40th Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organisation

40th Conference of the Food and Agriculture OrganisationStuart Smith, acting Regional Director, Central Australia, recently returned from the 40th Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations held in Rome, Italy.

The biennial event, held over five days, is the main meeting of the world’s peak multilateral agency for food and agriculture.

Stuart was one of 1,150 delegates from 181 countries, including the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Peter Thomson. 105 ministers, 25 vice-ministers and a plethora of parliamentarians, including the Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, also attended the biennial conference.

Stuart was selected to attend by the Agricultural Senior Officers Committee (AGSOC). A representative from participating States and Territories is selected biennially to attend the conference. The NT was previously represented in 1985 and 1999.

“The conference is not so much focussed on sharing technical information, rather it’s a meeting of the member countries to endorse the business of the organisation. In a sense it is like a shareholder meeting, where all countries can have a say,” Stuart said.

“Australia had a team of delegates, so we were able to attend the concurrent sessions and side events.

“I participated in Commission 1, and delivered interventions at the meeting on behalf of Australia on the International year of Soils, the International year of Pulses and World Pulses Day.

“It was a valuable experience and provided new perspectives on world food production, the work and influence of the FAO, as well as the opportunity to make contacts both within the Australian Government and with officials of other member nations,” Stuart said.

Although some of the business affairs of the organisation were quite dry, some of the highlights included side events on dealing with water scarcity and eliminating hunger.

“Even though a lot of the work of the FAO deals with developing countries, it was clear to see that the countries of the Middle East and Northern Africa were struggling with lack of water, similar to Australian issues, especially the arid zones like Central Australia.

“All countries were also called upon to do more to try and eliminate hunger and malnutrition, which includes a worldwide crisis in obesity. Even though Australia is seen as one of the most developed nations in the world, we could certainly improve our outcomes for these problems, especially in the remote communities of the Northern Territory”.

When in Rome…?

“Food in Rome was unbelievably good, they take appearances very seriously and it was pretty cheap. The Colosseum and Palatine Hill were right next door to the FAO so I didn’t have to go very far” Stuart said.

“I also managed to sneak in a couple of tours at either end of the Conference. Trevi Fountain, Vatican, Medici Palace, Michelangelo’s David, Appian Way… Rome is a city chocca with history, but also people have had to adapt to narrow streets and lack of space by having Smart Cars and Vespas, and very few people live in houses, they all live in flats.”

Last updated: 10 October 2017