ECONOMYNEXT –A ‘senior officials meeting’ of a two-part high-level multilateral conference organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) commenced on Wednesday January 31 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, ahead of a ministerial session scheduled for February 19-22.
FAO said in a statement that its 37th Session of the Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific (#APRC37) aims to transform the Asia-Pacific region’s agrifood systems, after multiple human and economic crises set back progress to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly those to end hunger and poverty and reduce inequalities (SDGs 2, 1, 10).
The organisation said that the event marks a major international, multilateral milestone in an effort to reform agrifood systems across the Asia-Pacific region, after years of pandemic, climate emergencies, volatile markets and economies that have negatively affected millions of producers, farmers, fishers, pastoralists and consumers.
The #APRC37 is convened by FAO’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and hosted by the government of Sri Lanka. The two-part conference began on Wednesday, with a Senior Officials Meeting which will conclude Friday, February 02. A Ministerial Session, with Ministers arriving from across the region, will follow on February 19-22, also in Colombo.
The stakes to end hunger, poverty and inequality in the world’s largest region are higher now than any time in recent decades, the FAO said.
“We are currently going through a period of convergent crises. The long term and deep socio-economic impacts of the pandemic on food security and livelihoods have become obvious. But these are being accentuated by conflicts, the effects of climate change, environmental pollution, multiple hazards and risks, including trans-boundary pests and diseases and loss of biodiversity which are particularly affecting agricultural production,” Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative Jong-Jin Kim was quoted as saying in his opening remarks.
The latest Asia and the Pacific Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition, published in December 2023, shows that nearly 371 million people are undernourished in this region and this represents half of the world’s undernourished. Nearly 24 percent of the population suffer from moderate or severe food insecurity with women tending to be more food insecure than men.
Stunting among children under 5 years of age, with a prevalence of 23.4 percent, continues to be a public health problem in the region despite the declining trend from 2000.
In recent years, the average cost of a healthy diet in the region has risen to 4.15 US dollars per person per day on a purchasing power parity basis. Almost 45 percent of the Asia-Pacific population, or 1.9 billion people, cannot afford a healthy diet.
“We realise that given the setbacks over the last two years and the decline in progress in the fight against hunger precedes the pandemic, and so it is important to reshape our food systems so they become more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable,” said Kim. “Transforming global agrifood systems is very much the climate solution and effectively contributes to ensuring food availability, accessibility and affordability.”
Delegates at the APRC heard that FAO is encouraging the mobilisation of investment – external and internal – to end hunger and achieve SDG2. FAO is also assisting countries to promote tailored investment plans for poverty reduction including social protection; fighting food loss and waste and conserving water; building adaptive capacities and collectively responding to specific needs of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Landlocked Developing Countries and Least Developed Countries.
The organisation, on behalf of its members, is also building resilience in the plant, livestock, fisheries and forestry sectors; promoting nature-based solutions; emphasising science, innovation and digitalization and disseminating climate and energy-smart agricultural practices.
Following the deliberations on these issues by the Senior Officials, a Ministerial Session from the region’s Member Nation’s will convene for high-level talks during a series of roundtable discussions. The FAO’s Director-General, Dr QU Dongyu will also participate in-person during the Ministerial Session.
When it concludes, the 37th Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific will have outlined a pathway toward a full recovery from the pandemic and other converging crises of recent years, and ways to rebuild and transform the region’s agrifood systems, delivered through better production, better nutrition, a better environment and leading to a better life for all – leaving no one behind. (Colombo/Feb01/2024)