Making change happen now: my commitment as IFAD President

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Making change happen now: my commitment as IFAD President

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On my first day as IFAD President, travelling from Rome’s Castelli Romani to the IFAD headquarters, I have on mind the 150 million people who have fallen into food insecurity and poverty in the last two years and the limited amount of time we have left before the planet reaches an additional 1.5 °C of global warming, given current emissions trends.

For over 40 years, IFAD has consistently helped rural poor people lift themselves out of poverty. But with just a handful of harvests left until 2030, the world is falling far behind.

We now stand at a critical juncture confronted by multiple crises—from climate change to COVID to conflict. And now, a food crisis. But these have not just appeared from nowhere. This is the planet’s way of telling us things need to change. We can no longer rely on the same old playbook.

Despite this, I truly believe that we can achieve major change for the better—if we make the right choices. Here is what IFAD is doing right now, and will do more of during my presidency, to address the challenges of today, ensure sustainable global food systems and transform the lives of the world’s poorest rural people.

Help where it is needed most

IFAD works with poor rural communities, where our efforts are needed most. As President, I will look for solutions that scale up the mobilization of resources for the world’s poorest people and most fragile countries.

As the world faces crisis after crisis, IFAD’s ability to respond quickly and work in fragile situations is crucial to support small-scale farmers and their communities. Sustainable, long-term impact remains IFAD’s focus. Yet, recent years have shown that we need to be agile to respond to the needs of the communities we serve, including during the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine with our Crisis Response Initiative.

Climate considered in every conversation

There is nothing in our world right now that is not affected in some way by climate change. It is a great injustice that poor rural people, who have contributed the least to climate change, are those most affected by it.

IFAD pioneers climate adaptation for small scale producers. Our programmes have helped millions of farmers respond to the climate crisis, but we must do more to fully integrate climate across our thinking. Not only does this make sense for a sustainable future, it also cements IFAD as a leader in climate financing.

Champion the marginalized

Successful rural transformation is inclusive rural transformation. Marginalized people—such as women, youth and Indigenous Peoples—hold many of the solutions for healthier food systems and a healthier planet.

This means creating decent jobs for women and young people so they can earn an income and enhance their lives, while contributing to thriving societies. Through IFAD’s projects and programmes, many of which are targeted to women and youth, we are already helping to create these opportunities and stand ready to do more.

Prioritize private sector partnerships

In an increasingly interconnected and complex world, progress cannot happen without close collaboration with all actors, especially the private sector. IFAD's loans and grants, as well as its private sector window, are already promoting private investments in small-scale agriculture. But we can do so much more to leverage this potentially huge network of partners, close the financing gap, create jobs for rural youth and accelerate digital transformation for small-scale farmers.

Stay laser-focused

From my years working in finance and development, I have learned that while strategies evolve in response to a changing world, we must always stay true to our core mission. IFAD needs to remain laser-focused on its goal to support small-scale producers as they transform economies and food systems. And it makes economic sense too.

Spread the word

Given the scale of global challenges, I will work with all of you to secure the resources IFAD needs to double its impact in the world’s poorest rural communities by 2030. At IFAD, we work hand-in-hand with rural people to amplify their voices, build their resilience and champion their solutions. Together, we can build a sustainable, healthy future for all.

We already have the institutions to tackle poverty. We already have the know-how to reduce inequality. What we need is to mobilize resources and join forces with the international community. We are much more than the sum of our parts, and the possibility of what we can achieve together gives me great motivation and inspires me as I take on this new role.

Alvaro Lario, global finance executive, takes helm at UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development.