Poster in May 15, 2024 12:30:41

34th session of the FAO Regional Conference for Europe focused on enhancing the resilience of agri-food systems

34th session of the FAO Regional Conference for Europe focused on enhancing the resilience of agri-food systems

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FAO Director-General urges peace and digitalization as central to achieving the SDG agenda

While countries in Europe and Central Asia are grappling with conflict and environmental challenges, they are well positioned to pursue the sustainable transformation of agrifood systems and have already taken steps towards achieving many of the core Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, said Tuesday (14/05/2024) in remarks opening the 34th Session of the Regional Conference for Europe (ERC).

FAO’s aim for this week’s governing body meeting is to help Members from the region localize priorities and establish collective objectives that emphasize leadership, partnership, and national ownership of efforts to facilitate concrete initiatives to achieve the SDGs at home and abroad, he said.

“Globally, we are facing critical times marked by food insecurity and fading prosperity,” Qu said, reiterating his advocacy for peace as a prerequisite for food security and the right to food as a basic human right.

Comprising 53 Member countries and the European Union, and spanning nine time zones from Lisbon to Vladivostok, the four-day Regional Conference is an opportunity to exchange knowledge and best practices on the most effective solutions in support of agrifood systems transformation, and to engage in discussions to identify the most suitable responses to issues such as the continuing recovery from earthquakes, flooding, the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine, which “continues to hamper regional and global efforts to achieve the SDGs,” the Director-General said.

He noted that economic growth in the region, as well as digital innovation in the agrifood sectors, are lagging behind the rest of the world, adding that nonetheless, the potential is very high. Low levels of hunger in the region are an opportunity to make sure that farmers receive ample social support in recognition of their efforts, Qu said.

Vladimir Bolea, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Food Industry of the Republic of Moldova, was elected as the Chair of the regional ministerial conference. He thanked FAO and its staff for the support provided for hosting the ERC in a hybrid format at its Rome headquarters.

Trade flows

The ongoing war in Ukraine has major impacts on FAO’s core mandates, entailing immense human suffering and major destruction of assets and livelihoods close to home, while also significantly disrupting trade flows for countries reliant on exports from agricultural powerhouses involved. FAO continues to closely monitor those implications and provides Members with regular, comprehensive information on the effects of the war and other crises that weigh on agrifood systems, the Director-General said.

Emphasizing FAO’s commitment to providing all the support needed, the FAO Director-General urged Members to take the lead, nationally, regionally, and beyond, in pursuing agreed goals, particularly to increase the resilience of agrifood markets; provide humanitarian and social protection responses to vulnerable groups; invest in trade infrastructure and logistics; increase responsible investments in agriculture to enhance productivity; strengthen information, assessment and analytical systems focusing on food security and nutrition; and to develop innovative solutions to common challenges.

He particularly called for innovations and more responsible investments in technology, policy, finance, and social aspects that can steer agrifood systems towards climate resilience, while also protecting biodiversity. Tackling food loss and waste is a notable opportunity in the region, Qu added.

FAO advocates deploying True Cost Accounting to address hidden environmental, health, and social impacts, which amount to around $3 trillion annually in the region at purchasing power parity.

Hans Hoogeveen, Independent Chairperson of the FAO Council, urged Members to begin work on rebuilding the agrifood systems of conflict-ridden countries in the region, noting that public expenditures on weaponry would be more than enough to solve regional food insecurity problems. He also appealed to governments to help youth in their countries to have a greater voice in agrifood policy venues and to create startup enterprises to contribute to agrifood systems transformation.

FAO’s work in the Europe and Central Asia region

FAO has continued to provide technical expertise and mobilize resources in support of the three regional priorities ERC Members have identified: empowering smallholders, family farms, and youth; transforming agrifood systems and facilitating market access and integration; and managing natural resources sustainably and preserving biodiversity.

Actions include the launch of the AgriTech Observatory, a virtual platform designed for the navigation of digital agricultural developments in Europe and Central Asia, helping Members mainstream digitalization in their national agrifood system strategies, promoting the One Health approach with several regional initiatives, and establishing the regional chapter of the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock. FAO has also accelerated climate action and secured climate finance in nine countries of the region, prepared a regional action plan to mainstream biodiversity, published guidelines on forest biodiversity monitoring methodologies, and conducted an overview of land degradation neutrality across the region.

Ten regional members are participating in FAO’s One Country One Priority Product Initiative, while more than 60 villages in nine countries of the region are part of FAO’s 1000 Digital Village Initiative. The Regional Technical Platform on Green Agriculture, launched in 2022, now offers a digital gateway for knowledge and information sharing - Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan are pilot countries of the Green Agriculture technical cooperation programme - and has published 30 blogs and 70 thematic publications.

Core initiatives including the Technical Cooperation Programme and the Hand-in-Hand Initiative are both important opportunities present across the region.

Source: Online/GFMM

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