The Americas to Present United Front at UN Food Systems Pre-Summit in Rome
(Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture Press Release) The countries of the Americas agreed to act in unison at the UN Food Systems Summit, beginning (this) month, to ensure that farmers are duly represented at the global forum and that their key role in the food supply is recognised, prioritising agricultural activity as part of the solution to the challenges facing the world.
This rallying call for “unity in action” was made by Panama’s Minister of Agricultural Development, Augusto Valderrama, in a meeting of the Executive Committee, one of the governing bodies of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), which was chaired by Paraguay. This united approach will begin in Rome, in July, at the Pre-Summit of the global forum, which is seeking to establish commitments that will transform food systems.
Representatives of the 31 countries that participated in the Executive Committee session—led by Moisés Santiago Bertoni, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Paraguay—endorsed the document, “On the road to the UN Food Systems Summit: Key messages from the perspective of agriculture in the Americas”.
The document contains 16 key messages (SEE ATTACHED), highlighting the indispensable role of agriculture, stressing that farmers and food systems’ workers are a critical and central link in the chain, and that without agricultural production there would be no raw material to transform into food.
The messages also pinpoint agriculture as a fundamental activity in eradicating poverty, stimulating rural development and protecting the environment.
“These are some of the most understandable messages I have seen coming out of our sector in a very long time. They speak to nutrition, international trade, the use of the language of transparency and visibility, and also about biofortified foods. I commend you on these messages and express the support of Trinidad and Tobago for all of them”, remarked Clarence Rambharat, Minister of Agriculture Land and Fisheries of that Caribbean country.
Speaking from Ottawa, James Breithauph, Deputy Director of Multilateral Relations, Negotiations and Trade Agreements at Agriculture and Agrifood Canada, expressed his country’s appreciation for IICA’s “engagement with the Food Systems Summit process and for presenting these clear and well-thought-out list of key messages. Canada agrees strongly with IICA’s approach and messaging. Agricultural producers are an absolutely critical element of our food systems and the voices from the fields should be heard loudly at the Food Systems Summit deliberations. Decision- and policy-making should be based on science and evidence, particularly around issues of trade, innovation and climate change. Agriculture must be a critical part of the solution”.
The Food Systems Pre-Summit will be held in Rome from 26 – 28 July. IICA will attend, as a member of the Summit Champions Network—one of the meeting’s support structures—which it joined in its capacity as a representative of the agriculture and rural sectors of North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Ariel Martínez, Undersecretary of Policy Coordination at Argentina’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, felt that, “the document reflects the common challenges that we face in the Hemisphere. IICA and the countries are reflecting the interests of small farmers, who work to produce food on a daily basis and provide the world with food that is safe and of a high quality”.
“If this document has achieved anything”, he said, “is that it has set forth the region’s monumental role in agricultural production and the fact that we must demonstrate together and be proactive in declaring, in a strong voice, that we have solutions to the common challenges we face”.
Director General of IICA, Manuel Otero, stressed that the document with the key messages on Agriculture in the Americas will be taken to the Pre-Summit in Rome and to the Summit—which will be held as a parallel event to the UN General Assembly in New York—and weeks before that, on September 1 and 2, to the Conference of Ministers of Agriculture and meeting of the IABA (Inter-American Board of Agriculture), IICA’s highest governing body, bringing together the 34 ministers and secretaries of agriculture of the hemisphere.
Agreement and mobilisation
Following the positions expressed by the representatives of Canada and Argentina, the other countries reiterated their decisive support for the 16 messages and approved the resolution recognizing the work of IICA and its Director General to support Member States’ participation in the process leading up to the Summit. They also asked the Institute to continue its efforts until the Summit and to present the messages at the event in Rome.
“If we present a united voice of the Americas at the Food Systems Summit we will ensure that we are at the forefront of this global event, because we are the ones who produce the world’s food”, said Flavio Bettarello, Brazil’s Assistant Secretary for Trade and International Relations at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply.
On the other hand, the Guyanese Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha, commented that, “Many countries are experiencing those issues that the Director General highlighted, in attempting to transform our agri-food systems. We, in Guyana, have been putting a lot of effort, not only in our country, but in the Caribbean as a whole. Our President, Mohamed Irfaan Ali, is the lead spokesperson on agriculture in the Caribbean and has presented a document to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), proposing a ministerial taskforce to advance the agri-food system development in the region”.
Joe Hain, Director of Multilateral Affairs at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicated that his country “continues to support the Food Systems Summit and the goal of improving food system sustainability and resilience of food systems around the world, as well as providing safe, nutritious, affordable and accessible food for all. We look forward to working with IICA and we also strongly encourage all IICA members to use the messages developed in the preparations for the Pre-Summit in July and the Summit in September”.
IICA organised numerous debates and preparatory activities for the Summit, with various production chain stakeholders, which served to strengthen the consensus about which actions are needed to improve agri-food system sustainability.
Along these line, the Institute proposed these general principles: that farmers should be duly represented; that decisions and policies should be science-based; and that agriculture is part of the solution to the main problems facing humanity.
Based on this, the messages were modified, in keeping with the contributions arising from an exhaustive discussion process, and grouped into four categories: transformation of agri-food systems; consumer demand and nutritional aspects; production strategies and environmental matters; and the role of the Americas.
“We believe that the dialogues spearheaded by IICA, focusing on challenges and opportunities for agriculture in the Americas, have led to a consensus that will allow the Americas to speak with one voice, and with an innovative approach to agriculture, at the Summit. We thank the Director General of IICA for his leadership on these issues”, said Hain.
Víctor Villalobos, Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development of Mexico, commented that, “The 41st Regular Meeting of IICA’s Executive Committee is taking place with the participation of 31 member countries and a work agenda aimed at consolidating agriculture’s central role and the leading position of the Americas in the promotion of sustainable development. We are seeking to arrive at a consensus on the process to transform and strengthen Food Systems, in view of the global summit”.
Also expressing their support were Renato Alvarado, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Costa Rica; Edward Centeno, Minister of Agriculture of Nicaragua; Saboto Caesar, Minister of Agriculture of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; and Moisés Santiago Bertoni, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Paraguay, in addition to other senior officials from the ministries of agriculture of Guatemala, Suriname, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia, to name a few.