Ben works for Emerging to facilitate private sector engagement with the UN by organizing private sector representation, monitoring UN activities relevant to agribusinesses, as well as performing stakeholder communications and outreach. Ben has worked with the Office of Evaluation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and has contributed to the University of Toronto’s Journal of Middle East Studies. He has an abiding interest in international relations and development. Ben is a Canadian national who is fluent in both French and English, and dabbles in a variety of other European tongues, both living and dead. He has studied European Politics and Human Geography at both the University of Toronto and the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris. Ben has lived in places as diverse as Brussels, New Delhi and Tehran. He is currently based in Rome, but soon relocating to London, UK.

The Global Outlook for Biodiversity, and for Food and Agriculture

On September 15th the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) unveiled the fifth edition of its Global Biodiversity Outlook, taking stock of the world’s efforts towards conservation and environmental sustainability. And the outlook is not good. The report was partially intended as an appraisal of the international community’s progress towards achieving the Aichi Targets, the set of goals and indicators that have underpinned global efforts to reduce and reverse biodiversity loss for the last ten years, and whose deadline is 2020. If we accept the “report card” analogy used in the official press release, world leaders have earned themselves a solid suite of failing grades.

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Conservation and the Coronavirus: The Virus Threatens Efforts to Preserve Biodiversity

Writing in less interesting times, the UN Environment Programme announced that 2020 would be a “super year for nature and biodiversity”, as well as a “crunch year for the biodiversity and climate emergencies”. There was certainly no lack of ambition, with scheduled summits including meetings of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) and the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI) of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a UN Ocean Conference, a Summit on Biodiversity in the margins of the General Assembly, and a World Conservation Congress organized by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The outcomes of all of these meetings would inform a Global Biodiversity Conference (also serving as the Conference of the Parties to the CBD) which would set out a Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework to underpin international conservation efforts for the next decade.

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CFS44: Urbanization, rural transformation and implications for food security and nutrition

Demographics are changing. Just over half of the global population lives in towns and cities, and absolute numbers of rural inhabitants are projected to begin declining in the near future.  

Policies and interventions will have to adopt an integrated approach to development, dealing with rural and urban regions not as distinct and isolated environments, but as part of a unified continuum of food systems. Policies should seek synergistic solutions in order to enable agriculture, not at the expense of either urban or rural populations, but to their mutual advantage.

The UN Committee on Food Security (CFS) has begun to reckon with this challenge, firstly by hosting a high level forum on urbanization, rural transformation and implications for food security and nutrition in the fall of 2016. This was an opportunity for policy-makers and experts to exchange views and discuss practical experiences on the challenges, opportunities, and positives outcomes that have resulted from more integrated approaches to managing these processes of change. Following this, based both on the discussions at the forum and submissions sent in through the Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition, the CFS created a compilation document of experiences and effective policy approaches entitled “addressing food security and nutrition in the context of changing rural-urban dynamics”, which will be officially endorsed at the next plenary session of the CFS in October. 

Both of these initiatives will serve as the foundations for the future exploratory work of the Committee related to this topic, which will involve the hosting of 2 intersessional events over the course of 2018. These events will help CFS stakeholders to assess the feasibility of undertaking eventual policy convergence activities, to develop a policy product which can be implemented into national and regional policy frameworks.    

In order to inform these undertakings, the Private Sector Mechanism (PSM) of the CFS has developed a position paper which presents a series of policy recommendations to strengthen food security in the face of a changing rural-urban nexus. These include:

  • Leveraging and expanding dynamic rural-urban linkages to ensure food security and improved nutrition for all.
  • Supporting the development of off-farm economic activities in rural areas.
  • Supporting the sustainable intensification and integration of urban agriculture.
  • Avoiding urban encroachment on rural and peri-urban agricultural land.
  • Engaging youth in farming.

CFS44 will take place October 9-13 in Rome, Italy to discuss issues and solutions to global food security and nutrition. The PSM will be advocating to ensure the above issues are recognized and addressed. Urbanization and rural transformation represent some of the most dramatic and influential trends currently affecting food security and nutrition on a global scale. Their successful management necessitates coordinated action and expertise from all stakeholders, to ensure a better future for all. Learn more about CFS here.

Learn more about urbanization and rural transformation here.


World Pulses Day endorsed by FAO Conference

The Conference of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which is the foremost governing body of the agency, endorsed a proposal to celebrate February 10th as an annual World Pulses Day during its 40th plenary session in July 2017. Galvanized by the important achievements of the 2016 International Year of Pulses, and wishing to build on its successes, the Conference acknowledged the enormous value of pulse production and consumption for food security, human health, and the environment, and requested that the UN General Assembly, at its next session, consider declaring World Pulses Day as an annual observance.

Pulses represent some of the most sustainable crops it is possible to grow. They are one of the most important sources of plant-based protein for people around the globe. They can have a positive impact on the management of non-communicable diseases, including diabetes and coronary conditions. Their nitrogen-fixing properties allow them to play a role in combatting soil degradation and exhaustion. They also require less water than many other traditional staple crops, and between 50% and 83% less than many animal sources of protein. This makes them hugely significant in a world undergoing dramatic and rapid climactic transformations, as they can make contributions to both climate change adaptation and mitigation.  This is why it is more crucial than ever that the international community continue to raise awareness of the benefits of growing and eating pulses, in order to further production, promote research, and improve diets.

World Pulses Day will be a key part of this. It will be a vital opportunity to highlight the role that pulses can play in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It will be an occasion for all stakeholders to come together to celebrate the progress made in leveraging pulses for a healthier and more food secure world, and to assess the challenges that remain and mobilize to overcome them. It is my hope, therefore, that the General Assembly, this fall, will take into account the recommendations of the FAO Conference, and those of the FAO Council and the Ouagadougou Declaration before that, and recognize February 10th as World Pulses Day.     

Read the final report here


My Favorite Pulse Dish: Fabae Vitellianae (beans in the style of Vitellius)

When looking to get creative with pulses, instead of trying something new, why not try something very old? This recipe is taken from an ancient Roman cookbook (commonly known as Apicius or de re coquinaria, “on culinary things”) generally dated to the fourth or fifth century, shortly before the fall of the Western Roman Empire. It is named after the first century emperor Vitellius, who ruled for an extremely brief period during the Year of the Four Emperors (he was the third). Vitellius was famous for his extravagant banquets and vast appetite. According to contemporary histories, when he attempted to flee Rome to avoid Vespasian, the soon-to-be fourth emperor of the year, he abandoned all his possessions and most of his staff, insisting on being accompanied only by his cook and his pastry chef.

The dish itself is a semi-sweet bean paste made with egg yolks, ginger, honey, white wine, and fish sauce (ubiquitous in ancient roman cooking). I favour Borlotti beans, but chickpeas work well for this recipe too. It is perfect as an appetizer, served with flat bread and/or olives. Like its namesake, this dish is rich, thick, and guaranteed to disappear quickly!


  • 500g beans or chickpeas, boiled
  • 3 egg yolks, hard boiled
  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup vinegar
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • ground black pepper to taste

Process the beans in a food processor. Add egg yolks, honey, ginger, and pepper and mix well. Put wine, fish sauce, and vinegar into a saucepan and heat. Add bean paste to the saucepan, and stir gently allowing the mixture to thicken to the desired consistency. Can be served hot or cold.