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Statement by Sheila Sisulu, Deputy Executive Director on behalf of the Executive Director of WFP

Inaugural Ceremony of the Thirtieth session of the Governing Council of IFAD
14 February 2007
IFAD, Rome

It is an honour to address the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) on behalf of WFP's Executive Director, Jim Morris, who regrets not being here in person.

First of all, let me express WFP's gratitude for IFAD's good work and proactive partnership.

As you know, recent evidence indicates slow progress towards meeting Millennium Development Goal 1, which aims to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Rates of extreme poverty are declining in many parts of the world.  However, while the proportion of undernourished people worldwide is declining slightly, the number of hungry people continues to rise at a rate of around 4 million people per year. 

Even though the causes and consequences of hunger and poverty are complex, one thing emerges clearly from monitoring progress towards the MDGs: that addressing poverty alone cannot conquer hunger. Overcoming poverty and hunger requires integrated strategies, policies, and investments that pay special attention to the reasons why people remain undernourished.

One of the reasons that people remain highly vulnerable to food and nutrition insecurity is their inability to obtain financial capital. In many cases a small injection of cash enables poor and hungry rural people to invest in their livelihoods, and may make the difference between a life lived hand-to-mouth and a dignified and productive existence. At the same time, just as we all know the adage that it is better to teach a man to fish, we also know that he still needs to eat while he is learning.

WFP works in partnership with IFAD and national governments to provide financial services aimed at rural development and poverty reduction. WFP's food for work and food for training projects enable people to participate in IFAD's schemes for micro-credit, income-generation and savings. 

In 2006, WFP and IFAD cooperated in nine countries, mainly in the fields of agricultural development and environmental protection. Assessments, project design, capacity-building and education were also important features of our cooperation.

Let me illustrate some of our cooperation and successes:
Since 2001, WFP and IFAD in India have addressed poverty eradication and food security. WFP hosts IFAD's Field Presence Unit in India, ensuring close and constant collaboration. The benefits include improved project design, cost efficiency and joint advocacy. Combining the agencies' food and cash resources has developed sustainable livelihoods for 600,000 of the most food-insecure tribal people.

In Mali, WFP, IFAD and the Government signed a Letter of Understanding for rural development through asset creation. In the United Republic of Tanzania, WFP has partnered with IFAD since 1999, supporting the Government's Participatory Irrigation Development Programme. WFP's food-for-asset-creation activities have improved 328 km of roads and excavated 461 km of canals. WFP, IFAD and government interventions created 36 irrigation schemes for paddy irrigation land.

Furthermore, in November 2006, WFP, FAO, IFAD and Habitat collaborated during the International Forum on the Eradication of Poverty held in New York to mark the end of the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty. The agencies co-sponsored a panel and produced a joint paper on "Reducing Hunger and Extreme Poverty: Towards a Coherent Strategy", highlighting the need for a twin-track approach to hunger and poverty reduction in which immediate food and nutrition needs are addressed as well as long-term agricultural development.

WFP is committed to further strengthening cooperation among the UN agencies, and the Rome-based agencies in particular, to increase our collective effectiveness to reduce hunger and food insecurity. We must deepen our understanding of the integrated nature of poverty and hunger.  Closer coordination among FAO, IFAD and WFP is  recommended in the Report of the Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence in the Area of Development, Humanitarian Assistance, and the Environment. The report specifically recommends that "To build long-term food security and break the cycle of recurring famines, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, WFP, FAO and IFAD should review their respective approaches and enhance inter-agency coordination.  Complementary strategies should be further developed to strengthen local capacity and resilience to mitigate and cope with the consequences of famines." 

WFP welcomes this report and is already working with UN partners to implement many of the recommendations, and appreciate your support in this opportunity to improve the quality of service all three agencies provide to poor and hungry people worldwide.

We must always remember the goals and priorities of governments in their fight against poverty and hunger, and ask how we, the Rome-based agencies -- can assist them and their citizens to achieve a better life.

Thank you.