DUBAI, Climate change, advanced sciences and the future of food security were the main topics of discussion as Sarah bint Yousif Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Science, and Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, Minister of State for Future Food Security, took part in a debate on the second day of the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils 2018.

The event is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, who attended the official opening ceremony along with H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council.

The Meeting gathers more than 700 scholars and futurists and experts from 70 countries on November 11-12, 2018, at Dubai's Madinat Jumeirah. Attendees will convene in 38 Councils, each of which addresses key issues in a vital strategic sector, and work to propose practical solutions for the challenges that are likely to arise.

"In the last 10 years, we've seen the UAE commit to playing a bigger part in research and development efforts," said Sarah Al Amiri. "What we would like to see is implementation of the outcomes of the research that is being carried out around the world, but also here in the UAE. We need to build an ecosystem to facilitate this implementation and to that end, we need to understand what are the capabilities that need to be developed here in the UAE in order to achieve that."

"The first step is to embrace the advanced technologies that already exist and experiment with them. We need a new generation of young and qualified people that are happy to experiment with technology; the technologies are already out there and it's just about connecting the dots," Al Amiri added. "In this instance, I would like to commend the UAE leadership. His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, issued legislation to facilitate attracting innovators and technology experts to the UAE. This is the kind of legislation that will transform the UAE into the kind of place that will welcome anyone looking to experiment with cutting-edge technologies."

"The UAE has always been a place of connections: At first, it was goods transitioning through here, then it was services, and now ideas," Al Amiri concluded.

For her part, Almheiri said: "There are major issues facing Food Security in the UAE, and we need to see challenges both on the demand side and the supply side. Demand is set to grow exponentially; we will need to produce 70% more food in 2050 than we do now all while water supplies continue depleting."

"Second, we need to consider our consumption patterns: Nowadays, we all like things that are quick and easy to make. There are great discrepancies as we have high levels of obesity and heart disease and yet elsewhere, there is famine," She continued. "Third thing to consider is food waste: Statistics have shown that a third of the food produced is wasted every year."

"Meanwhile, on the supply side, it is becoming increasingly difficult to produce food. Farmers are facing the effects of climate change, with droughts, inconsistent weather, fewer bees, etc." explained Almheiri, adding that we need to address both food production and processing. "The technologies already exist, but we need to expand them. We are already witnessing high-tech greenhouses in Abu Dhabi. We can use this facility to understand more and subsequently produce more. There are also countless other technologies to produce what we call 'clean food', such as aquaculture. If we produce food locally, we would need less pesticides and additives, and would consume less energy to transport it."

"Furthermore, we need to promote research and development. We have many universities and research institutes, but they need to know where to focus. We need to determine what the UAE can be competitive at. We need, as Al Amiri said, to build an ecosystem," Almheiri added, noting that the UAE is looking to become a hub for proliferating these advanced technologies.

"Food security is now on the national agenda; our leadership is explicitly directing us to focus on the subject. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum says: 'The future belongs to those who can imagine, design and execute'," She concluded, underlining the importance of engaging the youth by focusing on the tech aspect of food security. "I'm not looking for the next farmer, I'm looking for the next agri-technologist."

The Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils will witness the launch of future initiatives pertaining to various sectors and activities, as well as the implementation of several initiatives announced in last year's meeting. This step embodies the vision of the UAE leadership, which called to strengthen global partnerships towards an integrative approach that serves humanity and transforms challenges into opportunities for prosperity and development.

Over the past two years, the UAE has hosted the first two Global Future Councils meetings, which discussed the best solutions for employing the tools and technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to face future challenges, bringing to the fore new visions, experiences and initiatives in the most vital sectors.

In its second meeting, held in November 2017, the Global Future Councils brought together more than 700 leading futurists, scientists, global experts, government officials and international organizations representatives from over 70 countries. The second meeting also witnessed the launch of several strategic initiatives, most important of which is the UAE Centre for Future Readiness, which aims to develop programmes and policies that help prepare government agencies for the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Source: Emirates News Agency