Plant health is being increasingly affected by the global spread of pests and diseases. Climate change and globalization, especially growth in international travel and trade, are increasing the risk of pest and disease dispersal. According to estimates of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), plant pests and diseases destroy up to forty percent of global crop production annually, with losses totalling over USD 200 billion each year. This has devastating consequences for livelihoods and incomes, especially for groups that are marginalised or vulnerable to these risks, such as smallholders and family farmers. Unhealthy plants can also lead to biodiversity loss and potentially catastrophic consequences for the future of our planet, placing future generations at risk.
By agreeing in 2015 to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the international community committed to achieving 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but, in the words of António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, “we are seriously off-track”.1.
The General Assembly of the United Nations declared 2020 the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH), mandating FAO and the Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) to promote the Year globally. As youth representatives in our respective organizations, we responded to the call by the IYPH International Steering Committee to draft a Youth Declaration on Plant Health, through which we reaffirm the importance of taking global action to protect plants from pests and diseases. We encourage all stakeholders to recognise that implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – particularly SDGs 1, 2, 8, 12, 13, 15 and 17 – requires the inclusion of plant health considerations as well as the involvement of global youth in these considerations.
We invite all stakeholders to join us in promoting the importance of plant health, particularly through science and evidence-based international standards, such as those produced under the aegis of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). The International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs) are sustainable, multilateral normative tools, among others, to protect global plant resources while facilitating safe trade. Through this Youth Declaration, we highlight the contribution of plant health in combating the adverse effects of climate change, in supporting food security and in sustaining local communities, while being aware that research coordination, training and investments are necessary to ensure plant health is protected.
By signing the Youth Declaration on Plant Health, we encourage all stakeholders to consider plant health in research and innovation, in specific academic curricula, and in courses to train global youth. Training should also be provided to professionals in relevant sectors. Ongoing efforts should be taken to ensure the general public is informed of the latest techniques and most advanced technologies for protecting plant health. Through our combined efforts, perseverance, persistence and expertise, our contribution to plant health will have a durable positive impact on implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In the Youth Declaration on Plant Health, we identify seven thematic areas for action and we invite you to read the Declaration, sign it and share it in your respective networks, and join the global effort to protect plants.