President Michael D Higgins is the first Irish person to be chosen by the United Nations’ (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to receive the Agricola Medal.

The medal, which bears the Latin name for farmer, is conferred upon international figures who have undertaken outstanding efforts to advance the cause of global food security, poverty alleviation and nutrition.

President Higgins will be presented with the Agricola Medal by FOA director-general Qu Dongyu at a ceremony in Dublin later this year.

Dongyu said: “It would be my privilege and honour, in my capacity as director-general, to present you with the prestigious FAO Agricola Medal in recognition of your contribution and commitment to the welfare of all peoples, your extraordinary support for FAO’s fundamental goal of attaining universal food security and the pursuit of the UNs’ sustainable development goals.”

It is customary that the recipient of the medal provides their own choice of inscription text for the medal.

President Higgins has asked for the inscription to read: “Food security as part of universal basic services and the United Nations sustainable development goals – the seeds of world peace.”

Food security

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

President Higgins 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 in recent years.

This included his recent meetings with US President Joe Biden, Pope Francis and the premier of the People’s Republic of China Li Qiang.

It is also a topic which the President has repeatedly raised at the annual meetings of the Arraiolos Group of non-executive European presidents.

In October 2023, President Higgins delivered two addresses on the topic of food security at the World Food Forum, hosted at the FAO’s headquarters in Rome.

The President has also written extensively on the topic in recent years, including reflecting on the repeated crises which have arisen since he first travelled to Somalia and saw the devastation of the famine there in 1992.