BCFN Forum 2017: a look at migration and the Mediterranean through sustainability

BCFN Forum 2017: a look at migration and the Mediterranean through sustainability

December 14, 2017

BCFN Forum 2017: a look at migration and the Mediterranean through sustainability

The topics of climate change and sustainable agriculture were discussed, as were migrants and refugees, the role of climate change and its impact on food production in the Mediterranean now and in the future.

The 8th edition of the international BCFN Forum discussed topics old and new regarding food and nutrition. Held for the very first time in the striking setting of Hangar Bicocca in Milan, the two intense days of debate brought together experts and hundreds of guests (in addition to participants from around the globe who took part via streaming), anxious to make a positive contribution to this “positive revolution”. 

Food: a problem or a solution? 

Jeffrey Sachs, an economist of global standing and active supporter of sustainable development policies, opened the Forum on both days. His speeches reminded us of the global community’s delayed response and the need for decisive action to be taken immediately, drawing on technologies and knowledge accrued over the years. Sachs stressed the role Europe needs to play in the debates on climate change, given that US policies are putting international agreements – that may mitigate nasty effects – at risk. Food production was also discussed, particularly how the current paradoxes in the agro-food system have to be resolved if we are to reverse this negative trend that seems to be on the brink of no return. Indeed, an entire session was dedicated to “changing the food system”. 

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The solution? There are many and they are diverse, from producing meat in a lab to developing customer awareness about food’s journey from source to supermarket shelf. To conclude the session, BCFN President Guido Barilla had a chat with Carlo Petrini, founder and president of Slow Food, moderated by journalist Gigi Padovani.

Migrants, refugees and “hot areas”

Many experts named the delay in providing sustainability and resilience as one of the main causes for migration, a topic widely perceived by the general public though sensationalist headlines all too often hide the full picture. The migration of masses of people is a complex phenomenon that was discussed from various points of view throughout the Forum: from the geo-political, represented by Lucio Caracciolo, to the empathetic and humanist approach adopted by Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A dedicated session and workshop enabled participants to learn about many important aspects of migration, including the causes (especially those relating to climate change and food production) and potential solutions that have one goal, that is, to make the production system more sustainable and, in turn, improve the living conditions and development opportunities of those living in the poorest countries of the world. 

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“None of the migrants who risk their lives to reach a new nation would travel from their country of origin if the conditions there made their lives worth living,” Lucio Caracciolo

said Lucio Caracciolo.

Climate change is not currently the only factor contributing to the decision of whether to migrate, but it does play a role in the final decision,” explained Alex Randall from the Climate Change and Mitigation Coalition. "That’s why it’s important to enact containment activities, ranging from education, support and agricultural production – e.g. by changing crops to adapt them to climate change – to accompanied migration where you help a population move to an area equipped with the essentials for life.”

Indeed the majority of migratory flows take place within the African continent and are resolved internally: only a small minority of people decide to come to Europe

The same is true in migration caused by war, particularly in the Middle-East: the bordering countries house the majority of refugees, bearing the weight of chronic food shortages. 

The Mediterranean is another “hot area” in this regard, due to the effects of climate change. For this reason, the updated version of the Food Sustainability Index, created by the BCFN in collaboration with experts from the Intelligence Unit at the Economist and presented by Leo Abruzzese, includes new countries, many of which are in the Mediterranean area. 


Hunger for new ideas

Set by the United Nations, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals will prove tricky to reach if research and concrete action continue to be marred by obsolete schemes and models. “The food system is hungry for new ideas” reads the slogan for the 2017 edition of the Forum. The first day of the event was dedicated to presenting the projects of the 10 young finalists of the BCFN YES! contest. The young are best placed for bringing innovative points of view to the table, and it is no coincidence that the two winning projects focus on topics at the heart of the Forum: the health of migrants (with a project that helps prevent anaemia from being passed on from mother to child among the Syrian refugee population living in Lebanon through a food education program) and sustainable agriculture (by developing an integrated system that reduces insects while encouraging bats to colonise paddy fields in northern Italy). 

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The winners of the Food Sustainability Media Award were also announced; the winning article was a textual and image-based piece about the fight for sustainability. 

Concluding the Forum with an engaging speech about his 30 years spent combatting hunger in the world, Bob Geldof proclaimed, “there are solutions but we need to wake up, stop wasting time, and get on with implementing them.” 


“there are solutions but we need to wake up, stop wasting time, and get on with implementing them.” Bob Geldof

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