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Sustainable development goals hinge on hunger battle

FAO Regional Conference for Europe discusses regional and global priorities

Photo: ©FAO/Vasily Maximov
Agriculture has a central role to play in building a more sustainable economic development model.

19 April 2012, Baku, Azerbaijan  - The success of efforts to shift over the longer term to a model of sustainable economic development taking place under the Rio+20 umbrella will require that the world first tackle its "most urgent" challenge -- ending hunger, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today.

"We cannot call development sustainable if we are leaving almost one in every seven people behind, victims of undernourishment," the FAO chief said at the start of the Organization's biennial regional conference for Europe, taking place this week in Baku, Azerbaijan.

"With the United Nations Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development two months away, we have the opportunity to explore the convergence between the agendas of food security and climate change, choosing the path of a more sustainable and inclusive development model," Graziano da Silva argued.

Specific areas requiring concerted action highlighted by the FAO Director-General included:

  • Adopting more sustainable production approaches and technologies to produce more food with less impact
  • Shifting to healthier diets to tackle the emerging problem of obesity and reduce pressure on natural resources essential to food production
  • Cutting the 222 million tons of food thrown away or wasted in industrialized countries each year
  • In areas  affected by repeated food insecurity crises, such as the Horn of Africa, moving beyond disaster response to promote local development and long term resilience
  • Creating anti-poverty programs that provide poor rural communities with food security safety nets as well as more economic opportunities, with a particular focus on women and youth.

A global dialogue

A core part of the Organization's governance structure, the regional conferences convene every two years to discuss policy and priority actions at the regional, subregional and country levels and contribute to shaping FAO's global work-agenda.

In an era of increasing austerity in public services, FAO is seeking to target its resources in ways that can make the greatest difference. To that end, it has revitalized the regional conference process in order to seek guidance from member governments and better respond to their needs.

Challenges for Europe

In his remarks, Graziano da Silva also discussed the food security and nutritional challenges facing Europe. He noted that although most European countries experience malnutrition rates under five percent, there are pockets of particular concern - such as the Caucasus and Central Asia, where undernourishment and poverty rates remain high. While FAO projects that this situation will improve over the coming decades, it also warns that a rise in obesity and diet-related illnesses will emerge as major problems.

And Graziano da Silva spoke about the development needs of the large number of small farms that resulted from the privatization process that began in 2000.. Small farmers in that region require specific support to overcome limits on farm production, which is some cases is 30 to 40 percent below potential, he said.

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