Celebrity chef gets top U.N.D.P. role

By Staff Writer ,

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U.N.D.P. ADVOCATE: Chef Robert Oliver.

U.N.D.P. ADVOCATE: Chef Robert Oliver.

Celebrity Chef, Robert Oliver, has a new role. He has been appointed as the U.N.D.P’s Pacific Office’s Advocate for Food, Sustainable Development and Wellbeing.

The appointment was formalised during a recent gathering in Suva, Fiji, where Bakhodir Burkhanov, Country Director, U.N.D.P. Pacific Office in Fiji, and Head of Pacific Regional Policy and Programme, congratulated Mr. Oliver.

“Robert is no stranger to U.N.D.P having advised a number of our projects. We know him as someone who is genuinely passionate about human development, and who has deep connections with the Pacific Islands’ people and cultures,” he said.

“Throughout his busy and successful career spanning media, reality TV, restaurant development and authoring internationally acclaimed cookbooks, Robert has invested his time and energy in supporting organic farming and sustainable fisheries, engaging rural communities, and linking women and youth to business opportunities.

“Anyone who has seen Robert’s work – in any of the media that he has mastered – knows he’s passionate about food. 

“But he is committed not just to creating great cuisine, but to ensuring that it is anchored in local culture; that it empowers local producers and communities; and showcases the best the Pacific has to offer. In the broadest sense of the term, Robert is a social entrepreneur and a powerful health advocate.”

Mr. Burkhanov went on to highlight why the role is important.

“One of the largest epidemiological studies ever conducted across the globe (by the World Health Organisation) found that in just four decades obesity among children and adolescents has increased 10 folds . 

“Shockingly, the 10 countries with the greatest increase in obesity among youth are all Pacific Island Countries. Obesity predisposes to heart diseases, stroke, diabetes and cancer. These are already the leading causes of preventable deaths in the region, which has declared an N.C.D crisis six years ago.

“In many ways, this rise of obesity and non-communicable diseases globally is a symptom of unsustainable development choices.

“Human health today is better than at any time in history and the total number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen by close to a billion globally over the past 30 years. Yet, the alarming childhood obesity statistics and data on pollution and carbon emissions tell us that the rapid economic progress we have seen over the past decades has come at the expense of future generations.

“Food systems play a pivotal role on both human and planetary health. Healthier diets are a critical part of the solution to reduce both the burden of NCDs, but also the emissions causing climate change. More sustainable and healthier food systems can also create more jobs locally.

“To me, this represents just one example of the many complex and interconnected challenges we need to tackle through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We are realising, perhaps more than ever now, that development issues cannot be addressed in silos, and that progress in one area can be undone by neglect of another.

“The key messages of the S.D.Gs is that inclusive economic growth for the present and future generations cannot be achieved without social development, environmental protection and climate action, without improved health and wellbeing, or without more responsible production and consumption patterns.

No entity – whether state or non-state – is single-handedly able to address these interconnected challenges. We need stronger leadership to break the silos, and innovators and risk-takers to align business interests with a social agenda that leaves no one behind. We need communicators who can render these policy issues in ‘human language’ to inform communities and energise them to act.”


About Robert Oliver 

Mr. Oliver is a New Zealand chef who was raised in Samoa and Fiji. He has developed restaurants in New York, Miami, Las Vegas and Sydney, “farm to table” resorts in the Caribbean and food programs feeding homeless people and African immigrants with AIDS in New York City.

Robert returned to the South Pacific to write his first book, Me’a Kai: The Food and Flavours of the South Pacific (Random House, New Zealand), with Dr. Tracy Berno and Fiji photographer Shiri Ram. Written with a mission to connect Pacific agriculture to the regions tourism,

In 2013, Robert released “Mea’ai Samoa: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Polynesia” (Random House). In May 2014, this book won the “Best TV Chef Cookbook in the World 2013” at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Beijing.

Robert is Chef Ambassador for Le Cordon Bleu, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands and is the presenter of REAL PASIFIK, a television series based on the food culture of the South Pacific.

He is a features contributor to The Huffington Post (New York) and Global Gourmet Beijing. Robert was a keynote speaker at TEDx Auckland in 2013 and was one of the authors chosen to represent New Zealand at the Frankfurt Bookfair in 2012 and between 2011 & 2012 Consulting Chef for NZ Trade & Enterprise (NZTE) in China (based in Shanghai). In 2014 and 2015 Robert appeared as one of the Tasting Panel judges in “My Kitchen Rules New Zealand” and co hosted “Marae Kai Masters” with renowned actor Te Kohe Tuhaka on Maori TV”.

Robert is also co-owner and director of Kai Pasifika in Auckland, New Zealand’s first Pasifik themed restaurant.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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