The climate crisis and accessing finance top agenda at high-level gathering of Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and Landlocked Developing Countries

Colombo – The challenges of achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the perils of the climate crisis and the complexities of leveraging finance were among the topics discussed at a gathering today of ministers from many of the Asia-Pacific Region’s countries most vulnerable to global economic and climate shocks.

A key purpose of the gathering – a special event forming part of the 37th session of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the Unted Nations (FAO) Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific – was also to canvass views on what countries need from a proposed network bringing them together to jointly address shared challenges.

“The increasing trends of globalization” provide “many advantages and disadvantages,” for the region’s SIDS (Small Island Developing States), LDCs (Least Developed Countries) and LLDCs (Landlocked Developing Countries), FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said in opening remarks. For example, “small-scale farmers and fishery households enjoy increasing access to global markets yet are also extremely vulnerable to the impacts of global economic turbulence as we have recently seen with the cascading impacts of COVID-19 and the increase in prices of food, agricultural inputs, and energy.”

Challenges and opportunities

Among the issues discussed were challenges and opportunities in achieving the SDGs agrifood systems transformation objectives; climate challenges faced by countries and solutions or innovations that can be shared for adaptation or mitigation; experiences with science, innovation and digitalization; as well as successes that can be shared on leveraging finance or developing partnerships for at-scale investment.

Younten Phuntsho, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Bhutan, highlighted the logistical challenges his country faces, with global turmoil and crisis a stark reminder of its vulnerability.

Aishath Rameela, Minister of Agriculture and Animal Welfare of the Maldives underlined the problems of soil degradation and biodiversity loss, but also the opportunities brought by the archipelago’s natural beauty and domestic market potential.

Bedu Ram Bhusal, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Development of Nepal, said that for a country like his, access to investment was always limited, despite much advocacy on the issue of climate financing for such a highly impacted country.

Steven Victor, Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and the Environment of Palau, singled out the question of human capacity and people’s attitudes towards farming as a critical issue.

Among the other panelists were Tomasi Tunabuna, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Waterways, Fiji; Emani Fakatimanava-Lui, Associate Minister for Natural Resources, Niue; Titimaea Tafua, Associate Minister for Natural Resources and Environment, Samoa.

Crucial follow-up

Today’s meeting is a crucial follow-up to the High-Level Ministerial Event, “Transforming Agrifood Systems to Increase Resilience and Achieve the 2030 Agenda: Harnessing the potential of SIDS, LDCs and LLDCs”, convened by FAO in June last year in Rome.

In addition to the proposal for a Ministerial network, last June’s event also led to a call for action from Ministers and high-level representatives, with focus areas including action to enhance information and data, innovation, investment and access to finance and inclusivity.

FAO’s role

SIDS, LDCs and LLDCs have been a key focus for FAO, with the Director-General establishing a department specifically addressing their needs shortly after taking office in 2019.

They are also an important target of the FAO Hand-in-Hand Initiative, launched in September 2019, which is an innovative approach for countries to work together at scale for measurable impact to address the multifaceted challenges they face.

These include increasing hunger and malnutrition, rising inequality, vulnerability to the climate crisis, soil degradation and depletion of freshwater resources.

Other FAO initiatives that would help to implement these objectives are: The One Country One Priority Product Initiative; The Green Cities Initiative and the Innovative Climate Financing, including support to access the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and Global Environment Facility (GEF).

A major development in FAO’s engagement with SIDS, was the establishment in 2021 of the SIDS Solutions Platform, with the first Forum co-hosted virtually by FAO and Fiji in 2021, and a second Forum specifically dedicated to the Pacific SIDS, co-hosted by FAO and Samoa in 2022.

The SIDS Solutions Platform facilitates knowledge sharing among SIDS and between SIDS, LDCs, LLDCs and other countries to catalyze and inject innovations, investments, and resilience in agrifood systems.

Solutions-oriented approach

This solutions-oriented approach is also embedded in the Global Roadmap: Achieving SDG 2 without breaching the 1.5C threshold, launched at COP28, aimed at ensuring good food for all for today and tomorrow through a package of solutions across 10 domains and with 120 actions.

Another significant project has also been implemented, with the support of the Government of the Republic of Korea, to facilitate exchanges between government representatives and local agrifood systems actors from SIDS in Asia and the Pacific and Korean farmers, with a foreseen $3 million grant in six Pacific countries.

FAO has also secured $5 million from the China-FAO South-South Cooperation Trust Fund to support SIDS in all regions to accelerate the transformation of their agrifood systems to build sustainable and resilient livelihoods.

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