Celebrating 40 years at the Regional Conferences

09/04/2018 - 

Between 2017 and 2019, celebrations marking 40 years of FAO country representations are taking place at country and regional level, including in the recently held regional conferences for Africa and for Latin America and the Caribbean.

With FAO’s first country representation established in 1977, and 54 more in the ensuing three-year period, the Organization is undertaking a rolling 40th anniversary initiative from 2017 to 2019.

As FAO gathers momentum in its focus on eliminating hunger, the ongoing series of regional conferences falls in the midst of the celebrations, providing an opportunity to highlight achievements made through country-level cooperation but also to renew the commitment of FAO, governments and partners to meeting the SDGs. Moreover, delegates welcomed the 40th anniversary initiative as a chance to acknowledge the Organization’s long-term presence in the field while assuring flexibility, efficiency and high-level technical capacity at the country level.

At the Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean (LARC) a video showcased the legacy of FAO’s past and present cooperation with the region’s 15 country offices which are reaching 40 years. The Director-General highlighted the most important transformations catalyzed by FAO in the region, and Myrna Cunningham, former Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, delivered a personal testimony. Usain Bolt, one of the greatest sprinter of all time, sent a personal video message to the participants of LARC. “Healthy food system, healthy diet, and healthy life. Run with that,” he said.

At the Regional Conference for Africa (ARC), the anniversary was the focus of a side event within the ministerial roundtable. Delegates stressed that additional efforts in alignment with the Malabo Declaration are required to win the fight against hunger and poverty, especially in the context of conflict, migration and natural disasters. The 40th anniversary is also being celebrated at the local level, demonstrating strong governments’ interest and highlighting strategic partnerships, including close collaborations with Rome-based and other UN agencies. These relationships are integral to FAO’s decentralization strategy and essential to supporting member countries in pursuing the 2030 Agenda, particularly Zero Hunger.

Some 40th anniversary celebrations were linked to other major occasions such as World Food Day and the Director-General’s official country visits. FAO Congo organized a march against hunger and a forum on agricultural entrepreneurship at a local university, while FAO Niger published a book.

In September 2017, the Director-General met Tanzania’s President John Magufuli to mark 40 years of FAO presence in the country, and the FAO Representation also held a round table discussion on climate change and produced short videos for prime-time TV channels, as well as a short documentary on the impact of FAO’s work in Tanzania. FAO Kenya also produced a video on FAO’s work in the country featuring messages from former FAO Representatives. The creation of several school gardens and the publication 2016 in Review were also presented as 40th anniversary achievements.

The 40 years of country representations were also celebrated in country offices throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. FAO Colombia for instance, held a ceremony in which the House of Representatives distinguished the Organization with the Simón Bolívar Order of Democracy in recognition of its contribution to the fight against hunger and poverty.

FAO Ecuador organized an open-air fair and a race, with participants including the First Lady and various ministers, as well as a solemn assembly inaugurating a plaque in recognition of the country's commitment to food security. FAO El Salvador convened a special event in presence of the Minister of Agriculture who delivered a keynote speech on FAO’s crucial role in boosting the country’s economy.

Finally, FAO Mexico produced a special video and a brochure as part of World Food Day 2017, which coincided with the signature of an agreement to upgrade the FAO country office to a Partnership and Liaison Office, the first of this kind in Latin America, as elucidated in an article by former FAO Representative Fernando Soto Baquero.

Country representation is crucial to achieving FAO’s Zero Hunger goal and other SDGs, and celebrating 40 years of country representations offers a valuable opportunity for the Organization, stakeholders and governments to plan strategically for the future. Looking ahead, the next regional conferences – the 34th Session of the Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific (APRC), the 34th Session of the Regional Conference for the Near East (NERC) and the 31st Session of the Regional Conference for Europe (ERC) – will continue to ensure that FAO policies are effectively applied through region-specific and contextual approaches, highlighting the importance of a strong decentralized network.

The anniversary celebrations are not only an occasion to showcase FAO’s successful cooperation with host governments and other partners, but also highlight the importance of future cooperation as the Organization works towards achieving the SDGs. The 40th anniversary provides the opportunity to promote current country programmes, new forms of representation and future plans, as well as projects implemented regionally.

Visit 40th anniversary Regional Offices webpages: Latin America and the CaribbeanAfricaAsia and the Pacific, Near East.