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Posted: Saturday 17 December, 2022 at 10:15 AM

Latin American and Caribbean countries make a joint commitment to act without delay to achieve food security in the region

By: (IICA), Press Release

    Buenos Aires, 16 December 2022 (IICA) - More than 20 ministers and deputy ministers of agriculture and other senior officials from Latin America and the Caribbean shared experiences and ideas with officials from international organizations, and agreed to expand cooperation efforts aimed at combating food insecurity in the region.


    The commitment was made during a high-level meeting aimed at strengthening integration, organized by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).


    Latin America and the Caribbean find themselves in a complex economic, social, and environmental situation, due to the crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic, longstanding social inequality, the effects of climate change, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and successive economic and inflationary crises that have exacerbated hunger and food insecurity.


    Against this backdrop, the representatives of the countries underscored the importance of regional integration in tackling food insecurity, which affects millions of people in Latin America and the Caribbean. The problems associated with it ¾high levels of poverty, conditions of vulnerability and social inequality¾  have very serious consequences for the people impacted.


    To achieve food security, the participants said, agri-food systems need to be more inclusive, efficient, resilient and sustainable, and ensure that the entire population has a healthy diet.


    The hybrid meeting was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the country that holds the pro tempore presidency of CELAC.


    Argentina’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Santiago Cafiero, opened the activity with the Director General of IICA, Manuel Otero, and FAO Assistant Director General and Regional Representative, Mario Lubetkin. Among the other senior officials taking part were Zulfikar Mustapha, Minister of Agriculture of Guyana; Laura Suazo, Secretary of Agriculture and Livestock of Honduras; Gustavo Martínez Pandiani, Coordinator of the Pro Tempore Presidency of CELAC; Jorge Solmi, Argentina’s Secretary of Federal Agricultural Coordination; and Fernando Camargo, the IICA Representative in Argentina.


    “CELAC, IICA and FAO work as a single unit on deep-seated regional problems, which we must continue to address. It’s the only way. There are no magical solutions. We must continue to address them by means of integration, and with intelligence and mutually supportive multilateralism,” Cafiero said.


    “By mutually supportive multilateralism we mean working in coordination with all the institutions and with a single objective: to construct fairer societies that are capable of achieving full development and, in the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, to narrow the gaps in accessibility holding back large segments of our populations,” Argentina’s Foreign Minister added.


    Manuel Otero explained that there was a long tradition of collaboration on food and agriculture issues between countries in the region. “We’ve made a lot of progress in recent decades,” he emphasized. “In 1961, Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for around nine percent of the world’s agricultural production. Today it accounts for just over thirteen percent. The figure for the European Union is nine percent, and eleven percent for the United States and Canada. Our region also tops the league of global net exporters. Therefore, what we do in our region is crucial for the planet’s food security.”


    “However,” he added, “we also know that in our region there are great inequalities between countries and within countries. We’d been experiencing a series of problems for a number of years, which have now been exacerbated by the war in Europe and the slowdown in the global economy due to changes in macroeconomic policies in developed countries. All this has led to an increase in different indicators of malnutrition and food insecurity.”


    Otero congratulated CELAC, which Argentina currently chairs, “for having decided to update its efforts in light of the new and difficult circumstances. This is going to be the subject of joint analysis and learning, and hopefully of subsequent collective action by the countries involved.”


    A problem in urgent need of attention can also be an opportunity
    Martínez Pandiani emphasized that all the countries in the region were agreed that action on food security was urgently needed to transform the problem into an opportunity, based on Latin America and the Caribbean’s high agricultural productivity.


    “Once we get through this critical stage, after we’ve adapted to the new conditions in the international context, we’ll have a great opportunity because we’re a region that produces a large proportion of the protein that the world consumes and needs,” Martínez Pandiani pointed out. He added that when food security was placed at the top of the agenda of CELAC’s pro tempore presidency this year, the organization approached the FAO and IICA for assistance because “they have the expertise and are the organizations that know the most about the subject.”


    The diplomat believes that unity in diversity is the way ahead: “We must ask ourselves how we can ensure that each country, with its unique characteristics, can be integrated into a mutually supportive system of technical and political cooperation. The solution will become clear if we dare to innovate and get away from classic formulas, which went out the window with the new international situation.”


    Lubetkin argued that it is possible to mitigate the effects of the crisis: “I’d like to acknowledge the willingness of governments, organizations, academia, the private sector and civil society to place the agri-food sector at the heart of development agendas and tackle the three-pronged challenge of fighting hunger, poverty and inequality.”


    The senior FAO official recalled that “between 2019 and 2021, the number of people suffering from hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean rose from 43.3 million to 56.5 million, a thirty percent increase. This spike in hunger and food insecurity could have irreversible consequences for the sustainable development of our countries, affecting them in economic, social and environmental terms. This situation is a paradox, considering that Latin America and the Caribbean produces food for more than 1.3 billion people, or twice its population.”


    Guyanese Minister Zulfikar Mustapha urged action without further delay towards the goal of eradicating hunger by 2030. “We must act together now and do much more if the world is to achieve the second of the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.


    “It must be made clear,” he went on, “that the solution exists. What is required is political will and funding so new ideas can be turned into action. We need to share experiences, deepen bilateral cooperation, and also promote multilateral commitments. It is about learning from each other to be better and to build resilience against the crisis and against climate change, which affects us all.”


    Laura Suazo, the first woman to serve as Minister of Agriculture in Honduras and the Chair of IICA’s Executive Committee, urged her colleagues to “say no” to world hunger. “There is no reason for it to continue to exist,” she argued.


    “The right to food is fundamental, so children can study, and adults can work. Poor people are entitled to hope they can change their situation. Clearly, in Latin America we’re doing something wrong, because we’re the largest net food exporting region in the world. It’s time for a change,” she concluded.








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