FAO Central Asia Subregional Coordinator Viorel Gutu stressed the importance of transformation in food systems, and underscored the problems posed by COVID-19 and the climate crisis…
16 November 2021, Mersin – An annual meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), held in Mersin, Turkey, discussed the Organization’s work in the country over the last year in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting was opened by Viorel Gutu, FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for Central Asia and Representative in Turkey. He remarked that FAO is “shouldering a very challenging task at a time when current food systems are in real need of transformation.” Elaborating further, he explained that “global problems, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, have made the achievement of SDGs by 2030 more difficult than ever. FAO is cognizant of this fact, however, and in line with the organization’s new Strategic Framework, is working towards realizing four ‘betters’ – better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life.” Addressing the pandemic specifically, Gutu stated that the crisis “affects not only people’s health and supply chains, but also working conditions”. He explained that during the first eight months of 2021, FAO worked unceasingly, “covering as much ground as in the entire previous year… Despite the pandemic, we did not stop reaching people and touching lives.”
Alvaro Rodriguez, the UN Resident Coordinator for Turkey, took the floor after Gutu, and described current reform efforts at the UN, specifically in reference to climate crisis. Rodriguez said, “We are at a critical point in combating the climate crisis. We are the last generation that has a chance to fight this threat. The most serious problems we face concern the areas of expertise and technical support, rather than financial difficulty. As UN agencies, we can intervene and offer assistance to countries to help them prepare roadmaps.”
Erhan Sırt, Head of the Department of Multilateral Development, Presidency of Turkey, also provided information about Turkey’s international cooperation and development efforts in his speech. Emphasizing that Turkey is committed to its global agenda and obligations, Sırt affirmed that: “Our basic principle is humanitarian aid and support. Turkey is among the countries who provide the greatest support for refugees, and currently hosts close to 5 million migrants. In addition, we partner extensively with international institutions and organizations, and aim to further expand and expand these collaborations”.
Özge İmamoğlu, the Head of the Department of International Organizations, and Director-General for EU and Foreign Relations at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, took the floor next and in her speech laid out the strategic priorities of the ministry. She highlighted the need for intensified and more effective international cooperation, as well as greater private sector involvement in public and UN cooperation, emphasizing in particular the importance of digitalization and innovation. İmamoğlu also noted that the Ministry is open to different forms of cooperation around these issues.
Raimund Jehle, FAO Regional Programme Leader for Europe and Central Asia, gave a presentation to the participants on FAO’s strategic planning and current and future priorities. He was followed by Ayşegül Selışık, FAO Assistant Representative for Turkey, who provided concrete information about the FAO-Turkey programme, supplemented by progress reports on specific projects carried out during the year.