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President Higgins receives Agricola Medal of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation

Date: Fri 7th Jun, 2024 | 18:37

Uachtarán na hÉireann, President Michael D. Higgins was this afternoon awarded with the ‘Agricola Medal’ of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) at a ceremony in Áras an Uachtaráin.

The President was presented with the medal by the Director-General of the FAO, Dr Qu Dongyu.

Speaking at the event, Director-General Qu said:

“With unwavering commitment, strong courage and the quest for answers, President Higgins has passionately and consistently raised the importance of food security on the global stage. He continues to draw the world’s attention to the links between hunger and the global crises of poverty, migration, economic downturns and finance deficits, and the impacts of the climate crisis.

He has pointed to the need for the urgent transformation of global agrifood systems, towards a model that is informed by science; ensures freedom from hunger; provides healthy and nutritious foods; is sustainable; and in harmony with our planet.

The awarding of the FAO Agricola Medal to President Higgins reflects this joint conviction of the need to transform our agrifood systems for the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG2 and SDG1. It is the highest recognition by FAO to a Head of State who has committed his life, his experience, his achievements, his influence and his political will and courage to better global agrifood systems, for a better future - with an active rather than passive approach.

He has addressed global leaders in a series of speeches which together form a reference on food and agriculture policy, and are an instruction to the world on the need for urgent change.”

The medal, which bears the Latin name for farmer, is conferred upon international figures who have undertaken outstanding efforts in advancing the cause of global food security, poverty alleviation and nutrition. President Higgins is the first Irish recipient of the medal.

It is customary that the recipient of the medal provides their own choice of inscription text for the medal. The President chose for his inscription to read: ‘Food Security as part of Universal Basic Services and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – the seeds of world peace’.

The vital need for food security, and the importance of moving past reactive emergency responses to tackling the underlying structural causes of hunger, has been a key theme of the President’s work.

The President has written extensively on the topic of food security, including reflecting on the repeated crises which have arisen since he first travelled to Somalia and saw first-hand the devastation of the famine in that country in 1992.

At today’s conferral ceremony, President Higgins delivered an acceptance address entitled ‘Achieving Food Security from Below’. Building on addresses delivered by the President last year at the second Dakar Summit on food sovereignty and resilience in Senegal and at the World Food Forum in Rome, today’s address advocated for the use of tools and analysis to enable those in food insecure countries to examine the real experiences on the ground and to empower them with the information necessary to build their own future.

The President has consistently raised the importance of food security, and the links between it and the interlocking global crises of global poverty, migration, debt and climate change in his meetings with global leaders. This included at his meetings over the last year with US President Joe Biden, His Holiness Pope Francis, and the Premier of the People’s Republic of China Li Qiang among others. It is also a topic which the President has repeatedly raised at the annual meetings of the Arraiolos Group of non-executive European Presidents.

The President intends to continue his work on the topic of food security over the remainder of his Presidency and beyond, including during his anticipated contribution to the Summit of the Future at the United Nations in New York this September.