IFAD Asset Request Portlet

ناشر الأصول

Statement by President Lennart Båge

32nd Session of FAO Conference

Mr. Chairman,
Mr. Director-General,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have great pleasure in addressing this 32nd FAO Conference. The excellent report prepared by FAO for the Conference on the state of food insecurity highlights how the situation has actually worsened over the last five years. Tragically, in many countries, the number of food insecure is growing.

These trends present a serious challenge to the hope of achieving the World Food Summit and the Millennium Summit goals to halve hunger and poverty by 2015. Yet, there is no global shortage of food. The problem rather, is that millions of people, especially in rural areas where three-quarters of the extreme poor live, cannot grow enough food or earn enough income to meet their family requirements.

Paradoxically, even as the focus on hunger and poverty has sharpened, development assistance for agriculture and the rural sector has fallen sharply, by nearly a half over the 1990’s. Only about 8% of ODA is currently directed to agriculture. The rural poor deserve better.

Mr. Chairman,

FAO and IFAD, together with WFP share a common vision of a world free from poverty and hunger and we have strongly complementary mandates to address different aspects of eradicating hunger and poverty. Building on this complementarity, we are working more closely together than ever before. At the Financing for Development Conference last year, for example, we spoke in a single voice to highlight the importance of rural and agricultural development to achieve the MDGs and to raise much needed additional funding.

There are now welcome signs of a new recognition of the centrality of rural and agricultural development in the effort to end hunger and poverty and revitalize the development process. The G8 Summit last summer, for example, emphasized that “we deem it necessary to increase productive investment in rural and agricultural development to achieve lasting food security. We undertake to work towards reversing the decline of official development assistance to agriculture and increasing trade opportunities for developing countries”. Developing countries for their part have also started to give greater priority to agriculture and this priority needs to be adequately reflected in PRSPs and other country strategy frameworks.

The challenge now is to ensure that these commitments to raise development support for the rural sector are translated into investments that enhance the daily lives of the poor.

Mr. Chairman,

Broad-based agricultural and rural development in developing countries, must be founded on higher productivity and output by smallholder farmers. More secure access to land, water, technology, financial and other institutions that support and reward efforts of poor farmers are essential. At the same time, better transport and communications infrastructure and facilities for storage, crop processing and marketing are needed so that higher yields and good harvests are not followed by collapse in prices. Perhaps most important, small-scale producers need to be able to organize themselves vis-à-vis the market as well as gain a stronger voice in decision-making processes, especially at the local level, what is sometimes called empowering the poor, among whom women are often the most disadvantaged.

IFAD in the last quarter century has supported projects and programmes with total investment cost of over USD 22 billion reaching some 250 million poor people. Our experience across the developing world has repeatedly shown that whenever offered the opportunity, the poor grasp the chance eagerly to build more productive lives for themselves, their families and their communities.

Higher productivity and output are pre-requisites for sustained poverty reduction. Yet without access to efficient markets, small-scale producers are at an enormous disadvantage. Today for too many smallholders the market is either not accessible or hostile. Market access must start with efficient local markets. But even poor farmers in remote areas are affected, directly or indirectly, by what happens in international markets. Studies carried out by UNCTAD have clearly demonstrated the damage that subsidies and protectionist trade policies have caused to cotton producers in West Africa. During a recent visit to countries in Africa, I saw for myself how efforts of farmers to develop poultry production are jeopardized by below production cost frozen chicken imports from developed countries. Such examples could be multiplied in other areas of interest to developing countries such as sugar, rice and dairy products.

Mr. Chairman,

The Doha Round started with the promise of being a Development Round. Central to this promise is agriculture which remains among the most protected sectors in the world. Agricultural subsidies, as we know, currently cost about a billion dollars per day, several times larger than ODA. Unfortunately, as the Cancún Ministerial meeting showed, negotiations on agricultural trade and subsidies have so far been inconclusive. Yet, the promise of Doha is essential to achieve the MDGs. It must be fulfilled. For millions of smallholder farmers no single measure is more important than a successful outcome of the Doha Development Round.

Our three agencies in Rome are fully committed to supporting these efforts. The Governing Council of IFAD in February next year will focus on Trade and Rural Development. For too long the interests of hundreds of millions of poor farmers have received little attention at the negotiating table. It is time that their voice was heard and their concerns and needs taken fully into account.

Mr. Chairman,

The longer-term problems of food insecurity and poverty have been gravely aggravated by short-term challenges especially in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV/AIDS is particularly critical in this context. In parts of Africa, the AIDS pandemic has aggravated the underlying food insecurity and weak public institutions to create a triple crisis that is devastating countries.

Today on World AIDS Day we must recognize that AIDS in Africa is increasingly a rural disease with more rural victims than urban ones. Millions of farmers, extension workers and public officials have already fallen victim to AIDS, reducing food production capacity and further eroding rural institutions. Hunger and deprivation make people more vulnerable to AIDS and weak public institutions make effective response more difficult.

A coherent, sustained response is urgently needed to address this triple crisis by governments, civil society and their international partners. At the initiative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, the Rome-based agencies and UNAIDS, together with our other partners, have led an effort to develop a systemic United Nations approach to the triple crisis. The aim is to mobilize our collective capacities, especially in Southern and Eastern Africa, to support national governments who are facing the AIDS onslaught on their societies.

Mr. Chairman,

The poor should not be seen as objects of charity but as partners in development and agents of change. Rising incomes for the poor will mean higher purchasing power, not only for domestic goods and services, but increasingly for imported ones. Today’s 800 million food insecure, today’s 1200 million extreme poor, will become tomorrow’s customers, promoting more rapid development within countries and growing exchanges between them, for the benefit of all.

Achieving the Millennium Summit goals remains a formidable challenge as the report to this Conference underlines. But if the renewed recognition for rural and agricultural development is maintained, the goal is not beyond our reach. Some fear that the demands of addressing terrorism and conflict could divert resources and attention away from eradicating poverty and hunger.

Yet it is clear that poverty, alienation and hopelessness often provide the breeding grounds for strife and terrorism. A world of stability and security cannot be built on foundations of poverty and hunger. Thus, even as we try to overcome the scourge of terrorism and the aftermath of war, we must redouble our efforts to overcome poverty and hunger, as the overriding goals of international development cooperation.

Thank you.