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Director-General  José Graziano da Silva
An opinion article by FAO-Director General José Graziano da Silva

Japan has already been making invaluable contributions for the international community to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal number 2: eradicating hunger and malnutrition by 2030, as well as promoting sustainable agriculture.  

From building and restoring irrigation systems in Afghanistan to supporting and endorsing regional work to counter food loss and waste in Southeast Asia, the commitment and support from the people of Japan have changed the lives of some of those most vulnerable and food-insecure.

Even in conflict areas, Japan has supported FAO’s efforts to boost resilience and mitigate risks to food production in the Lake Chad Basin area, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Such initiatives range from provision of seeds to veterinary outreach services aimed at curbing livestock diseases that can decimate rural households and rapidly spread across borders.

Since 1993, the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) has enabled high-level policy dialogue amongst African leaders, donor countries and UN agencies. Through the 2013 TICAD-V Framework, Japan pledged USD 32 billion in a package to support a wide range of investments. In 2016, when TICAD-VI was held in Nairobi, around 20,000 participants, including 32 heads of state and government, launched several major plans, including one specifically aimed at boosting resilience to climate change in the Sahel and Horn of Africa.

Simultaneously, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) launched the Initiative for Food and Nutrition Security in Africa (IFNA), an ambitious 10-year campaign. Japan, working with FAO, has also been a key supporter of the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) initiative aimed at doubling rice production, and has shared key homegrown rice-growing and aquaculture technologies with 29 African countries.

FAO collaborates on these ambitious programmes and strongly applauds Japan’s commitment to the principle of ‘wa’ - or harmony -  that food security, nutrition and resilience are the foundation and infrastructure for all other sustainable economic development investments.

Tailoring advice to help countries develop policy frameworks to pursue the specific welfare of their populations forms a large part of the portfolio of services offered by FAO. Such advice, especially when embedded with local capacity building and training, is particularly important in an era of climate change and rapid urbanization, both of which have enormous implications for food production and distribution systems.

Still, we know there is much more to do. To feed a world where nearly 800 million people remain undernourished, we realize there are many challenges for the young scientists of today and tomorrow to overcome.

While we at FAO rely on the knowledge and expertise of our own specialists, we increasingly seek these valuable human resources from Japan and other countries. In other words, while financial resources are important, people with special skills are also invaluable in the fight against hunger. That’s why FAO is continuously on the lookout to find people with the right skills for the right jobs. Increasingly, we find them right here in Japan, from young people graduating from the country’s leading agricultural universities and world class, innovative research centers, to potential new recruits who possess administrative, managerial and accounting skills. 

Food systems for healthy diets is another major area of work for FAO, following the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), held in November 2014, and other major international decisions on nutrition and healthy food systems, such as the declaration by the UN General Assembly in April 2016 of a Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016-2025).

Japan is a global model for healthy diets and nutrition. The Japanese diet is one of the healthiest in the world, which allows the Japanese people to have the lowest obesity rates among developed countries. Washoku, the Japanese traditional diet, has contributed to a better health status and longevity of the Japanese population. There are many lessons that can be shared about the Japanese healthy diet with the global community.

Japan also exemplifies the importance of public policy to promote adequate nutrition, especially through the Shoku Iku law, which aims to educate children on good nutrition, and with the Metabo law, which is aimed at controlling adults’ weight.

FAO would welcome Japan’s decision to play a leading role in the promotion of good nutrition and healthy diets – for example, by leading the next Nutrition for Growth (N4G) high-level event during the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

 

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