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FAO Regional Conference for Europe: Prioritizing Resilience in Agrifood Systems

Inaugurating the 34th Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Europe (ERC), Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, underscored the pivotal role of Europe and Central Asia in fostering sustainable transformations within agrifood systems. Against a backdrop of conflicts and environmental adversities, Qu highlighted the region’s progress towards key Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and emphasized the need for collective action to address food insecurity and promote prosperity.

Localizing Priorities for Global Impact

With 53 Member countries and the European Union, spanning nine time zones, the four-day Regional Conference serves as a platform for knowledge exchange and the dissemination of best practices. Amidst challenges such as natural disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the conference aims to foster dialogue on resilience-building measures and effective responses.

Addressing Regional Challenges

Qu Dongyu acknowledged the economic disparities within the region, stressing the importance of leveraging its potential for growth and innovation. Despite relatively low levels of hunger, he emphasized the need for robust social support for farmers and highlighted the role of digital innovation in driving agrifood sector development.

Trade Impacts and Humanitarian Responses

The Director-General noted the significant disruptions to trade flows caused by the conflict in Ukraine, emphasizing FAO’s commitment to providing support and monitoring the situation closely. He urged Member countries to prioritize humanitarian responses, strengthen trade infrastructure, and invest responsibly in agriculture to enhance productivity and resilience.

Promoting Sustainable Solutions

Advocating for innovations and responsible investments, Qu Dongyu called for climate-resilient agrifood systems that prioritize biodiversity conservation and address food loss and waste. He highlighted the importance of True Cost Accounting in assessing the environmental and social impacts of agrifood production.

Rebuilding Agrifood Systems in Conflict Zones

Hans Hoogeveen, Independent Chairperson of the FAO Council, urged Member countries to prioritize rebuilding agrifood systems in conflict-affected areas, emphasizing the potential of redirecting public expenditures from weaponry to food security initiatives. He also called for greater youth involvement in agrifood policy and the creation of startup enterprises to drive transformation.

FAO’s Commitment to the Region

FAO’s initiatives in Europe and Central Asia include empowering smallholders and youth, promoting digitalization through platforms like the AgriTech Observatory, and advancing climate action and biodiversity conservation. With programs such as the Technical Cooperation Programme and the Hand-in-Hand Initiative, FAO continues to support sustainable agrifood system transformations across the region.

As the 34th Session of the Regional Conference unfolds, stakeholders are poised to collaborate on strategies that will not only bolster the resilience of agrifood systems but also contribute to the achievement of global sustainability goals.

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Saurabh is an impassioned environmental journalist dedicated to uncovering stories that shed light on pressing ecological issues. Through his writing, he aims to inspire action and promote greater awareness of our collective responsibility to safeguard the planet for future generations.