Europe and Central Asia: “economic and agricultural power” with solutions at your fingertips – World
FAO Director-General speaks at regional dialogue on transforming agrifood systems
May 25, 2021, Rome / Budapest – The region of Europe and Central Asia is an economic and agricultural power with a diversity of crops, agrifood systems and climatic zones, FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said today. This diversity, he added, offers opportunities for sharing experiences and good practices in the region and beyond, but to harness this potential, the region needs more investment and innovation.
The Director-General of FAO was speaking at the Regional Dialogue for Europe and Central Asia on policy and governance issues to transform agrifood systems.
A rich exchange of views and a dynamic discussion took place between senior government officials, civil society organizations, universities, representatives of the private sector, farmers, producer organizations, as well as representatives of young people and the general public interested in food and nutrition issues.
Participants noted that the world is facing unprecedented challenges that are becoming more and more complex and that new paths for the planet and people need to be discussed and shared. They agreed that the region can and should play a key role in this conversation by leading the development of breakthrough solutions to transform agrifood systems. This debate is particularly important from the perspective of the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) in September of this year.
In his opening remarks, the Director-General of FAO said that with 690 million people already chronically undernourished, the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the situation, revealing the fragility of current agrifood systems.
According to World Food Crisis Report 2021, conflicts, extreme weather conditions, economic shocks – in particular due to COVID-19 – pushed 155 million more people into acute food insecurity in 2020. In addition, three billion people still cannot afford to affording a healthy diet and unhealthy food supplies affect one in 10 people.
Under the current circumstances, the comprehensive overhaul of agrifood systems is crucial, QU said. We must move towards systems that provide sustainable healthy food, relieve pressure on the planet’s natural resources and stimulate inclusive economic growth, he said. The FAO Director-General also stressed that agrifood systems should be fair and equitable, ensuring decent employment for all at all stages of the food supply chain.
Speaking at the event, Martin Frick, Deputy Special Envoy to the United Nations Secretary-General for the Food System Summit 2021, underscored the importance of making agrifood systems more inclusive, focusing on those “who are furthest behind” – the indigenous populations, the poor and landless peasants. He also noted that innovation needs to go in two directions – empowering smallholders with data and precision tools, but also promoting social innovation in the form of participatory models and collective decision-making.
Dmitry Mariyasin, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), underlined the crucial role of the circular economy in making agrifood systems more sustainable, without compromising economic growth, which is particularly important. important in the post-COVID-19 phase recovery. This involves closing the material loops, maximizing recycling opportunities and reducing food waste in the agri-food system, he added.
In his welcoming remarks, Vladimir Rakhmanin, FAO Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia, called on countries in the region to step up their efforts to alleviate the triple burden of malnutrition – undernourishment, micronutrients and overweight and obesity. It is a key driver for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he added, noting that the region can pave the way for sustainable agriculture and agrifood systems.