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Op-Ed by Dr. QU Dongyu, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Transforming Asia-Pacific for a Sustainable Future: FAO’s Regional Priorities

In our ever-evolving world, the Asia-Pacific region stands as a dynamic testament to change, with economies transitioning from ‘least developed’ to ‘middle income’ over the last two decades. Yet, the positive transformations contributing to improved lives, health, and prosperity are not uniform across all nations or equitable within them.

While Asia-Pacific boasts three of the world’s largest economies, it is paradoxically home to more than 371 million undernourished individuals, constituting half of the global total. Nearly two billion people struggle to afford a nutritious diet, poverty persists, and inequalities persist among and within countries, spanning gender, age, indigenous communities, and urban-rural divides.

To address these challenges, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is committed to harnessing science and innovation, especially digital solutions, to achieve the Four Betters: Better Production, Better Nutrition, a Better Environment, and a Better Life, leaving no one behind.

FAO’s Regional Priorities for Asia and the Pacific:

  1. Transforming Agrifood Systems: FAO aims to enhance efficiency, inclusivity, resilience, and sustainability of the region’s agrifood systems, ensuring affordable healthy diets. This involves supporting countries in climate adaptation, low-carbon agriculture, modernizing seed systems, integrated farming management, and digitalization.
  2. Sustainable Natural Resources Management: FAO leads the development of tools for targeted investments in agrifood systems, focusing on biodiversity conservation and climate action. The organization supports countries in accessing climate finance to achieve their climate goals in agrifood systems and rural development.
  3. Inclusive Rural Transformation: FAO endeavors to promote economic growth, job creation, and reduce inequality through initiatives like The 1000 Digital Villages, the Hand-in-Hand Initiative, and the One Country One Priority Product Initiative. These efforts aim to ensure sustainable livelihoods, decent incomes, and active participation of women and youth in agrifood systems transformation.
  4. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Focus: FAO collaborates with SIDS to implement anticipatory actions against hazards and risks while formulating the Pacific Action Plan on Mainstreaming Biodiversity across Agricultural Sectors (2024–2030) to enhance sustainability and resilience.

Tailored Investment Plans and Partnerships:

In addition to these priorities, FAO assists countries in crafting tailored investment plans for poverty reduction, combating food loss and waste, conserving water, and building adaptive capacities. Emphasizing South-South and Triangular Cooperation, FAO is expanding partnerships with IFIs, the private sector, regional institutions, civil society, and others to bridge financing gaps and support smallholder and family farmers.

As we prepare for the 37th Session of the FAO Regional Ministerial Conference for Asia and the Pacific, strong political will, commitment, enabling policies, and innovative business models are crucial. The Asia-Pacific region, armed with these elements, can be a catalyst for the transformative changes needed to inspire the world.

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