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Statement by Canada to the 24th Session of IFAD's Governing Council

Statement by Canada

Mr President, Distinguished Governors, Ladies and Gentlemen:

From the beginning, Canada has been a strong supporter of this unique organization and its vital mission. We remain proud of what IFAD has accomplished. And we look forward to seeing the Fund play an ever-more-valuable role as we move into the new millennium.

For IFAD, 2001 is a turning point. This also is the right moment for us to reflect, with gratitude and admiration, on the strong leadership and wise stewardship of President Al-Sultan over the past eight years. He has helped IFAD stay true to its mission through challenging times.

We have much to do in just two days, so I will keep these remarks short. IFAD and its new President face a rapidly changing environment for development cooperation. The international community is moving to a new era of policy coherence and convergence, with a strong consensus around the goal of poverty reduction, the need for performance-based allocation of ODA, the importance of donor coordination and the centrality of putting the developing country in the driver’s seat.

This is real progress. But the fact that most development agencies have adopted poverty reduction as an overarching objective means that IFAD is no longer the only player in the field. The rest of the world has caught up! But this challenges the comparative advantage, the strategic edge, that has made IFAD so special.

In the coming months and years, the new President’s challenge will be to retool IFAD’s comparative advantage and position IFAD in this new environment. How should this be done? It must be by building on IFAD’s inherent strengths.

This organization’s very structure is itself a major comparative advantage. In effect, it’s a hybrid of UN agency and IFI – and like many successful hybrids it has strengths from both sides, plus a special vitality all its own.

I believe much of this extra vitality comes from the full involvement of the developing countries themselves – not just as borrowers, or beneficiaries, or voting members, but as investors of a major share of the resources involved. Being serious stakeholders and true partners brings a distinctive degree of ownership, credibility and involvement in IFAD’s activities. This we must preserve and work hard to spread.

But global poverty and rural poverty are vast, and IFAD is small. Given its limited resources, IFAD has no choice but to leverage its influence through strategic alliances – with IFIs and other agencies, with governments and the private sector, with communities and civil society. There is now this broad movement to work more effectively together, under the principles of the Comprehensive Development Framework and through Sector-Wide Approaches. IFAD must play an importante role in this new mainstream.

And to avoid being swallowed up in that mainstream, IFAD must put renewed energy and passion into its greatest area of strength – its leadership role as the world’s foremost knowledge-based organization focused on grassroots rural development. IFAD can continue to excel in nurturing innovative ways of enabling the rural poor to create better livelihoods. In this regard, our Consultation Report Partnerships for Eradicating Rural Poverty provides a bold set of directions.

IFAD has this important role to play as the advocate, conscience and expert on rural develolpment. When there is a need for someone to mention that the Emperor has no clothes on, IFAD can be the child brave enough to speak the truth … just as it did earlier this month in its seminal World Rural Poverty Report, pointing out that the global community is currently headed toward failure, in badly missing the goal of cutting global poverty in half by 2015.

The broad advance away from a sense of entitlement toward performance-based allocation is yet another strong sign of IFAD’s fitness for the new century. Resources are tight, developing countries are frustrated, donors are more demanding, processes are tougher – but IFAD’s determination to invest scarce resources wisely, where an enabling environment means that they will generate the greatest benefits for the neediest, gives us confidence that this organization not only has a future …. It is a key part of a better future for all, and especially for the rural poor of our world.