Monday, April 22 2024 23:10

34th session of FAO Regional Conference will take place on May 14-17,  2024

34th session of FAO Regional Conference will take place on May 14-17,  2024

ArmInfo. The Thirty-fourth Session of the FAO Regional Ministerial Conference for Europe - set to take place on  14-17 May 2024 - will bring together FAO Members from the region in striving for more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient, and more sustainable agrifood systems to ensure that no one is left behind. The Organization's press release reports.

QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization  of the United Nations (FAO) noted:

"Europe and Central Asia have a great potential for the global  contribution to food security by producing more with less. However,  the challenges to our shared vision of a more people-centered,  prosperous, and equitable future are as diverse and expansive as the  terrains of the 50-plus countries that make up this region. 

The complexity of issues in areas like food security, health,  conflict, and the environment require a holistic transformation. Take  for example the impacts of the climate crisis, with rising  temperatures, shifting precipitation patterns, and escalating climate  uncertainties, among others. Particularly vulnerable are the agrifood  systems, and rural areas that face heightened exposure to floods,  earthquakes, landslides, storms, droughts, and other natural  disasters. 

The World Bank estimates that if no action is taken, economic damages  from droughts and floods in Central Asia alone could reach up to 1.3  percent of its gross domestic product per year, while crop yields may  decrease by as much as 30 percent by 2050 - resulting in as many as  5.1 million climate migrants.  Other European countries are also at  risk. Without adaptation and resilience, it is estimated that more  than 400 000 jobs could be lost annually by 2050, with the overall  cost of climate-related extreme weather reaching 170 billion euros by  the end of the century.

Although the prevalence of hunger and food insecurity has been  relatively low in Europe and Central Asia, there has been a  significant increase in childhood overweight and adult obesity rates.  The affordability of nutritious foods is a significant factor  contributing to this trend: an estimated 25 million people in the  region were unable to afford a healthy diet in 2021. 

At FAO, we believe that the solution lies in the aspiration of the  "Four Betters" - better production, better nutrition, a better  environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind.  First, we  need to strive for better production. Decision-makers and actors  within the food value chain must be willing to forego short-term  economic gains in favour of increased resilience, sustainability and  reduced climate impact. We must improve inefficient farm structures,  excessive land fragmentation and land abandonment and ensure the  generational renewal of family farms. We must increase investment in  rural infrastructure for resilience, embrace green and digital  agriculture and ensure accessibility for smallholders and vulnerable  populations, and improve the competitiveness of agrifood systems. We  must catalyse and expand innovation efforts, regenerative  agriculture, and other nature-positive solutions. Improved water  management - particularly beneficial for the region's landlocked  developing countries, most of which are in Central Asia - also can  significantly help rural areas. Recognizing that science, technology,  and innovation are the driving forces behind evidence-based policies  and the transformation of agrifood systems, we must continue to  integrate data, technology, and innovation as cross-cutting actions  to strengthen our mandate, making them available to policymakers and  assisting in translating them into normative and policy guidance and  practical tools.

Second, we must ensure that all populations of Europe and Central  Asia have access to better nutrition, which continues to remain out  of reach for too many people. FAO stands ready to help address these  challenges while safeguarding the livelihoods of farmers and other  agrifood partners. Better food distribution and consumption patterns,  reduced food loss and waste, increased community self-sufficiency and  improved food and agriculture policies are key.

Third, concerted efforts for a better environment are needed to  safeguard and restore terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, as the  region's agrifood systems are threatened by long-term environmental  and human-driven stresses such as climate change, deforestation,  biodiversity loss and natural resource degradation. Well-managed  local livestock breeds can empower rural communities to sustain  traditional livelihoods, and climate-smart agricultural practices can  help bolster farmers' resilience. Given their ecological significance  and biodiversity, the region's forests are of global importance, and  preserving them provides essential services to local and mountainous  communities.  To have a better life for everyone, it is vital to  address inequalities and promote inclusive economic growth. This  includes ensuring that smallholders and family farmers receive fair  wages for their work in providing us with food. It also means  guaranteeing secure land tenure, particularly for women and youth,  who often have less secure land rights than men, as well as  Indigenous Peoples. The reduction of gender inequalities in rural  areas is also crucial.  Additionally, it is necessary to enable the  youth to participate in meaningful ways and with new hopes, as their  futures are at stake.

Aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and the FAO Strategic  Framework 2022-31, these four steps offer a path towards conquering  the overlapping crises facing the region. The Thirty-fourth Session  of the FAO Regional Ministerial Conference for Europe - set to take  place on 14-17 May 2024 - will bring together FAO Members from the  region in striving for more efficient, more inclusive, more  resilient, and more sustainable agrifood systems to ensure that no  one is left behind.

By dismantling silos, collaboratively designing solutions, and  fostering a cadre of forward-thinking agents, we can navigate towards  agrifood systems that are efficient, inclusive, resilient, and  sustainable.  Realizing these objectives is a shared responsibility.  As the Director-General of FAO - the United Nations specialized  agency leading global efforts to combat hunger and malnutrition - I  invite all of you to join me in taking solid steps forward. Working  together, we can help ensure a people centered and prosperous world  for all. 

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