The Agenda for Food Safety Capacity-Building in Asia

L:R: Ali Badarneh, Industrial Development Officer, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); Lystra Antoine, Chief Executive Officer, Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP); and Matt Kovac, Executive Director, Food Industry Asia (FIA)

Lystra Antoine, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP), and Ali Badarneh, Industrial Development Officer at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), were speakers at the 2016 Food Industry Asia (FIA) China Food Safety Roundtable earlier this month, where food safety challenges and opportunities in modern food systems were discussed.

They spoke with Matt Kovac, Executive Director of FIA, about their organisational efforts in food safety capacity-building in the Asia region.

Matt Kovac (MK): Tell me about the GFSP and what its objective is.

Lystra Antoine (LA): The GFSP is the Global Food Safety Partnership. It is a public-private partnership that brings together many stakeholders from the public and private sectors to support food safety capacity-building in low- and middle-income countries. It is hosted by the World Bank, which is one of the key Governing Council members of the partnership.

Lystra Antoine, GFSP CEO, shares about the Partnership and its work in enhancing food safety in the region during the FIA China Food Safety Roundtable.

MK: What's the agenda for Asia, given that there’s been quite a bit of focus on this region for the GFSP?

LA: The GFSP Governing Council made a decision to prioritise food safety capacity-building for Asia. In a large part not only because this region is home to a huge chunk of the world's population, but it also has several low- and middle-income countries, where food safety capacity-building issues have come to the fore in recent years. Furthermore, some of our partners and Governing Council members are also from this region. FIA, one of our foundational Governing Council members, works with many partners that we collaborate with as well.

We are also seeing a lot of demand for food safety capacity-building from beneficiary governments in this region, and a lot of our partners and Governing Council members see the importance of this region and food safety capacity-building initiatives, in terms of both poverty reduction, as well as trade and market access. This is why this region is so important for us.

Ali Badarneh, UNIDO's Industrial Development Officer, speaks with Matt Kovac, FIA's Executive Director, about UNIDO's efforts in food safety capacity-building, including its partnership with the GFSP. 

MK: Tell us about UNIDO and its involvement in food safety.

Ali Badarneh (AB): UNIDO is a specialised agency within the UN system, mainly mandated for inclusive and sustainable industrial development. So we work a lot with industry – when it comes to the food industry, food safety is a top priority. Food safety is a key element for making sure that industry can comply with market requirements, so they can be integrated into local, regional or global supply chains.

MK: UNIDO invests its time and energy – and in some ways, resources – in the GFSP. Why?

AB: UNIDO leadership is keen on partnerships. For us, the GFSP was the right platform, where public and private sectors are coming together to address global food safety capacity-building. Additionally, the GFSP is led by the World Bank, which is one of our key strategic partners. So that's why we think that the GFSP will help us to scale up capacity-building efforts in developing countries.

MK: In terms of supply and capacity training that UNIDO does, could you describe what it is that you do with small-scale suppliers, and what the ultimate goal is, post-capacity-building efforts?

AB: As we know, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) - or small suppliers - are making almost 90 per cent of the whole industry, so, in a sense, they are the engine of the economy. So we do build the capacity of those suppliers, because at the end of the day, they need to produce products that are competitive, they need to comply with market requirements and they need to find the markets – whether locally, outside their countries, or even within the global supply chains.

So UNIDO is supporting this through a programme that we've designed, called Sustainable Supplier Development Programme, which is a comprehensive one helping suppliers to be competitive, in terms of being able to produce the right products at the right time, conform with market requirements and standards, and then, trying to find markets for them. If we manage to do this locally, then they are able to sell their products locally, expand in the region they're in, or even export globally – that would be the best economic outcome for these enterprises.

FIA's Food Safety Partnership with the World Bank, UNIDO and the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA)

In September 2015, Food Industry Asia (FIA) announced its commitment to scaling up food safety capacity-building in Asia by signing an Externally Financed Output (EFO) agreement with the World Bank’s GFSP. The Partnership, which was launched and convened by the World Bank in 2012, seeks to improve capacity-building and training programmes for food safety practitioners in both the public and private sector by harnessing the full potential of effective, multi-stakeholder collaborations.