San Jose, 23 April 2021 (IICA). The Member States of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) expressed decisive support for the dialogue and consultation process that the specialized organization is undertaking in preparation for the UN Food Systems Summit, in a bid to ensure that the Americas, its governments, institutions and farmers are adequately represented at the global forum.
These views were expressed by senior authorities in the ministries and secretariats of agriculture of the 17 countries participating in the Regular Meeting of IICA’s Special Advisory Commission on Management Issues (SACMI).
The purpose of the SACMI—an advisory body to IICA’s Director General—is to strengthen the organizational capacity of the specialized agricultural and rural development organization. Of the nine Member States that serve on the SACMI, six are permanent members (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, United States and Venezuela). The remaining three are appointed annually, rotating according to geographic location and alphabetical order, which this year falls to Colombia, Costa Rica and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
In addition to the members of the SACMI, representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana and Haiti were also in attendance, given the topics of interest in the agenda, which included discussions on budgetary matters and the organization of the next session of the Inter-American Board of Agriculture.
“In discussing the transformation of agrifood systems, the very future of our hemisphere is at stake”, stressed IICA Director General, Manuel Otero. “Thus, we must strive to ensure that these forums facilitate adequate representation of our governments, our institutions and our farmers”.
The UN Food Systems Summit will be held at the end of September, three weeks after the meeting of the Inter-American Board of Agriculture (IABA) – IICA’s highest governing body, comprising the ministers and secretaries of agriculture of the Americas.
The expectation is that participants in the summit convened by UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, will agree on new and bold actions to further the achievement of the 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), each of which depends on healthier, more sustainable and more equitable food systems.
With a view to the Summit, Otero reminded the SACMI delegates that IICA is defending the agriculture sector as an “essential and key link in the global agrifood system; without agriculture production there would be no raw material to prepare our food”.
In this context, the IICA Director General announced that, “in the coming days, we will present the Governments, particularly the ministers and secretaries, with a conceptual document about the future of agrifood systems from the perspective of agriculture in the Americas. It will reflect our discussions with our Member States, civil society and the private sector. We trust that it will serve as the basis for reflection and action, so that the countries of the Americas may arrive at a joint position in preparation for this major Summit”.
Canada’s representative at the meeting, Aleksandar Jotanovic, Senior Multilateral Affairs Officer at Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, commented that, “In response to the Covid-19 situation, IICA has played an important and exemplary role. We can think back to all the events that IICA has facilitated, its meetings with ministers, technical advice and other forums. We thank IICA for its response, as well as for the dialogues about agrifood systems. Canada has a great deal to share at the Summit, in terms of the major role that science-based production stands to play in achieving the goals of sustainable development, sustainability and food security, among others”.
María de Lourdes Cruz Trinidad, the General Coordinator of International Affairs in Mexico’s Secretariat of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER), commended the presentations and indicated that “We are eagerly awaiting the document on food systems to be presented by the General Directorate and hope that it will reflect Mexico’s belief that agriculture must play a dominant part in the Summit”.
On the other hand, Joe Hain, Director of Multilateral Affairs at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), indicated that, “The United States continues to support the Summit’s goal to improve the sustainability and resilience of systems, while offering healthy and safe food that is accessible to all. We are of the same view and hope to work together. Let us motivate the Member States to unite and prepare for the Summit together. Agriculture will always be part of the solution”.
Ariel Martínez, Undersecretary of Policy Coordination in Argentina’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, expressed, “on behalf of Minister Luis Basterra, support for the efforts of the Director General to streamline the accounts and financial position of the Institute. Our country believes that it is important that we agree on a common vision to take to the Food Systems Summit, with respect to the challenges that we face in the region. IICA’s work in this regard is extremely important”.
Undersecretary Martínez also maintained that, “We are confident that this administration can present an important perspective, by coordinating the efforts of our countries. We must arrive at the Summit, having reached a common ground about the role of food production in sustainability and about the way that we produce. Indeed, we must convey to the world that not only do we produce quality food, but that the process is mindful of environmental considerations and climate change”.
Flávio Bettarello, Deputy Secretary of Trade and International Relations at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply of Brazil, confirmed that his country was “renewing its support for the IICA administration’s management and organization of numerous forums on food systems. IICA plays a pivotal role”.
Colombia’s representative, María Cristina Jiménez, Advisor to the Office of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, remarked that, “Colombia would like to highlight all the work that IICA has done with respect to agrifood systems. We are preparing for the UN event about this issue”. She also said that “We would like to congratulate IICA for its efforts, which have been of great assistance. We are keenly aware of this at the Ministry of Agriculture and believe that the support to agrifood systems and rurality affairs is essential”.
Edgar Mata, the Executive Director of the Executive Secretariat of Agricultural Sector Planning in Costa Rica’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (SEPSA), also endorsed IICA’s proposals.
The delegates expressed their solidarity to Sabato Caesar, Minister of Agriculture of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, who gave an overview of the situation in his country, which was plunged into a state of catastrophe, following a recent volcano eruption (see separate note).About IICA
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