2015 IS A CRUCIAL year as several major international events placing issues related to agriculture, food and rural affairs at the heart of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be held. These goals are part of the new Global Sustainable Development Post-2015 Agenda that will be adopted in September 2015 at the General Assembly of the United Nations. This Agenda constitutes one of the main frameworks for international cooperation during the next 15 years. Taking place from May to October 2015, the Milan Expo entitled "Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life" is mobilising both Italian authorities and society and is expected to be another highlight of this year. The Milan Universal Exhibition provides an important opportunity to discuss common solutions to the challenge of global food security. This year, the 21st Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP21) will also be held in Paris in December. Agriculture will have its rightful place as various French ministers, convinced of the interdependency between agricultural diplomacy and climate negotiations have emphasised its importance. Moreover, agriculture will also play an important role during the 7th World Water Forum that will be held from the 12 and 17 April in South Korea Launched by the United Nations, 2015 is also the International Year of Soils where the essential role of agriculture in soil conservation and the thorny issue of access to land in developing policies will be highlighted. Issues related to natural resources, climate change, agricultural production, inclusive growth (social and territorial) and food security (necessary basis for human security) will therefore be at the heart of an eventful 2015 that is also intended at finding solutions for a more sustainable development.
It is of utmost importance to address sustainable development with more synergy and by considering the interdependence between the economy, society and the environment, its three components. Preserving the planet is essential and this is not debatable. However, the generation of wealth and its equitable distribution is just as important. It would be a serious mistake to give priority only to the environmental component in the Post-2015 development agenda. Too related to the concerns of rich countries, such a possibility would indeed ignore the most pressing and urgent human needs. People should remain the highest priority of the SDGs. It is thanks to the human ability to invent solutions and accumulate knowledge that we succeed in adapting to change. People themselves play a key role in finding solutions to overcome the problem of underdevelopment. This positive reading of the state of the planet is not intended to fight the pessimistic situation. It is resolutely focused on human ingenuity and its capacity to reverse trends, to create and find tailored local solutions, and to meet global challenges. This is plea proposed for a Post-2015 Agenda that would include four main aspects : the economy, the environment, social affairs and also innovation. For many years, innovation has been closely related to sustainable development and it is now the time to position it more clearly. We define “innovation” in two ways. Firstly, it is the human ability to create change, advance science, feed knowledge and bring about historical turning points that enable to achieve giant leaps for mankind. Secondly, the implementation of the SGDs must consider the cultural, economic, social and geographic characteristics of the different societies at local level. Innovation for development is necessarily local and distinctive. We cannot wave a magic want. We must adapt to the realities of the territories in order to efficiently link knowledge with the practices, needs, and constraints of the context in which the action must give tangible results for the local population. Each territory must therefore develop its own model (or models !), at its own pace with its actors, its difficulties and its history.
This proposal for a sustainable development based on the above-mentioned four complementary aspects supports people and future generations. The issue of food security gives this proposal a concrete meaning. How could SDGs be indeed totally disconnected from the issue of employment and the people’s daily security ? In other words, the time for questioning whether to produce better or whether to produce more has passed since a global consensus has been reached on the urgent need to reconcile the two approaches in a common movement. This is no easy task as meeting such a challenge depends on the people’s will, on the public policies that will be implemented, on the mobilisation of global agriculture and on the future involvement of young people. If the aging of farmers continues around the world, it food security and will be endangered and labour markets (excluding agriculture) will be saturated. New agricultural models could be effective to mitigate unemployment in countries where agriculture can remain a source of employment and income. Feeding 9 billion people in 2050 with a faceless agriculture would involve serious social and economical consequences. However, fostering socio-economical development models able to provide rural population with a decent life (requiring a clear support of family farming), would certainly alleviate rural exodus towards cities and its negative impact. It is therefore geopolitically important to promote agricultural and rural development strategies that do not sacrify human factors for environmental preservation. Let us make ourselves clear ; by saying this, we do neither ignore the environmental emergency nor deny it. We are simply suggesting that human beings should be given first priority in discussions on sustainable development and food security. We should not forget that the main purpose of agriculture is to feed people.
In this perspective, waste reduction is a determining factor. Across the world including Europe, people should better manage natural resources, decrease the waste of water, arable land, and biodiversity. In their daily lives, people will have to reduce waste resulting from the loss of agricultural products during harvest, transportation, storage and consumption. These individual actions will certainly contribute to reducing and limiting collective food insecurity. Nevertheless, we should also fight against the waste of knowledge. In agriculture, this is a crucial issue. Traditional skills deserve greater attention and locally found solutions should be better and more broadly disseminated thanks to modern communication technology. Thus, knowledge should be promoted and experiences, knowledge and ideas should be increasingly shared. The circular economy of knowledge is incredibly powerful. Innovation is not only the creation of “unprecedented actions”, but above all, it is the power of federating energies and intelligence put at the service of common goals such as SDGs.
With such considerations, it is obvious that we focus on the Mediterranean. This region should be perceived as a bridge between the Europe, Africa, and Middle East and not as a barrier or a wall of fears. Indeed there is currently considerable geopolitical turmoil. Yet, should we abandon the enthusiasm and spirit of Barcelona that in 1995 proposed a unique partnership between European, North African and Middle Eastern countries ? The vision of a large Euro-Mediterranean region was blurred and the Neighbourhood Policy of European Union pushed countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean to the periphery. In November 2015, on the occasion of the celebration of 20th anniversary of the Barcelona declaration, we must advocate for a Mediterranean that works together to reduce uncertainties, address common challenges and to move towards a more inclusive development. The agenda of the priorities of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation should not be confined to military aspects or the fight against terrorism and irregular mobility. Human security is above all related to access to food, employment and knowledge. Revolt, radicalisation or migration result from the lack the possibility of a decent life and unacceptable living conditions. If we still believe in the future of Europe, we must advocate for the Mediterranean. We should therefore recognise that the basic needs of Mediterranean populations are intrinsically related to issues such as food security, employment and a better life in rural areas. Without progress on these issues in the coming years, the Post-2015 Development Agenda in the region would become obsolete and result in an uncontrollable strategic situation in the Mediterranean.
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