FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

FAO Regional Conference began with historic participation of its 33 member countries

The Conference has the highest turnout in the history of FAO in Latin America and the Caribbean in terms of the participating countries, as highlighted by the FAO's Regional Representative.

Record turnout at FAO's Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean.

March 6, 2018, Montego Bay, Jamaica - The Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) began yesterday in Montego Bay, Jamaica, with an unprecedented level of assistance.

"In terms of participation, this is the most attended Conference in the forty years of FAO's history in Latin America and the Caribbean," said FAO’s Regional Representative Julio Berdegué, noting that, for the first time, the 33 Member countries of FAO sent delegations.

"We have 37 Ministers and Vice Ministers; the Vice-president of the Dominican Republic and 8 Ambassadors. In addition, there are 35 high-level representatives of ministerial delegations and 50 non-governmental observers from civil society the private sector and academia”, said Berdegué.

The Regional Representative estimated that the total participation of the Conference will be around 250 people, twice the average number of past conferences.

"This demonstrates at least two things: the concern of countries regarding the unprecedented fact, not seen in two decades, of the increase in hunger, obesity and rural poverty, and it is also an acknowledgment of the work that FAO has been doing together with countries in the last two years”, explained Berdegué.

In this regard, the Representative of the international organization asked FAO’s member countries for a clear political mandate, so that the Organization can focus its efforts and resources on initiatives that have a large-scale impacts, after the number of people suffering from hunger in the region increased by 2.4 million between 2015 and 2016, reaching a total of 42.5 million.

Another unprecedented feature of this Conference is the participation of observers from the private sector, who join those from the civil society and the academy.

"We are very pleased that the private sector is sitting at the table to discuss. They tell us that they want to be part of the solution to the problems of malnutrition and obesity. That good faith has to be translated into concrete actions. We need changes in the big food companies to defeat the obesity epidemic, in the same way that we need better public policies, "said Berdegué.

Getting back on the road to zero hunger

Julio Berdegué regretted the increase in regional hunger, which had been declining rapidly, but stressed that "it can fall again if governments gives this the necessary political priority."

"Latin America and the Caribbean has already shown that it can reduce hunger. It fulfilled that Millennium Development Goal. It's something we already did, and we did it very well. But we thought that the task was already accomplished, however the numbers are telling us no. "

Berdegué said he hopes that this Conference will marks a before and after: "We want the countries to leave here saying 'we can not neglect the fight against hunger and extreme poverty, because if we do so, we go backwards'."

The Conference, which runs until March 8, will also address the alarming increase in obesity, which has become an epidemic throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

The countries will also discuss rural development, the promotion of family farming, the challenges and opportunities of migration, and the policies needed to improve the food security of women and indigenous peoples.

The third major theme of the Regional Conference is climate change: on this point, Berdegué stressed the importance that all countries in the region have access to new sources of funding, given that it is estimated that Latin America and the Caribbean requires some USD 100 billion dollars extra by 2050 to be able to face the problem.

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