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Transcription of the Director-General’s Opening Remarks at the Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

Monday, 24 February 2020, 10:15

Plenary Hall, FAO Headquarters, Rome

 

Excellencies, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning,

Biodiversity is so diverse!

We are very pleased to welcome you all to FAO Headquarters for this Working Group on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). I hope that your deliberations during the week will continue contributing to the conclusion of a robust post-2020 global biodiversity framework at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Kunming, China that should be in October 2020.

The Convention on Biological Diversity is not only the successful environmental agreement that has protected biodiversity on a global scale. It is also of great importance in the context of enhancing the sustainability of agriculture at large, including forestry, fishery, aquaculture and others. Also in nutrition related topics, transboundary diseases and pesticide control, and in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.

This building has witnessed many milestones in the history of UN efforts to achieve biodiversity conservation through sustainable development. For example, the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the reference framework which ensures sustainable fishing and management, and living aquatic research resources, with due respect for the ecosystem and biodiversity. It celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which is in harmony with the CBD, was adopted in this very room 19 years ago. The Treaty ensures that farmers, plant breeders and scientists have access to plant genetic materials necessary for agricultural innovation.

Last year FAO reported on the State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture, and warned us that biodiversity for food and agriculture is declining day by day. It also demonstrated that biodiversity is vital to improving agricultural food production. In addition, 2020 has been declared by the UN General Assembly as the International Year of Plant Health. This is a strong message to the global community on how plant health is increasingly under threat.

The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) ensures that pests and diseases do not become one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss.

Following the outcomes of the COP in 2016, FAO has been very active in mainstreaming biodiversity in the agricultural sector and has recently adopted a strategy on biodiversity.

Biodiversity is fundamental for human beings, the ecosystem and for food diversity, from which we are benefitting now, and we will in the future.

Despite all of this, the challenges ahead are enormous. In the middle of this century, there will be nine to ten billion people on this planet. They should be - and will have to be – well fed. All food on land, or from water, needs to be harvested in a way that is simpler, and implies some transformation of the environment. The amount of transformation in our food systems that we are prepared to consider needs to be carefully discussed.

The debate is at the heart of the concept of sustainable development, and will be central to your deliberations of the post-2020 biodiversity framework.

The 2030 Agenda challenges countries to eliminate all forms of malnutrition by ensuring that a sufficient quantity of safe, nutritious and affordable food is available to all people on this planet.

However, it also requires countries to achieve this while creating growth and employment opportunities that are needed to eradicate poverty, avoiding biodiversity loss, and over-exploitation of natural resources, as well as adapting to the growing pressure of climate change. We need our agro food systems to deliver food security and nutrition to everyone, to be economically sustainable, to be inclusive, and to have a positive impact on climate and environment. It looks contradictory, but luckily, we are human beings. We have enough intelligence and tools to deal with this.

We know that our temporary food systems are not fulfilling this aspiration, and that all key actors need to join hands urgently to fix this situation. We need to work together to bring about the radical changes that are needed. The 2021 World Food Systems Summit, hosted by the UN Secretary General, is an excellent opportunity to reflect and agree on what actions should be taken in the future.

I strongly hope that the biodiversity community will fully engage in the participation of the Summit, to ensure biodiversity is taken into account at every step of production, supply, and value chains. Biodiversity is able to play a vital role for their potential: to increase productivity, to diversify genotypes for various purposes, and normative value for new challenges.

In order to accelerate the transformation in our food systems, we need to take advantage of digitalization, because we are now in the digital world. It is vital to promote digital farming, digital rural development together, and in addition, make use of acquired wisdom, practice and experience.

Farmers should be given more access to digital dividends in the fight against poverty and the digital divide among the countries and regions, and between cities and the countryside that need to be narrowed.

We have launched the Hand-in-Hand Initiative to face the complex challenges in front of us through a results oriented approach. The Initiative identifies the best opportunities to raise the incomes of the poor in rural areas through agricultural transformation. By facilitating match-making between donors and recipients countries in the most vulnerable regions and countries in special situations; like LLDCs, LDCs, SIDS, and densely populated countries in food crisis.

In designing the post-2020 biodiversity framework, please bear in mind the important role that FAO, together with the relevant Ministers and partners of Member Countries, can participate in its implementation. We regularly provide full function services to our Member Countries.

The first one is our strong role in data collection and information dissemination, based on big data we covered with our Member Countries and key players, private sector and others. Out of the 17 SDGs, we are entrusted with the custody of six SDGs, 21 indicators, and 39 goals. FAO should be located more closely together with our key players. Please bear this in mind when putting together the new biodiversity target indicators, as our expertise can help the global community in the decades to come.

The second one is the standard setting and multilateral policy role of FAO. We have the IPPC for transboundary diseases, because, as you know, most of you work with the IPCC. However here we have the IPPC, for transboundary diseases and pests, the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. We also have CODEX setting food safety regulations and standards.

For all of these issues, at FAO, we have a long experience and expertise working together with relevant organizations, such as the WHO and others.

The third service in our role in policy consultation. For example, ensuring integration of biodiversity considerations into the food and agriculture agenda including forestry and fishery.

Here, when you talk about the Food and Agriculture Organization, agriculture means at large and is not limited to the traditional crops, animal husbandry, or livestock - we also include forestry, fisheries, aquaculture and agro-environment issues.

The first function is capacity building; to have our Member Countries build their capacity in food and agriculture systems, we need to aim big and do concrete. Step-by-step. Only then, we will reach our common goal: to eradicate hunger, ensure food security, and make this world a better, more beautiful place for all of us.

I wish you fruitful deliberations and successful meetings.

Welcome once again to FAO and enjoy your stay in Rome.

Thank you very much.

 

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