Rome, June 27, 2019 – Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security, reiterated the UAE’s commitment, through its relentless efforts and its ambitious National Food Security Strategy, to remain on top of all food security developments and issues around the world.
“The UAE is working to establish the basic fundamentals for its food security; it is a national priority we intend to implement by developing a set of integrated procedures and plans of action that bring all stakeholders together,” H.E. Almheiri explained as she headed the UAE delegation to the 41st Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Conference, held on June 22-29, 2019, at the FAO’s headquarters in Rome, Italy.
The Minister of State for Food Security was accompanied by H.E. Omar Obaid Mohamed Al Shamsi, the UAE’s Ambassador to Italy; and Eng. Fatima Obaid Al Kalbani, the UAE’s Permanent Representative at the FAO. The delegation also included Dr Abdul Wahab Zayed, Secretary-General of the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation; Ahmad Al Mulla, Deputy Head of the UAE’s Mission to Italy; and Samia Arifi, Director of the Office of the Minister of State for Food Security.
In her keynote addressing the Conference, H.E. Almheiri highlighted the major steps the UAE is undertaking to ensure high-quality, sustainable food production for its citizens. “The UAE has sought to develop ‘Sustainable Agricultural Methods’ to promote a steady output of quality food products,” H.E. explained. “Furthermore, the UAE has developed national requirements for food products and labels, and launched the Government Agtech Accelerators Programme, which seeks to identify and overcome obstacles preventing the adoption of modern agricultural technologies that have been tailored to the conditions of the UAE, such as urban farming.”
“Innovation is the leading theme of the National Food Security Strategy in the UAE, which seeks to make the UAE one of the 10 most food-secure countries in the world by 2021,” H.E. Almheiri noted. “Technology was singled out from the beginning as the key to improving our food security situation in the UAE. As it stands, we are 31st on a global scale in terms of food security. While the UAE is considered to be ‘food-secure’, that security has been ensured through importing 90% of our food, which places our supply chain at high risk, especially in such a volatile region.”
H.E. underlined the mission of the National Food Security Strategy to establish the UAE as a world leader in innovative food security. “We are not only looking at food security at the national level, we are committed to our role as a global player in food security, which is why the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are integrated into all of our national strategies,” H.E. Almheiri added.
Taking part in the FAO Conference is a number of influential ministers and representatives of member states, where this year’s edition served as the backdrop for electing a new Secretary General for the Organisation.
In a secret ballot held on Sunday, June 23, FAO members elected Dr Qu Dongyu, China’s Vice Minister for Agriculture, as the new Secretary General to head this international organisation working to eliminate hunger. Dr Qu had won the absolute majority of votes in the first round with 108 votes, against 71 votes for French candidate Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, and 12 for Georgian candidate David Kirvalidze. Qu is now the Organisation’s first Chinese Secretary-General.
H.E. Mariam Almheiri congratulated the new Secretary General on his achievements, wishing him continued success in his duties, and relaying the UAE’s aspirations for further cooperation with the FAO in its efforts to achieve global food security.
Upon winning his new title, Dr Qu Dongyu said: “This is indeed a historic event and a milestone for food and agriculture sectors around the world. I promise to exert every possible effort, to unbiasedly serve all countries, and to adopt a pragmatic approach to fighting world hunger.”
The new Secretary-General, who will take office on August 1 and continue until July 31, 2023, will succeed current Secretary-General Jose Graziano da Silva of Brazil, who has completed two terms at the head of the Organisation. Set to leave office in August, da Silva had inaugurated first session of the Conference – the most prominent body bringing government representatives of all 194 member states – where discussions explored the state of food and agriculture around the world.
On day one of the biennial Conference, participants attended the McDougall Memorial Lecture in honour of Australian economist Frank Lidgett McDougall, one of earliest advocates for establishing the FAO. Delivering the address this year was Graca Machel, International Advocate for Children’s and Women’s Rights, Honorary Member of the FAO Nobel Peace Laureates Alliance.
The Conference will feature a series of side events focusing on progress in various sectors and areas of the food sector. The topics range from food security, nutrition, and biodiversity, to the role of young people in agriculture. Furthermore, the event will include the “Ghaf Tree Planting Campaign”, organised by the UAE to celebrate the Year of Tolerance.