UN FAO conference on agrifood systems in Asia-Pacific convenes in Colombo
COLOMBO – A major multilateral conference opened in Colombo on Wednesday (31), which aims to transform the Asia-Pacific region’s agrifood systems, after multiple human and economic crises have set back progress to achieving Sustainable Development Goals, particularly those to end hunger and poverty and reduce inequalities (SDGs 2, 1, 10).
FAO’s 37th Session of the Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific (#APRC37) 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 which began on Wednesday with a Senior Officials Meeting will conclude on Friday (Feb 2). A Ministerial Session, with Ministers arriving from across the vast region, will follow from February 19 to 22, also in Colombo.
“We are currently going through a period of convergent crises,” said Jong-Jin Kim, Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative in his opening remarks, noting that the long-term and deep socio-economic impacts of the pandemic on food security and livelihoods that have become obvious were 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.
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 representing half the world’s undernourished. Nearly 24% 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%, 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 per person per day on a purchasing power parity basis. Almost 45% of the Asia-Pacific population, or 1.9 billion people, cannot afford a healthy diet.
“We realize that given the setbacks over the last two years and the decline in progress in the fight against hunger precedes the pandemic,” Kim said, emphasizing the importance of reshaping the food systems so they become more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.
Transforming global agrifood systems he said, was 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 mobilization 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 Organization, on behalf of its Members, is also building resilience in the plant, livestock, fisheries and forestry sectors; promoting nature-based solutions; emphasizing 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 Nations 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.