San José, 17 March 2021 (IICA). The Member States of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) expressed their support for the proposal made by the organization to present a consolidated position of the Americas at the UN Food Systems Summit, in order to guarantee that the agricultural sector of the region is heard in that global forum.
This support was expressed by senior officials who participated in a meeting of the Special Advisory Commission on Management Issues (SACMI), in which they agreed that the region, which is the largest global producer and exporter of agricultural products, should make its voice heard at the Summit, the purpose of which is to lay the foundations for a positive transformation of food design, production and consumption systems.
“IICA has a story to tell at the Summit, especially in terms of how to combine the rules of the game with science and technology in order to meet the sustainability goals. In the coming years, our producers will have to feed a growing population and we all agree with you that a prosperous agricultural sector is part of the solution and not of the problem”, said Aleksandar Jotanovic, Senior Multilateral Affairs Officer at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada during the meeting, addressing the Director General of IICA, Manuel Otero.
The debate focused on the need to foster a positive view of the role of agricultural activity when addressing and mitigating climate change, and discussed its strategic position in the economy of many of the countries of the region, not only as a source of exports, but also -and fundamentally- as a generator of employment and a promoter of social inclusion and poverty reduction.
In addition, the strategic role of the Americas in the process of transformation of agrifood systems was underscored, on the basis of the region’s role as the guarantor of global food security and the fact that it is best equipped to offer quality resources that can be incorporated into production, such as land and water.
“We congratulate IICA for its efforts to align the region’s position for the Food Systems Summit. We must have significant political weight and present a strong position at the Summit, so that our voice can really be heard”, said Ariel Martínez, Undersecretary of Political Coordination of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Argentina.
The main role of SACMI is to facilitate regular exchange between the Director General of IICA and the Member States on administrative, financial, and strategic matters, so that they can be addressed by the governing bodies of this hemispheric organization. It has six permanent member countries (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the United States, Mexico and Venezuela) and three rotating States, which this year are Colombia, Costa Rica and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Flávio Bettarello, Deputy Secretary of Trade and International Relations at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply of Brazil, stated the importance of “making it clear that agriculture is not the cause of the problem, but part of the solution. We need IICA’s support to facilitate hemispheric articulation in order to make the voices of the Americas (…) heard at the Food Systems Summit”.
The official also expressed his support of Otero “for spearheading this mandate, which is very important, (since) we must achieve adequate coordination so that the voice of the Americas reaches New York in September.”
At the invitation of Agnes Kalibata, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for the 2021 Food Systems Summit, the Director General of IICA joined the Summit’s Champions Network, one of the four main support structures of the meeting.
In this capacity, Otero reaffirmed the importance of ensuring that, in preparation for the Summit, the consultative process accurately reflects the priority needs of the 34 Member States of IICA in the Americas. To this end, the Institute has been promoting the organization of forums featuring conceptual and political discussions that can contribute to the meeting from the perspective of agriculture in the region.
“From our point of view, the Food Systems Summit should be called the Agrifood Systems Summit, so as to emphasize that we cannot think about food if we do not think about agriculture,” said Otero. “We have before us a great opportunity to discuss the transformation of agrifood systems, always focusing on the progress of our rural areas and on how we can build bridges with our urban centers,” he added.
A crucial event to ensure the convergence and harmonization of the positions of the 34 IICA Member States in the lead-up to the Summit will be the meeting of the Inter-American Board of Agriculture (IABA), on September 1 and 2, which will bring together the Ministers and Secretaries of Agriculture of the Americas.
“We believe that agriculture should have a more relevant and prominent place at the Summit, since it is the basis of any food system. While we recognize the importance of other issues (…), the topic of agriculture must be a top priority; we must take measures to support our producers, especially the most disadvantaged ones. That is why we endorse the initiative of the Director General to have IICA present the agricultural approaches of the countries of the hemisphere at the Summit, in accordance with their strategic role in food systems. IICA is fully capable of this (…) and Mexico is in agreement”, said María de Lourdes Cruz Trinidad, General Coordinator of International Affairs of the Secretariat of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER) of Mexico.
Joe Hain, Director of Multilateral Affairs at the United States Department of Agriculture, expressed his support for IICA’s participation in the Summit’s Champions Network and indicated that this will “provide IICA with a great opportunity to express our position and opinions at the Summit”.
He then added that “the Summit process must focus on science-based policies and reach decisions geared towards improving social, economic and environmental sustainability. If we combine the IABA with a strong position in the region, we will be able speak with one voice on behalf of our entire continent”.
The SACMI meeting also featured the participation of senior officials from 18 other IICA member countries: The Bahamas, Bolivia, Belize, Chile, Dominica, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay.
The representative of Paraguay, Paula Durrutty, Executive Coordinator of the Integrated System for Rural and Agricultural Development (SIGET) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, mentioned the need to “differentiate our production model from that of other countries, with special emphasis on our carbon neutral livestock production (…). We want our models and production systems to stand out; our good agricultural practices, crop rotation systems and other measurement approaches need to be strategically displayed and differentiated”.