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Closing Statement by Her Excellency Nobuko Matsubara, Vice-Chairperson of the Twenty-Eighth Session of the Governing Council of IFAD

Mr President,
Distinguished Governors and Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The time has come to draw the Twenty-Eighth Session of the Governing Council to a close. This session has been a landmark event in the history of the Fund, having dealt with matters of paramount importance to the future of the organization, most notably with the election of the President of IFAD and the establishment of the Consultation on the Seventh Replenishment of IFAD's Resources. The reappointment of President Båge and the reaffirmation of support for him by countries of all three Lists of IFAD were particularly notable.

This session will also remain in our memories thanks to the distinguished guests who honoured us with keynote speeches during the inaugural ceremony. The Council was especially honoured by the inspiring address of the President of the Republic of Uganda, His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. Despite his elevated international standing, President Museveni has not lost sight of the realities faced by the poor. Under his leadership, Uganda has emerged as a strong example of Africa 's capacity for growth and betterment. His emphasis on the need for an integrated approach to the problems of poverty in order to ensure sustainable development is a call to which we should all respond with our knowledge, experience and financial resources.

Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt delivered an eloquent keynote speech that underlined the fundamental importance of partnerships and cooperation at all levels. He was outspoken in his call for unity, not only in the realm of the United Nations but also among governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, if the Millennium Development Goals are to be achieved.

Governors welcomed the message of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, His Excellency Kofi Annan, which reiterated the importance of IFAD's role in combating rural poverty in the collective effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The Secretary-General emphasized that 75% of the extremely poor live in rural areas and depend on agriculture-related activities for their livelihoods. Thus, to achieve the Millennium Development Goals a sustained reduction of rural poverty is essential. In his statement, President Båge highlighted the progress made by the organization over the past four years and described his plans to strengthen the institution and enlarge its programme of work to reach larger numbers of the rural poor in the coming four years.

We were privileged to hear the reiteration of support from IFAD's host country in the message of His Excellency Gianfranco Fini, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Italian Republic, delivered on his behalf by His Excellency Gianluigi Magri. On behalf of my fellow Governors, I must express our appreciation to the Italian Government for the concrete expression of their commitment to the Fund as testified by the announcement of its intention to contribute an additional EUR 5 million in support of IFAD's work in the field of microcredit - an example which should lead us all to reflect and which we should all follow in this period of the Consultation on the Seventh Replenishment of IFAD's Resources.

At a time when 2015 seems so close and the Millennium Development Goals still so far, the messages of Mr Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, delivered on his behalf by Mr David Harcharik, and of Mr James Morris, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, brought to us by Mr Jean-Jacques Graisse, were indeed uplifting. The close collaboration between IFAD and its sister agencies in Rome , which is stronger than ever, is reaping benefits for the poor and hungry across the world. The examples of successful joint ventures cited by both agencies prove that together we can prevail.

Despite geographical and cultural differences, Governors spoke as one in their support of the Fund's mandate, in their encouragement of the laudable work already being done and in their call for IFAD to persist in its efforts to rid humanity of the scourge of poverty.

The Council reappointed Mr Lennart Båge to a second four-year term of office as President of IFAD. Once again, on behalf of all those present, allow me to congratulate him and to pledge our unwavering support to his quest to render this Fund a more effective organization and a crucial actor in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Distinguished Governors,

The official business of this session began on a very positive note with the approval of the membership application of the Republic of Kiribati , which will become our 164th Member State . An entity is only as strong as the sum of its parts, and I am sure I speak on behalf of all Governors in welcoming this new Member into our midst.

Having listened to our Member States' messages of support, Governors then witnessed the positive financial implications contained in the report on the Sixth Replenishment of IFAD's Resources. The receipt of instruments of contribution and payments against pledges not supported by instruments of contribution now totals 87.6% of pledges, representing an increase of 21.3% since our last session. With payments totalling almost USD 270 million, which represents over 50% of pledges, the Fund has been enabled to increase its programme of work and, thus, its outreach to our ultimate beneficiaries - the rural poor.

This session was called upon to ensure that the success of the Sixth Replenishment be replicated and enlarged and that the Fund be in a position to increase the level of its operations. In this regard and recalling that the Sixth Replenishment period will conclude in December 2006, the Consultation on the Seventh Replenishment of IFAD's Resources was established. We have entrusted this task to the Members of the Consultation and I am certain I speak on behalf of all my fellow Governors in wishing them every success in the discharge of these functions.

The significance of this task cannot be stressed enough. We have heard it repeated throughout this session that the work of our Fund is of fundamental importance in ensuring that the Millennium Development Goals adopted by world leaders in 2000 do not remain only an aspiration. In this context, the declaration of the Prime Minister of Belgium that his country intends to work towards achieving the 0.7% official development assistance target was noted with appreciation. It is time for all of us to translate our words into action and ensure the resources necessary for IFAD to do what it does best - enabling the rural poor t o overcome poverty.

The Governing Council approved the administrative budget of IFAD and its independent Office of Evaluation for 2005. A special expenditure for IFAD's new headquarters was also approved, and I would like to take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation to the Italian Government for making it possible for IFAD finally to have an official headquarters located in a single building: this will increase not only the staff's security but also the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization as a whole.

The Council was presented with a comprehensive report on the progress made in implementing the Performance-Based Allocation System within IFAD and welcomed the results of the first annual performance assessment and resource allocation cycle.

The report on the progress of the Fund's Strategic Change Programme provided an update on the new direction taken by the programme subsequent to its recalibration and its effective implementation as a result of the review of its activities undertaken in 2004.

The International Land Coalition brought us the lessons learned from its activities in 2004 and highlighted the continued need of the rural poor for secure access to land and the opportunity to influence policy decisions at national and international levels. The Global Mechanism of the Convention to Combat Desertification also reported on its operational activities in 2004, outlining the achievements to date in partnership-building and resource mobilization within the framework of the Global Mechanism's 2003-2006 business plan.

Distinguished Governors,

I would like to express my appreciation for having been honoured with the duty of serving on the Bureau of the Governing Council. I thank the Chairman and my fellow Vice-Chairman for the excellent collaboration within which we have collectively presided over these past two sessions and I thank you, fellow Governors, for having so graciously facilitated our work.

All our thanks should go to the staff of IFAD, who have all worked so diligently in organizing this conference in such an excellent way. I might add here that the members of the voting and counting committees should take particular pride in having so efficiently carried out such a stressing and delicate duty. A special note of thanks goes as well to all those behind the scenes without whom no conference could function, not the least of which the interpreters and technical staff, and of course those who are visible in such a discreet way, the conference messengers.

I once again congratulate President Båge on his reappointment and on the extraordinary amount of work that has already gone into his first term of office. These past four years have seen many changes in the organization and in its operational practices - a sign of vision at the very top: a vision this Council has chosen to endorse by ensuring that Mr Båge can continue to lead towards a stronger and more effective organization with the support of its Member States.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

An organization's history is made up of many turning points, and this session of the Governing Council has shown the importance each of these can have on its very foundation and on its future. Our work must continue with the Seventh Replenishment exercise and only by increasing the organization's resources, and thus its operations, can we provide the means by which IFAD can carry out its mandate to the fullest. Let us not forget this mandate - "enabling the rural poor to overcome poverty" - it is our mandate, our responsibility, our pledge to the beneficiaries. Let us act on it!

On that note, I hereby close the Twenty-Eighth Session of the Governing Council.