Pacific Food Summit
A Pacific Food Summit was called for by Ministers attending the 7th Pacific Health Ministers meeting in 2007 in Vanuatu. The Ministers stated that a “whole of society approach” should be taken. Following this at the 2008 Pacific Island Forum Leaders Meeting in Niue, Pacific Leaders made food security a priority in the Pacific and in 2009 Ministers of Trade, Agriculture and Health endorsed the concept of a Pacific Food Summit at their respective regional meetings. Continuing the impetus, several Pacific countries held National Food Summits leading up to the Pacific Food Summit which was held at Le Lagon Resort, Port Vila, Vanuatu 21-23 April 2010.
Over 170 people from 23 countries attended the meeting. Ministers and Senior policy makers from Agriculture, Health and Trade attended as well as representatives from food industry, community, faith-based organizations, consumer groups, academia and regional and national organizations. The purpose of the Summit was to enable regional action on food security.
Specific objectives were to:
(1) Review threats to food security in the Pacific and best practice for improving food security.
(2) Finalise and endorse a Framework for Action on Food Secuirty and agree on Summit outcomes.
(3) Agree on a process for advocating the endorsement of the Framework for Action by Pacific Forum Leaders and National Governments and funding related activities.
Before the Summit a draft Framework for Action on Food Security was developed and circulated widely across the Pacific by Framework Partnership Agencies: Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Global Health Institute (GHI), Pacific Island Forum Secretariat (PIFS), Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO). Country representatives of the highest rank were invited to the meeting. The Summit was opened by the Acting Prime Minister of Vanuatu, the Honourable Serge Vohor with supporting welcome address from Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific and Mr Feleti Teo Deputy Secretary General, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
The first session of the Summit reviewed the meeting objectives, purpose and structure, presented the draft Framework and introduced a draft Summit Outcomes document. During this session the Pacific food security situation was presented along with the threats of population growth, climate change, food-related diseases, poverty and poor economic growth. It was stressed that individual sectors cannot achieve food security in isolation. To be effective and sustainable, all of government and all of society must work together. The Framework was a mechanism through which this could be achieved by providing long-term solutions that recognise the complexity of the food system and the means for multisectoral action.
Individual country statements were delivered in Session 2 of the Summit. Before the meeting each country representative was given a draft of the framework and asked to comment on the Framework in terms of relevance and national priorities. The responses were presented in the form of short verbal presentations supported by a more comprehensive written statement. Statements from all 21 countries in attendance supported the Framework, with delegates identifying specific areas within the Framework that needed clarification and/or modification. The areas of transportation, energy, education and information and communication technology were raised as potential enablers of food security in the Pacific that needed more attention in the Framework.
Plenary session 3 consisted of eight presentations on behalf of the private sector and non-government organizations (NGO) followed by questions from the floor. Presentations from the private sector gave clear indications that the food industry can adjust to protect health. Partnerships between government and industry were a reality and food safety control systems can be fine tuned not only to ensure foods are free from contaminants but ensure that foods contain acceptable levels of salt, fats and energy. Trade agreements can be made that ensure acceptable food quality and national regulations can be made consistent with best practice. The NGO presentations showed that consumer power is alive and well in the Pacific and the role of NGOs cannot be underestimated. Information on food market surveillance, food safety concerns and “naming and shaming”, advocacy and price monitoring are core activities. It was shown that most NGOs are run by or for women. Women and food go together and “food is what women do in the Pacific”. It was shown that growing and consuming local foods increased food security and health. The key was to preserve as many varieties of indigenous crops as possible. This would provide protection against the effects of climate change, crop failures, pests and natural disasters.
The main work of the Summit was done during six working group sessions that were aligned with the themes in the draft Framework for Action. Each session consisted of one or two short presentations that set the stage, a panel discussion with questions and answers followed by group table discussions. The group discussions were designed to follow a pre-set series of questions on the specific themes of the Framework. The questions prompted the groups to critique, modify and make changes to the Framework. Participants were asked to prioritize their changes and recommendations to one or two issues. The results of this discussions were recorded and then presented to all session participants for further comments. The presentations were then synthesised, agreed upon and recorded for each of the six sessions then reported back to all participants at two separate feedback plenary sessions to identify priorities for action.
The presentations made by groups at the feedback sessions recommended many changes to the Framework. Once again, there was good support from the floor for the changes recommended by the groups who worked on each theme. Most of the suggested changes were on technical issues and, in the interests of maintaining the simplicity and relevance of the document across the Pacific, and because implementation of the actions will be quite different among the countries, some of the detailed actions were considered best developed at national levels. The Framework should be seen as a guide and not a prescription thus, allowing each country to work towards food security according to national priorities.
The final day of the Summit focused on finalizing the Framework. To do this, the draft Framework now amended as requested through the country statements and group feedback sessions, was presented. Participants could see that most of the recommendations made from the group sessions had been incorporated into the document.
The major change to the Framework was the inclusion of “land, energy and transport, including information, communication technology (ITC)”. After considerable debate it was recommended that a seventh theme be made to cover “Enabling Factors”. Issues of land, energy and transport could then be placed under this theme. This was then agreed upon by the delegates. Other agreed changes to the Framework were:1) reference should be made to the Pacific Plan throughout the document, especially in the Scope, background and description; 2) the “Healthy Islands” document be referenced; 3) differences between national and regional actions be clarified in the Framework; 4) the social and cultural role of food was also included and reference to “food” was changed to “healthy food”; 5) reference be made to tobacco and alcohol consumption as part of the threat to food security; and 6) timelines should be removed from the document as it was agreed that it was a “living” document and as such, would be amended, revised and modified continually over time. All senior country representatives spoke separately and, in turn accepted and endorsed the revised Framework. Finally, the Facilitator declared the Framework “Endorsed”.
The afternoon session on the final day was reserved for the development of a Summit outcomes document. The purpose of the document was a statement of intent that would show a unified display of regional commitment to improve food security. The document could then be used to inform the public of the results of the Pacific Food Summit and advocate further action. The outcomes document was prepared from results of the group sessions and the finalization of the Framework. Copies were distributed to all participants and asked to comment and/or recommend changes. Several changes were agreed upon and after a short debate the Summit outcomes document was accepted and endorsed. It is shown below.
Thanks were given on behalf of the Partner agencies by Dr Ken Chen, WHO Representative, Pacific Office, Suva, Fiji and thanks on behalf of the participants was given by the Honourable Gatoloaifaana Amataga Gidlow, Minister of Health, Samoa. The Honourable Steven Kalsakau, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Vanuatu then declared the meeting closed.