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Europe and Central Asia call for more sustainable and innovative agriculture

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Tashkent/Rome/Budapest, 4 November 2020 - On the final day of the 32nd Session of the Regional Conference for Europe, FAO Members from Europe and Central Asia reinforced their commitment to transform agri-food systems through innovation, digital technologies and sustainable practices.

Thirty-second Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Europe (ERC)
Thirty-second Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Europe (ERC)© FAO

It is also intended to create integrative growth in rural areas, taking into account the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on food and agriculture.

During the three days of the virtual Conference hosted by Uzbekistan, 31 ministers and vice-ministers from 51 countries actively participated in the discussions, in addition to other 270 delegates and 50 observers from governments, International Organizations, other UN agencies and various partners.

More than 1500 people were daily watching the webcast of the Conference.

This first virtual FAO Regional Conference in this region has been a great success also due to the engagement with non-state actors, partner organizations, civil society, and - for the first time - the private sector,

said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, who noted that the new virtual modality has also helped to “move away from formalities and focus on the substance.”

During the discussions, Members committed to a positive outcome at the United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021, while stressing that the world is not on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Conference recognized the need to pay special attention to the empowerment of rural youth and women, and the strengthening of rural services and infrastructure to ensure inclusive sustainable development, the empowerment of smallholder farmers, and green growth.

Transforming food systems and rural areas

In their interventions, Members emphasized that agri-food systems should be resilient and sustainable, and function under any circumstances, even in the midst of a pandemic. They acknowledged the importance of adopting a food systems approach for healthy diets, taking into account the three dimensions of sustainability (environmental, economic and social), as a key commitment in achieving the SDGs.

The importance of innovation, research and well-functioning agricultural extension services have been identified as a prerequisite to ensure farmers and small enterprises can access knowledge and technology, as well as to take advantage of new opportunities that digital technologies offer to improve not only the productivity and sustainability of food systems, but also their transparency for consumers.

Members called on FAO to support, through its Regional Initiatives, the development and implementation of the transformative agenda on sustainable agri-food systems and healthy diets, which includes addressing specific impacts of COVID-19.

Members welcomed and supported FAO's new approach to agricultural development laid out in the Hand-in-Hand Initiative.

For the period of 2020-2021, Members requested FAO to deeply integrate the One Health approach, including tackling antimicrobial resistance, zoonotic and other transboundary pests and diseases, promote equality and digital inclusion, social protection and school feeding and nutrition programmes, as well as ensuring the link between sustainable production and healthy and safe nutrition in its work.

45 years of promoting food security and nutrition

The Conference hosted an open discussion on the ways the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) helps countries of the region advance food security and nutrition.

A new set of voluntary guidelines on food systems and nutrition was presented at the special event.

These guidelines have the potential to become a key reference document to address food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms from a food systems perspective.

The FAO Director-General said.

FAO is proud to host the CFS Secretariat in Rome. Considering its 45 years of experience, the CFS should be more incorporated into FAO's work on food security and nutrition, as an important inclusive international and intergovernmental platform.

Thanawat Tiensin, CFS Chairperson and Permanent Representative of Thailand to the Rome-based Agencies, briefed the Regional Conference participants on the main activities the Committee is planning to carry out in the coming years.

He expressed concern about the negative impact of COVID-19 on agrifood supply chains and food security that are further impairing the achievement of the global goals.

In his message Tiensin said :

We must act to address the pressing challenges of today. CFS policy tools exist to help countries progress towards the achievement of SDG 2 on zero hunger, and the 2030 Agenda. Countries and stakeholders need to participate actively and constructively in the Committee's dialogue, and gain full ownership of the outcome,

Isa Alvarez, representative of the CFS Civil Society Mechanism, emphasized the importance for the guidelines to be based on science and evidence, benefitting the people, who feed our world.

Katarina Eriksson from the CFS Private Sector Mechanism expressed her appreciation for the participatory process to develop the food systems and nutrition guidelines, calling them a “good example of how the CFS works.”

(Source: FAO)

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