International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Message from the Secretary

 

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As we advance into 2022 full of hope for a progressively positive turn in global health and overall planetary wellbeing, we would be remiss if we did not pause to feel a sense of sorrow at the terrible toll the worst global pandemic of our lifetime has taken over the last two years. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions and distress in every facet and aspect of our lives, including in food production and food delivery chains. It has had detrimental effects on lives and livelihoods, particularly for rural communities and smallholder farmers upon whom so many rely. The war in Ukraine has further exacerbated the global situation, in terms of both loss of life and food supply, with potentially longer-term adverse impacts. These are exceptionally challenging times for the entire world, without exception.

“Moments of great difficulty are also moments of great opportunity,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at the beginning of the year. Following his lead, we look upon 2022 with hope and as an opportunity for recovery from the pandemic, from environmental and climate crises, and from other challenges facing humanity and our planet.

The guidance of the Bureau and the extra-budgetary support from donors during this exceptional time have been invaluable in making it possible for us to continue operating in order to respond and take action when and where it is most needed.

Despite the difficulties the global pandemic has caused, the Treaty Secretariat adapted swiftly to the evolving situation to continue the important work mandated to us by the Governing Body. The end of 2021 saw the First Special Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty, which approved an interim budget for 2022, until such time that the Governing Body can meet for its regular session, once again.

After having to be postponed twice, the Ninth Session of the Governing Body (GB-9) is on track to take place in New Delhi, India, from 19 to 24 September 2022, and will be preceded by two days of regional and inter-regional consultations. The Secretariat is back in high gear, preparing to make GB-9 a fruitful meeting for all in a safe environment with the help of the host government of India.

In the meantime, the International Treaty’s intersessional work continues apace, and has included numerous formal meetings of subsidiary bodies, most of which have now concluded their tasks for the biennium. During this unprecedented time, we have also undertaken new pandemic-related activities to better serve the needs of the global Treaty community. Under the able guidance of the Chairperson and the Bureau, the International Treaty Secretariat conducted surveys to analyze the impact of the pandemic on the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, and convened a number of COVID-19-related virtual conferences and webinars. Notable among these were technical webinars and virtual meetings on priority themes, such as on cryopreservation, Benefit-sharing Fund (BSF) projects, the Multilateral System, Conservation and Sustainable Use, the Funding Strategy, and Farmers’ Rights. In addition, we continue to grow and refine the Global Information System, developing knowledge and training products, regularly updating the Treaty website, developing our communication outreach, particularly our social media presence and BSF visibility, and developing new informational products aimed at better serving the Treaty membership and diverse stakeholders, such as our first podcast “Treaty Talks” and updated educational modules.

Throughout this time, the Treaty Secretariat has continued to coordinate with National Focal Points, and to collaborate with other international organizations, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and other members of the Biodiversity Liaison Group, particularly with regard to the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. The Secretariat also coordinated FAO’s participation in the Second International Agrobiodiversity Congress, which concluded with the issuance of The Rome Manifesto on Agrobiodiversity. In addition, the International Treaty, in close collaboration with the Global Crop Diversity Trust, launched the world's first facility to provide financial support to genebanks under imminent threat, in the form of “The Emergency Reserve,” which will respond to urgent requests from genebanks in low- and middle-income countries in order to prevent catastrophic loss of their collections.

This year is shaping up to be a busy year, despite continuing global disruptions. We are looking forward to GB-9, during which a number of important decisions will be made for the International Treaty; the CBD COP-15 in Kunming, where the Global Biodiversity Framework is expected to be adopted; and other meetings of particular significance for the International Treaty community. Together, we continue to work to save, share and take care of the seeds and plants that feed the world.

As we gear up for GB-9 and look forward to meeting many of you in person again, I wish you and your loved ones a safe, healthy and fruitful rest of the year, and remain ready to serve the International Treaty community.

Sincerely,

Kent

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