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07 February 2020

Excellencies,

Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First I would like to welcome you to the launch of IFAD’s Rural Development Report 2016. And I would also like to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Italian Republic for hosting this event. I would also like to thank our distinguished panellists and also our moderator, Ms Zeinab Badawi, for her participation.

In 2016, we face a world that is more complex than it was five years ago when we released the 2011 Rural Poverty Report. Climate change, mass migration, threats to security and financial uncertainty dominate the news.

But alongside the challenges, there is also the collective resolve to face them, expressed in the 2030 Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Substantial progress has been made in the fight against poverty. The proportion of people in developing regions living on US$1.90 has shrunk from 44 per cent in 1990 to 14.9 per cent in 2012. It is an impressive achievement.

And yet today, three-quarters of the world’s poorest and hungriest people live in rural areas. Globally, nearly 800 million people still go to bed hungry. To deliver on the 2030 Agenda’s promise to be truly universal, the development community needs to refocus attention on rural people and redouble efforts to help them to achieve dignified and prosperous livelihoods, and lead fulfilling lives free from hunger, and filled with hope.

But to do that, we need evidence. And this is where the Rural Development Report comes in.

Globally, there is an increasing movement toward evidence-based policy making and development. With pressing challenges, limited resources, and more ambitious commitments, we need – as our Strategic Framework says – to work bigger, better and smarter.

IFAD is at the forefront of this movement toward evidence-based development decision-making. With our impact assessment initiative, we have pushed the frontier by attempting to scientifically analyse not just the results of our projects, but to assess the impact of our institution as a whole.

We also need to have more thorough, evidence-based analysis of the context we are working in. That is what this report provides. It is called the Rural Development Report, not the Rural Poverty Report, because it takes a broader, more holistic view of the environment we work in, and the full spectrum of issues that rural people confront, on and off the farm.   

We brought together a group of experts to study experiences in more than 60 developing countries to answer key questions about the nature, pace and direction of changes in the rural space, how they relate to a country’s overall economic development, and what it means for our efforts to improve the lives and livelihoods of rural people.  

We focused on the impact of structural transformation – that is, the reallocation of economic activity beyond agriculture to include industry and services, which is a common feature of economic development. We tried to understand the relationship between this and rural transformation – a process in which gains in agricultural productivity are coupled with the diversification of rural incomes and changing demographics. Do these changes cut rural poverty? How, and when, and how fast?

All developing regions have seen their economies transform, though there are many variations, between regions and between countries. Generally speaking, rural poverty falls as rural transformation occurs. The most dramatic change has been observed in Asia and the Pacific and West and Central Africa. Most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean had already reached relatively high levels of structural and rural transformation, yet rural inequality remains extremely high.

Indeed, we discovered that rapid structural and rural transformation do not automatically cut rural poverty. Growth and transformation matter, but so do policies. What makes the difference in the pace of rural poverty reduction is the choices governments make, and that we make.

IFAD is committed to the idea that inclusive rural transformation is essential to sustainable development, but it does not just happen. It depends on the choices that are made, in the first place by governments, but also by the private sector and by institutions like IFAD. Inclusive rural transformation can lift people out of poverty, revitalize communities, and offer opportunities to all--including youth, who are the future of any nation. But as the report shows, it must be made to happen.

In going forward and partnering to achieve sustainable development for all, we need to pursue the right strategy for each country. We need to set out the objectives, and expand and accelerate what works. We need to act on the best evidence available and we need to use impact evaluation to make sure we are delivering the most efficient and effective projects we can. Rural lives depend on it.

An inclusive approach to rural development would ensure that all rural people—women and youth, smallholders, landless workers, marginalized ethnic and racial groups, and victims of conflict and disaster—benefit from the transformation. If done properly, favorable social impacts among rural people would include longer life expectancy; improvements in education, health, water and sanitation; and empowerment of women. These are preconditions for and an outcome of achieving some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs.)

The Rural Development Report can be a vital resource to help policy makers make the right decisions and investments to bring about inclusive rural transformation. Its launch today is part of IFAD’s commitment to provide the knowledge that is so essential to achieving our development goals, and to creating a sustainable future for rural people.   

Thank you.