Can you guide us through the main goals and activities of GDA?
GDA is an international organization created in 2017 to face food insecurity consequences and negative environmental and economic impacts associated with climate change. Its vision is to make dryland countries' food secure and contribute to stability and peace in the world by working with local, regional, and international partners to identify, disseminate, and implement solutions for agricultural, water, and energy challenges of dryland countries. Our approach focuses on two areas: enhance crisis prevention and intervene and respond to crises. GDA works to: enhance the food security policies and strategies of GDA member states; encourage research and follow technological innovations in food security related areas to meet the requirements of member states in the fields of water, energy, fertilizers, and soil; adopt joint policies to reduce the risks facing food security in GDA members; develop individual and collective capacities of GDA members to face problems and manage food crises; and facilitate the participation of GDA members in international and multilateral initiatives and projects in the area of food security.
Many countries seem to be focusing on self-reliance and internal security in light of the pandemic. What are your expectations for the next few years in this regard?
2020 has definitely been a challenging year. It slowed down some of our plans, though it brought us excellent news, as we are about to obtain an observer status at the UN in December. Currently, we are working on opening a representative office in New York to mobilize global efforts and raise donations to help members enhance their food security. I expect to have more members on board in the next two years, as many countries have expressed their intention to join the organization. Given the global economic downturn and the decline of international solidarity to help poor and developing countries, we plan to develop an innovative financing mechanism to mobilize funding for the organization's programs and projects, in an attempt to lessen the burden on the budget of our member countries. Also, we plan to launch a voluntary fund to support the financial means of GDA.
What is the role of innovative scientific and technological research for the success of your foundational targets?
We are committed through our convention to actively engage in research and technological innovation relevant to our members' needs in the use of water and energy for agricultural purposes and for food security. We evaluate research and formulate proposals for the implementation of development programs in member states. Also, part of our mission is to disseminate the benefits of the latest research and technological innovation among members. For this purpose, we have partnered with local and regional institutes. One of the main partners is the Arid Regions Institute in Medenin, Tunisia, where we held an important seminar in 2018 gathering all our member states to exchange know-how and expertise in the latest agricultural developments. The institute has an international reputation and includes five key labs working on dryland farming, combatting desertification, ecology, animal husbandry and rural communities. We are in initial talks with Qatar's Ministry of Environment and Municipalities to be part of Al Mazroah Laboratory Complex, a state-of-the-art agricultural research center.
What are the main areas of focus for GDA in the medium term?
In line with our objectives, we will continue to pursue strategic partnerships to facilitate the dissemination of best practices, technical know-how, and innovative solutions in the field of food security. In this regard, we aim to strengthen our relationship with the private sector because we consider it a key partner in research and innovation. After identifying the key research and development needs of our members in several workshops and meetings, we plan to update this data and reach out to more partners for funding in order to help our members achieve their goals. The second stage will be working with member countries to launch sustainable projects and programs.