[Mitzi Leung, PP of Rotary Club of Hong Kong was nominated by RI President to attend as Rotary’s observer for the Conference.  The following is her brief report.]

 

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Regional Conference is a biennial official forum where ministers of agriculture and high officials of member states from the same geographic region meet to elaborate on challenges and priorities related to food and agriculture to promote regional coherence on related global issues.

 

What is FAO?

FAO is an inter-government organization with 194 member countries.  It is created by the United Nations with the scope of reducing hunger and food security in the world. (www.fao.org)

Why Rotary?

Rotary International (RI) holds an official ‘liaison’ role as with observer status at FAO conferences. RI honours its status of an international non-government organization (INGO) to support FAO.

A letter of understanding was signed with FAO in 2002 on alleviating chronic hunger, inviting Rotary Clubs to support related projects and contact FAO field representatives (in more than 130  countries) and to celebrate the World Food Day (16 Oct) as advocacy to create awareness on world’s hunger.

FAO holds Regional Conferences in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Near East and North Africa.

Rotary attending the 32nd FAO Regional Conference For Asia and the Pacific (APRC)  in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 10-14 March 2014

With the growing importance of the Regional Conferences resulting from FAO’s decentralization plan in both operative and decision-making, the attendance of NGOs become more relevant to facilitate local priorities, recognizing their strength and needs for more effective approach to ‘Food Security’.

842 million people suffer from chronic hunger while the world produces more than sufficient food to meet the needs of everyone.  Despite the rapid economic growth in Asia and the Pacific, it is the home of nearly two third of those living in hunger.

In this context, RI President sees the need for service and service opportunities for Rotary Clubs or Districts at local level to support FAO’s goal in particular rural poor reduction.

The Regional Conference  

Over 250 delegates from 40 countries attended with 23 countries represented at ministerial level, representatives from UN agencies, partner organizations and CSO (Civic Society Organizations) as well as other observers.

The Ministry of Industry and Agriculture of the Government of Mongolia hosted the Conference.  The organization of which is exemplary.  The Conference Secretariat with the support from the Ministry was able to have all relevant paper ready for meetings and they were up to date, very efficient and well thought through.

A number of young people were involved as helpers.  They are University students supporting this event as interns.  It is indeed very good exposure for young people.  I am thinking of our Rotaractors?

The conference is a Senior Officers’ Meetings.  The agenda was drafted and approved in consultation with governments in Asia and Pacific. The presence of CSO (Civic Society Organizations) is very visible.

They are organized, well prepared, outspoken and articulate.  They represent different interest group, farmers (such as the Asia Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Asia), fisheries, rice farmers, from Thailand, Cambodia, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Philippine, Bangladesh, India etc.  The exchanges are civil and the chair gave ample room for discourse.

What Clubs could contribute?

As an international NGO and service organization, alignment of service projects to embrace global challenge and the need of UN and its agencies such as FAO is a way forward.  This is worthy of our consideration.  Rotary’s stewardship on issues championed by international agencies can also contribute to our image building exercise.

Issues especially relating to food and agriculture, hunger and poverty, food security, natural resources and the environment, sustainable rural development, water and energy, peace etc. align with our areas of focus.

Services projects whether in partnership with local community organizations, and/or the education/school sectors under the banners of international agencies addressing the needs of our community are something our Clubs could consider.

With planning for the new Rotary year just around the corner, I can see that with concerted effort within the District, Rotary can contribute to the much needed support in the community and the development of our young people for global citizenship education and education for sustainable development which are important components of our Education Reform.

Clubs can support, develop and/or executive youth and community related service projects and programmes.   An example is to celebrate the World Food Day (on16 October) as an advocacy to create awareness on world’s hunger.

Other examples are sustainable seafood, minimize food waste (both are District 3450 Preserve Planet Earth projects), climate change mitigation and adaptation in partnership with other community organizations and institutions in support of education for sustainable development.

Together we promote awareness of global challenges for global citizenship development, ecological civilization to preserve our planet etc. and building a better world for our community, our children and the future generation.