Experts stress the strategic value of the consensus position adopted by the Americas at the global debate on food system transformation
Buenos Aires, 14 December 2021 (IICA) –A high level debate of experts on international affairs emphasized the strategic value of the Americas’ ability to speak with a common voice in the face of the unprecedented global challenges affecting humanity, particularly in the agrifood sector, which has such a huge economic and social impact on the hemisphere.
The event was organized by the Argentina Council for International Relations (CARI), an academic institution that for more than 40 years has been promoting studies and discussions in Argentina on global problems. CARI assesses the global reality from a pluralistic perspective and collaborates with public organizations and private institutions, by producing documents and organizing discussions to inform decision-making.
The institution invited Manuel Otero, Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), who is on an official mission in Buenos Aires, to address a conference, speaking about the position adopted by the region at the recent UN Food Systems Summit and the challenges that the global meeting posed for the region in view of the future. The session was jointly organized by CARI’s Committees on Agricultural Affairs and Latin American Studies.
President of CARI, Ambassador José Octavio Bordón, stressed the importance of IICA’s efforts leading up to the Summit, which resulted in the Americas being the only region to present a joint position at the forum.
Bordón remarked that, “Given global challenges, such as environmental conflicts, inequality, rapid technological acceleration and the need to prevent the developmental gaps between countries from further expanding, it was critical that we speak with one voice at this global meeting on the issue of food – a voice that reflected our aspirations, while mindful of events taking place worldwide”.
The CARI President—a former Argentinian Ambassador to the United States and Chile, national legislator and governor of the province of Mendoza—maintained that, “Amidst the demands of more powerful and influential countries globally, we were able to demonstrate that we have a great deal to say on the issue of food. We are living at a time when multilateralism—the only path to finding solutions to global dilemmas—has been weakened. That is why we value the work of IICA, as it is adopting an intelligent approach and proposing a long-term vision and multilateral convergence to address urgent problems”.
Martín Piñeiro, Director of CARI’s Agricultural Affairs Committee and Director General Emeritus of IICA, said that, thanks to the work of the Institute, for the first time, the 34 countries of the Americas presented a joint position on a topic of tremendous importance at a global meeting.
He argued that, “This is a most significant development, not only for agriculture but on the political front, at a time when regional integration processes have been considerably weakened and when there is great uncertainty surrounding the future of food-related issues”.
Piñeiro expressed his belief that we are entering a new era as far as how agrifood systems should be viewed, saying that, “Before we focused solely on agriculture; now we know that we should include other related economic sectors. This is a conceptual challenge, as it will force us to make changes in agricultural policy and institutions to achieve a more global vision and to make headway in aligning policies with issues, such as the environment and public health”.
Diplomat, Carola Ramón, who is the Director of CARI’s Committee for Latin American Studies, highlighted IICA’s work in building bridges between different countries in the Americas.
“Your work has emphasized that while the agrifood systems in the region must be improved, they have progressed a great deal in terms of sustainability. This work was essential, because no country could achieve this on its own”, argued Ramón, who is the Undersecretary for Multilateral and Bilateral Economic Negotiations at Argentina’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“We usually see only negative news about our region, but sometimes there is more taking place below the radar than what it appears. In this case, IICA did a fantastic job in achieving consensus on a strategic issue that in the coming decades will affect us greatly, as food producing countries. This is not the finish line but the starting point”.
During his presentation, Otero reviewed IICA’s coordination process with the countries of the Americas and summarized the points on which they had agreed. Among the most important messages that he emphasized were that agrifood systems of the Americas can be improved but are not failed systems; that the region needs healthy rural areas that are sources of progress and generators of employment; that opportunities must be created for the 16.5 million family farmers in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as vulnerable groups, including women and youth; that international trade is critical to food security; and that science is a fundamental input for proper policy formulation.
Otero stated that, “One of the positive aspects of the Summit that I would like to point out is that it established a systematic vision of the sector – from production to consumption. The topic is here to stay and is high on the agenda. There is global recognition that we will only make progress in productivity-related issues if we incorporate the environmental dimension and the matter of healthy food. The region is already making a great deal of headway in these matters”.
The Director General revealed that IICA—an institution that will celebrate its 80th anniversary in 2022—is reaffirming its role as a driver of collective action and aiming to strengthen its position as a regional technical cooperation agency with a global outlook.
“Given its position in the Inter-American System”, he said, “IICA must relate to other regions. As an organization that builds bridges, we are confident that our future hinges on establishing linkages with other regions. We will soon begin discussions with Africa, a continent with which we have much in common. We must prepare for the next Climate Change Conference, COP 27, where we hope to be able to reaffirm that agriculture is an opportunity rather than a threat”.