Towards the proclamation of an International Day of Plant Health

Posted on Fri, 19 Mar 2021, 11:02

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©FAO/Jekesai Njikizana

Rome, 18 March 2021. When the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) in December 2018, the COVID-19 pandemic was far from being imagined. In December 2019, one year after the UNGA proclamation, the FAO Director-General, Mr Qu Dongyu, officially inaugurated the Year during an opening ceremony hosted at FAO headquarters as a special session of the FAO Council. The Ministers of Agriculture of Ireland and Nicaragua, and Permanent Secretaries of Finland and the United Kingdom inaugurated the IYPH with a ribbon cut, while the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres sent a special message for the occasion.

As highlighted by Mr Ralf Lopian, Chairperson of the IYPH International Steering Committee (ISC) at the 15th session of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures, the unexpected burst of the COVID-19 pandemic has largely affected the deliverability and implementation of some of the key IYPH activities originally planned for 2020. That is why FAO and the International Steering Committee agreed to extend the IYPH and postpone some of the key global activities to 2021. The IYPH closing ceremony will now take place virtually on 1 July, while the first International Plant Health Conference that was supposed to take place in Helsinki, Finland will no longer take place as anticipated and has been further postponed to May 2022. CPM-15 called upon countries to volunteer for hosting the conference and provide a suitable setting to facilitate interactions between plant health scientists, regulators and other stakeholders in 2022.

Even with all these challenges brought in by the pandemic, the importance of protecting plant health to sustain life transmitted by the IYPH slogan “protecting plants, protecting life”, resonated high on the global agenda. In October 2020, the 27th session of the FAO Committee on Agriculture endorsed a resolution championed by Zambia on the yearly observance by the UN system of an International Day of Plant Health on 12 May. Three months later, in December 2020, the 175th FAO Council further validated the proposal and recognized the importance of raising awareness of plant health as a key tool to safeguard food security and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. Several FAO Members from all regions provided explicit and strong support to the initiative.

Two additional steps are required to make the International Day of Plant Health come true. If endorsed by the FAO Conference in July 2021, the United Nations General Assembly will consider the proposal for final endorsement at their 76th Session in September-December 2021. The first expected International Day of Plant Health might be celebrated on 12 May 2022, which also marks IPPC 70th anniversary of the IPPC. During the discussion, IPPC contracting parties stressed the need of taking concrete actions to support the proclamation of an International Day of Plant Health by considering pledges to support the implementation of the occurrence, and liaising with their counterparts in the FAO Conference and at the United Nations General Assembly to facilitate their final endorsement.

Finally, CPM mandated the IYPH Technical Advisory Body to function as the IPPC preparatory body for the planning and organization of the International Plant Health Conference in 2022 and the webinars leading to it. The Commission recognized Mr Ralf Lopian for his outstanding contribution and commitment to the IPPC’s mission to protect the world’s plant health resources while facilitating safe trade throughout his career.

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