I welcome this initiative from FAO as an opportunity to engage in and facilitate the multi-stakeholder dialogue on SDGs in Azerbaijan in relation to the contribution of agriculture to inclusive and sustainable development and to assess the actions needed for accelerating SDG achievement.
Looking back, major improvements in agricultural productivity have been recorded over recent decades to satisfy the food demand of a growing global population. But progress has often come with social and environmental costs, including water scarcity, soil degradation, ecosystem stress, biodiversity loss, decreasing fish stocks and forest cover, and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. The productive potential of our natural resources base has been damaged in many places around the globe, compromising the future fertility of the planet.
Today, 815 million people are hungry, and every third person is malnourished, reflecting a food system out of balance. Distress migration is at levels unprecedented for more than 70 years as the social cohesion and cultural traditions of rural populations are threatened by a combination of limited access to land and resources and rising numbers of crises, conflicts and disasters, many as a consequence of climate change.
As the prime connection between people and the planet, food and agriculture can help achieve multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Looking ahead, the path to inclusive prosperity is clearly marked by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Overcoming the complex challenges that the world faces requires transformative action, embracing the principles of sustainability and tackling the root causes of poverty and hunger to leave no one behind.
Agriculture, covering crops, livestock, aquaculture, fisheries and forests, is the world’s biggest employer, largest economic sector for many countries, while providing the main source of food and income for the extreme poor. Sustainable food and agriculture have great potential to revitalize the rural landscape, deliver inclusive growth to countries and drive positive change right across the 2030 Agenda.
The SDGs will shape national development plans over the next 12 years. From ending poverty and hunger to responding to climate change and sustaining our natural resources, food and agriculture lie at the heart of the 2030 Agenda. There are 17 ambitious goals and 169 targets we committed to achieve by 2030. We have 232 indicators agreed at the global level to monitor and report on the progress, with quality, accessible, timely and reliable disaggregated data. This is undoubtedly an ambitious plan.
In 2017, Azerbaijan’s non-oil economy grew 2.1 percent, non-oil industry grew 5 percent, and agriculture grew 4.2 percent. State programs adopted in various fields of agriculture, and improved legislative base, allowed to achieve goals outlined in the strategic roadmaps of the country. Today, Azerbaijan provides 85-95 percent of itself with basic food products. If earlier the main goal of the development of the agrarian sector of Azerbaijan was to ensure food security, today priority is given to the production of competitive, export oriented products. And it is very encouraging that food security is in the center of government’s agrarian reforms.
A fundamental premise for delivering sustainable food and agriculture is the creation of an enabling policy environment and the need for sectoral ministries to change the way they work and coordinate policies across government. I am happy to report that, FAO provides support to the Government of Azerbaijan in the implementation of SDGs in food and agriculture. The transition to more sustainable agriculture and food systems requires action that builds political alliances and coalitions with actors beyond food and agriculture.
Unlocking the potential of the private sector is fundamental to progress. Engaging with entrepreneurs and tapping into the know-how of the private sector, including agricultural producer organizations, cooperatives, small and medium-sized enterprises as well as international corporations, is a pre-requisite for implementation of the 2030 Agenda. More than just a source of financing, private sector partnerships promise technology development, knowledge transfer and innovation, job creation and alternative revenue streams.
While the Governments, as UN member states, are primarily responsible for SDG achievement and related reporting, the implementation of the 2030 Agenda calls for an inclusive approach and a strong engagement of all stakeholders, at the regional, national and local level, acting together in a collaborative partnership. The Agenda allows all stakeholders in the society to give their voice and contribution – civil society, experts, marginalized groups, media, academia, business community and common people. This workshop provides an excellent opportunity to engage agricultural stakeholders from state and non-state actors to actively contribute to the SDG nationalization process.
Properly nourished, children can learn, people can lead healthy and productive lives and societies can prosper. By nurturing our land and adopting sustainable agriculture, present and future generations will be able to feed a growing population.