As COVID-19 continues to threaten lives and livelihoods across many countries of the Asia-Pacific region, it has led to setbacks in the fight to end hunger and malnutrition.
In this context, the 35th Session of the FAO Asia and Pacific Regional Conference (#APRC35), hosted virtually by the Royal Government of Bhutan, started today with representatives from 46 countries examining the present situation of the region's food security, with a particular emphasis on implications linked to the spread of the coronavirus and its impact on food systems region-wide.
More than 400 delegates are expected to participate in the Conference, including representatives from the private sector, civil society, academia and technical experts in the food and agriculture sectors. All sessions of the conference can be followed live via Webcast. The Timetable can be found here and the Annotated Agenda is here.
Fighting two pandemics require new thinking and actions
The Asia-Pacific region is home to more than half of the world's undernourished people, and with the impacts of COVID-19 the number of hungry people in Southern Asia could rise by nearly a third to 330 million by 2030, the Sustainable Development Goal deadline set by the global community to eliminate hunger and malnutrition in all its forms.
From Afghanistan and Iran in the west, across populous South and East Asia, and far out into the Pacific Islands, new ways and approaches will be needed to battle back from these two pandemics: COVID-19 and hunger. Climate change is another aggravating factor menacing efforts to increase resilience across our food systems.
"We must come to terms with what is before us and recognize that the world and our region has changed. We must find new ways to move forward and ensure sustainable food security in the face of these two pandemics, as well as prepare for threats that can and will evolve in the future," said Jong-Jin Kim, FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific. "This virtual conference brings together the people and ideas to chart a true course of action for the benefit of all."
The conference will highlight FAO's recently launched comprehensive COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme designed to provide a flexible and coordinated global response that aims to ensure access to nutritious food for everyone. The programme includes the mobilization of all forms of resources and partnerships at country, regional and global level. The main aim is to mitigate the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic while strengthening the longer-term resilience of food systems and livelihoods.
The conference will also consider new marketing channels (such as e-commerce) and new technologies (including better storage facilities) that will help reduce food losses, as these are critical to ensure the flow of nutritious foods and to generate improved incomes for those who work across the entire food and agriculture sectors.
Equally critical is enabling smallholder and family farmers - those who produce most of the food we consume - to become more dynamic, entrepreneurial and competitive through continual innovation. Smallholders will need much greater access to financial resources, technology and innovation.
Bringing all players together will be crucial to realizing these gains and FAO is in the process of implementing the Hand-in-Hand Initiative to enable that. The conference will have a special session to examine the progress made in the region through this initiative.