New commitments mark turning point in world’s fight against rural poverty

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New commitments mark turning point in world’s fight against rural poverty

Press release number: IFAD 14/03

Rome, 20 February, 2003 – Mr. Lennart Bage, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) hailed the organization’s 25th anniversary meeting of its Governing Council as a “turning point” on Thursday.

Speaking in the wake of a commitment by many of IFAD’s member countries to boost contributions by 20%, Mr. Bage said the funds will enable the organization to do more to enable the world’s 900 million rural poor to overcome poverty.

IFAD’s 162 member states agreed to a replenishment of USD 560 million to be invested in fighting poverty over the next three years.

Mr. Bage said the increases, which included commitments of significantly increased contributions from both industrialized and developing countries, were a “first test since the Monterrey Conference” of the international community’s promise to step up efforts to tackle poverty and hunger. In March last year, at a major summit in Monterrey, Mexico, governments from around the world agreed to increase the flow of aid aimed at helping to meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of poor by the year 2015.

“We see that commitments made are lived up to in concrete action after Monterrey,” said Mr. Bage, speaking on the final day of the session. The pledges of more money confirmed IFAD’s strong belief that greater investment is needed to help the world’s rural poor, he added.

“Nine hundred million of the 1.2 billion poor live in rural areas,” said Mr. Bage. “Clearly, if you want to halve poverty, that is where you have to have the impact.” The promises of increased contributions follow a steep decline in funding for rural development and poverty reduction in recent years. The proportion of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) devoted to this sector fell by almost 50 percent between 1988 and 1999.

“Rural development has been off the radar screen for the past 10 to 15 years”, said the IFAD President. “It is now back on the radar screen.”

Mr. Bage urged greater resources and attention to combating HIV/AIDS, both in Africa, where 40 million are now infected, and in other parts of the developing world, where preventative measures are urgently needed, if similar rates are not to be seen there in the future.

“The impact of HIV/AIDS is profound and dramatic in Africa,” he said. “There are more than 10 million orphans. There is a disappearing generation of farmers, with all the knowledge of using the land and being productive. There is a disappearing of staff in educational facilities, in ministries and in all the institutions.”

He added: “If action on prevention is not taken in Asia, Latin America and the rest of the developing world, we will see the same dire consequences 10 to 15 years down the road.”

IFAD is a specialized agency of the United Nations with the specific mandate of combating hunger and poverty in the most disadvantaged regions of the world. Since 1978 IFAD has financed 628 projects in 115 recipient countries and in the West Bank and Gaza for a total commitment of approximately USD 7.9 billion in loans and grants. Through these projects, about 250 million rural people have had a chance to move out of poverty. IFAD makes the greater part of its resources available to low-income countries on very favorable terms, with up to 40 years for repayment and including a grace period of up to ten years and a service charge of 0.75% per year.