Posted on Tue, 12 May 2020, 16:53
Rome, 11 May 2020 – The 7th meeting of the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) International Steering Committee (ISC) was held virtually to update and advance the delivery of the IYPH Action Plan through the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 45 participants and observers attended the meeting, including IYPH ISC members, IYPH Secretariat staff and FAO regional representatives.
The meeting was opened by the IPPC Secretary, Mr Jingyuan Xia, and chaired by the IYPH ISC Chairperson, Mr Ralf Lopian. The steering committee had the honor to have FAO’s new Deputy Director-General of Programmes, Ms Beth Bechdol, to deliver welcome remarks at the opening session.
In her welcome address, DDG-P Bechdol expressed her strong commitment to the IYPH and emphasized the importance of plant health: plants are the source of 98 percent of the air we breathe and 80 percent of the food we eat. She also highlighted the vital role of plant health in achieving the SDGs.
DDG-P Bechdol also stressed that despite the fact that the beginning of the IYPH has been overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we can together ensure that the international year will still be a success. Messages of the IYPH can still be conveyed and amplified for example through accelerating communication activities, she said.
The IYPH ISC members were given an update on the progress of the IYPH Action Plan under the current, unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19. The pandemic is affecting the implementation of the IYPH action plan as various meetings/events have been cancelled or postponed, and as media attention has been diminished.
The IYPH Secretariat confirmed that the CPM-15 meeting, which was supposed to take place this year, is postponed until further notice, and is mostly likely to be organized in March/April next year. Also, the first International Plant Health Conference that was supposed to be held in Helsinki in October this year is likely to be postponed to May/June 2021. The ISC agreed that since many core IYPH events and activities are extended to 2021 due to the pandemic, it would also be a practical solution to organize the official IYPH closing event in conjunction with the Helsinki Conference next year. The Finnish government will inform the ISC on possible new dates for the conference in due course.
Despite the difficulties, many activities are still up and running. The ISC discussed the IYPH communications activities, almost all of which are still on track. For instance, the IYPH photo contest has been launched on the IYPH website, and children’s drawing/art competition is underway, together with an activity book for children. Also, the appointment of special IYPH Ambassadors and influencers is in the pipeline to promote the messages of the IYPH.
Due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19, there was a clear consensus among the ISC members that the IYPH communications should be intensified and accelerated even more. It was agreed that the next IYPH ISC virtual meeting on 25 May will concentrate more thoroughly on the communications activities.
The IYPH Secretariat also informed the ISC on the way forward with the study on climate change and plant health, which is expected to be one of the key outputs of the IYPH. The conclusions and recommendations of the study will be presented at the Helsinki Conference next year.
The IYPH ISC meeting report will soon be available at https://www.ippc.int/en/ph/iyphisc/