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On World Food Day, Asia-Pacific Countries Consider Plan To Recover From COVID-19, Eradicate Hunger

Every year, FAO’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific celebrates the importance of World Food Day. This year, given the COVID-19 global pandemic and the disruptions it has caused to livelihoods and food security, our celebrations are muted, yet within this context, today’s World Food Day itself has become more important than ever.

While the spread of the coronavirus has seriously disrupted food security and livelihoods for millions of people in this region, we also find ourselves off-track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals to end malnutrition and poverty.

This World Food Day’s theme, ‘Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together – Our Actions are our Future’, underscores the need to immediately and urgently respond to, and recover from, the impact COVID-19 is having on our food systems and the billions of people that rely on them.

Recovering from COVID-19. What more appropriate day, than World Food Day

This World Food Day marks FAO’s 75 anniversary of its founding in 1945, just months after the end of a devastating world war, one that had left many parts of the world facing hunger and in some cases a real risk of starvation. Today, as then, the world is facing a threat once again, as hunger is on the rise and the global pandemic is making matters worse. Action is needed immediately, as expressed by the FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu in a global video message, “tomorrow begins today,” he said.

In keeping with a long-standing tradition, the Regional World Food Day virtual event opened with a video message from Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand, the FAO Special Goodwill Ambassador for Zero Hunger in Asia and the Pacific – a message of concern and hope.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented the world and our Asia-Pacific region with an enormous challenge. Apart from the death, grief and suffering, it has also shocked economies and, while its impact is being felt by all, it has affected most seriously the poorest and vulnerable among us,” the Princess noted. “It has forced all of us to deeply examine the weaknesses of our food systems and consider ways and means to ‘Grow, nourish and sustain. Together’. Indeed, the actions we take today will be our future and I hope that we all learn the right lessons from this pandemic, repair the damage that has been done, and plan a resilient and sustainable recovery, one that can withstand future shocks such as COVID-19 and any of its successors.”

As part of its World Food Day observance, FAO’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific also hosted, virtually, an interactive discussion on the ways forward to examine FAO’s Asia and the Pacific Regional COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme and shared some good practice case studies underway prior to the pandemic, but are relevant in a COVID-19 recovery phase too.

The Webinar was joined by resource and development partners specially invited from across Asia and the Pacific, including representatives from Governments, the private sector and civil society.

Responding and recovering – step by step

The panel discussion considered FAO’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme and the actions proposed here for the Asia-Pacific region. It heard that the region must transform its food systems, to make them more resilient, sustainable and equitable – and do so simultaneously.

The plan was presented in three steps by Jong-Jin Kim, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific.

“First, we need to reverse any top down approaches. The response should be bottom up. It must – faithfully – listen to, and act upon, the voices of women and youth in every country. Second, we must learn from the past and innovate,” Kim said.

“The current COVID-19 crisis and the damage it has caused proves that we need to re-imagine our lifestyle and that we can ‘build back better’ if we innovate. This means becoming more agile and efficient and be ready to adapt to emerging challenges while seizing all opportunities to achieve results,” he added.

“And third, we must stop unhealthy competition and work towards synergies. This crisis calls for joint action, including improving collaboration among United Nations’ entities at country level, enhancing partnerships with the private sector and local actors.”

Nobel Peace Prize 2020 – World Food Programme

Kim concluded his remarks by congratulating close colleagues at the World Food Programme (WFP) for receiving the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, an award that “enormously underscores the importance of the fight against hunger and the realization that together we can overcome hunger and malnutrition, just like we can, and will, overcome this global pandemic.”

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