Director-General  QU Dongyu

FAO Asia-Pacific conference highlights the importance of innovation and partnership in promoting healthy diets


4 September 2020, Rome/ThimphuFood systems transformation; innovation and digitalization; and partnerships are central to ensure food security and improve nutrition worldwide, said FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu. 

He was speaking at a special event of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), taking place on the final day of the FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific. An initiative of the Director-General, the session aimed to highlight the importance of global policy convergence, particularly Driving Food System Transformation Toward Sustainable Healthy Diets.

"The pandemic has exposed the grave weaknesses in our global food systems and we need to work harder to make them healthier and more sustainable," QU said. "FAO will continue supporting all your efforts to catalyse the transformation of agri-food systems." 

"I encourage you, as Ministers, regional leaders and relevant stakeholders to take advantage of the Committee and its products," the Director-General added, noting that "we need innovative ways to further disseminate policy instruments." 

Th CFS is an intergovernmental platform for all stakeholders to work together to ensure food security and nutrition for all. The Committee reports to FAO Conference and the UN General Assembly through the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

The Director-General encouraged governments, civil society and the private sector to actively participate in the work of the CFS to finalize the Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition by February 2021, which "will be important for everyone as we think about how we should be producing, marketing, and consuming our food collectively."

Noting that achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 2 (eradicating hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition by 2030) has become even more challenging with the appearance of COVID-19, Qu called for the increased use of technology and innovation and greater collaboration with governments, partners and farmers to overcome the impact of the pandemic: "We need to work together, now more than ever before." 

In this sense, the Director-General noted the importance of promoting transformation through innovation and digitalization, and indicated as an example the FAO Hand-in-Hand Initiative, which is supported by "state-of-the-art tools", including the Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform and the FAO Data Lab

He also highlighted FAO's commitment to strengthening partnerships with all stakeholders within the food system. He mentioned as an example the new Private Sector Partnership Strategy, which will be submitted for review and approval of FAO's Council. 

Working toward healthy diets 

The chairman of the CFS and Thailand's Permanent Representative to the UN agencies in Rome, Thanawat Tiensin, highlighted that the CFS can greatly make a difference at country and local levels by providing support for governments and farmers. He also noted that the CFS products have guided many countries to develop their national strategies in different fields. "We need to focus and make sure we really make an impact," Thanawat said.

Other speakers at the meeting included the Vice-Minister for international affairs at Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Makoto Osawa, who stressed the need for healthy nutrition for "a dignified life" and said that Japan's dietary habits of using local products contribute to less waste.

A presentation on behalf of Samoa's Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Afioga Lopaoo Natanielu Mua, who was unable to attend the event, illustrated the challenges in providing healthy nutrition in the Pacific island country, where obesity and diabetes rates are very high due to a heavy dependence on imported and processed foods.  The minister said the country had to urgently change its approach to local food production and nutrition to reduce obesity and illness.

Shalmali Guttal from the Civil Society Mechanism said the CFS should continue to facilitate the involvement of small-scale producers, indigenous people, women and youth to ensure food systems were considered through a "holistic lens" that recognized the roles of different participants.

From the private sector, there were presentations from Grow Asia, a multi-stakeholder partnership platform that enables collaboration and catalyzes action in support of national and regional agriculture, and Stuart Oda, founder of Alesca Life, an agricultural technology company that promotes innovation.

The four-day FAO Asia-Pacific regional conference, hosted by Bhutan, ended on Friday. It was the first FAO regional conference held virtually.