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Statement by Austria to the Twenty-Eighth Session of the IFAD Governing Council

Statement by Mr. Herbert Jaeger
Alternate Governor of Austria

Governors, Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and privilege for me to attend the 28th Session of the Governing Council of IFAD.

Today President Lennart Båge was re-elected for a second term. I would like, Mr. President, to convey to you my government's congratulations and best wishes.

This year's Annual Meeting has a special theme: "Achieving the Millennium Development Goals: Rural Investment and Enabling Policy". We are only ten years away from the deadline of halving the number of people living in absolute poverty but one must admit that the ambitious Millennium Development Goals are still far from being achieved. The International Finance Institutions, the richer nations and other institutions are all committed to this objective. There have been some achievements towards these goals in parts of the world but in others there are practically no positive results.

The prime objective of IFAD has always been the alleviation of rural poverty and increase of food production. The Fund is acting were poverty is most abject, namely in the most poverty stricken rural areas of the globe.

What is IFAD's contribution to the MDGs so far? The Fund has an annual lending volume of about USD 450 million which includes also grants. Over a 120 recipient countries are eligible for funding. But on average only after six years can IFAD return to finance a project in the same country. This is due to the given limitations of the institution. The Fund's operations must therefore be very relevant for its beneficiaries. IFAD's investments must be in line with the national development priorities. The Fund's operational niche has to be evidenced in its work. This requires a well organized institution with highly analytic capacity. In order to demonstrate the added value of its activities projects need to be innovative and not modelled after those of often bigger players.

IFAD's projects must be clearly targeted at rural poverty alleviation and increased food production and should have a measurable impact on poverty. Their outcome must be followed up and documented in order to enable replication and necessary improvements in project design and targeting. There must be a comparative advantage to the Fund's work. The additional quality of the Fund's mission should materialize in clearly visible results, the number of poor decreasing, food supply increasing as well as living conditions improving.

Some years ago the Institution announced that one of its major objectives was to be a knowledge institution meaning a catalyst and innovator. This approach was widely supported as it seems to be the only way for a small institution to have a voice in the international development community. The Fund has gathered rich experience over the last twenty seven years of its existence which it can promote and disseminate. We encourage it to do so and continue to make even greater efforts in this direction. The Fund will have to systematically and selectively seek partnerships and alliances in order to promote innovation and scaling up and to maximise potential value added in pursuit of its objectives which are embedded in the MDGs.

IFAD must aim to be a respected development partner vis-à-vis the other international Finance Institutions but also in its countries of operations. This requires that the Fund is known, visible and heard. One of the most important preconditions for successful development aid is the existence of enabling political and economic frameworks in regions of operations. The Fund must be in a position to contribute to the creation of such favourable environments by trying hard to engage in policy dialogues with the national and international stakeholders, i.e. governments and international partners, and coordinate and harmonize its activities accordingly.

I want to underline that we find it absolutely necessary IFAD to take part more visibly and constructively in the national PRSP processes.

In this context the recently started field presence programme should help to improve interaction and contacts with the stakeholders in the field. This new initiative means of course higher administrative costs but this would be a good investment if the Fund could strengthen its influence in the field and reap better results from its projects.

I want to encourage the Fund to constantly adapt itself to the changing needs of its mission by improving its projects, country programmes and the management of the organization itself.

In this regard we are looking forward to the Board's discussion of the Independent External Evaluation which should provide us with an objective picture of the Fund's work, its impact on rural poverty alleviation and recommendations for improvements. The findings of this examination should provide guidance to the Fund and its members on its way forward.

Some comments on the Programme of Work for 2005. We support the approved annual financing level of approximately USD 500 million. This should enable the Fund to sustain its impact on rural poverty alleviation by carrying out an appropriate lending programme within the limits of its resources. To make best use of the scarce funds it will have to apply convincing criteria for the targeting of its program and we expect that a country's performance and governance will be accorded a decisive weight.

I want to take this opportunity and welcome the Republic of Kiribati as new member of IFAD.
In conclusion I want thank you, Mr. President, for your excellent leadership and work done for the institution and wish you continued success.

My thanks also go to the valuable staff of the institution for their professional work and proven dedication.