Paper on Climate Adaptation and Loss & Damage for COP28,‘ they urged the presidency to champion resilient and equitable food and agriculture systems. The paper underscored the imperative to transition towards farmer-led, rights-based models that emphasize gender equity, agroecology, and the protection of Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

Food, being a multifaceted sociocultural, economic, political, and security concern in many African countries, occupies a central role in social stability, sustainability, and development. The compounding impacts of climate change, however, have posed unprecedented threats to the resilience of agriculture and food systems, exacerbating challenges related to hunger, malnutrition, and economic stresses among vulnerable populations.

Amy G. Thorp, Senior Climate Adaptation and Resilience Policy Advisor at Power Shift Africa, highlighted the significance of COP28 recognizing the urgency of transforming and adapting global food and agriculture systems to address the climate crisis. Thorp stressed the importance of urgently increasing financial access and support for agriculture while integrating local and Indigenous knowledge into these systems.

Recent studies indicate that approximately 149 million Africans are currently experiencing ‘acute food insecurity,’ marking an increase of 12 million individuals compared to the previous year. Conflict remains a primary driver of food crises in Africa, with 82 percent of affected individuals residing in conflict-ridden countries.

Lazarus Wanzala, a food and climate advisor at SDG2 Advocacy Hub, commended COP28 for the bold step taken in endorsing the political declaration on food systems. Wanzala emphasized that concrete plans, particularly in terms of finance, are essential for effective implementation and highlighted the pivotal role of smallholder farmers in Africa’s food systems.

Countries participating in COP28 have committed to fully incorporate food and land use into their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) by 2025.

The declaration outlines specific calls to action, including scaling up adaptation and resilience activities, promoting food security and nutrition, supporting vulnerable populations, ensuring inclusive and decent work in agriculture, and enhancing the integrated management of water in agriculture and food systems.

Experts and stakeholders are now urging multilateral financial institutions to redirect funds towards sustainable food systems.

Mwandwe Chileshe, Director for Food Security, Agriculture, and Nutrition at Global Citizen, commended the Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture and Resilient Food Systems, emphasizing the need for ambitious actions to fulfill the commitments made.

Chileshe cited the UAE and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s joint $200 million pledge to the CGIAR as a positive step, urging sustained efforts to establish sustainable food systems and enhance climate resilience globally in support of the Emirates Declaration.

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