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

Statement by Mallam Adamu Bello, HON. Minister of Agriculture & Rural Development and Head of the Nigerian Delegation to the 28th Session of IFAD

Chairman of Council,
President of IFAD, Mr Lennart Båge,
Distinguished Fellow Governors,
Distinguished Ladies & Gentlemen,

Mr. Chairman, my delegation joins others in congratulating you and the other members of the bureau for your election to direct the affairs of this Council at this Session and for the next one year, our best wishes.

We also warmly congratulate Mr. Lennart Båge for his richly deserved re-election for a second term as President and Chief Executive of this Organization which is so dear to the developing world. Your re-election, Mr. President, is a re-affirmation of the collective faith and confidence of the international community in your capability to provide the necessary leadership that will enable IFAD to continue with the good work it is presently doing.

Mr. Chairman, as I mentioned in an earlier Session of this Council two years ago, the establishment of IFAD represents one of the most important collective global response to a challenge which has the potential of undermining the survival of humanity as a whole. This global foresight has been clearly vindicated in the last twenty seven years of IFAD operations. Although poverty, with all its attendant consequences still persists intractably especially on the continent of Africa, at least the issue of rural poverty to-day occupies a centre stage in the international development agenda. Of course there is clearly the need to go beyond international discourse to action. But IFAD must take a good part of the credit for this global re-awakening to the realities of our time.

Mr. Chairman, what makes IFAD a darling of the developing world is not its name or logo, it is the uniqueness of its mission and mandate. Were it to lose these attributes in an effort to align to the other financial institutions, its relevance would be put to question. We are happy to observe that IFAD has so far resisted this temptation. But the question is: for how long can she withstand the pressure with the emerging operational policies moving more in that direction? This is a question that is now agitating the minds of a large segment of the membership.

Under today's development environment in which poverty reduction has become the most topical issue in most international fora, the arena for the war against poverty in general and rural poverty in particular, has obviously widened considerably with many players entering the ring. The challenge before IFAD will therefore be to concentrate its exposure in areas of its comparative advantage, to maintain its uniqueness of mandate and to provide leadership to the international community in the fight against rural poverty. Nigeria strongly believes that the reason which informed the establishment of IFAD over a quarter of a century ago remains as valid today as it was then and that the relevance of IFAD in the Millennium Development agenda is unassailable. But it must continue to resist the temptation of sliding along the path of other multilateral financial institutions. It must remain a development institution with a consistent and clear bias for rural poverty reduction.

The issue today is no longer that of sensitizing the international community to the plight of the rural poor, it is that of strategising on programme delivery in order to maximise development effectiveness – results and impact. It is in this connection that I would want to comment briefly on two of the policy initiatives recently introduced in the organisation to enhance programme effectiveness.

? Field Presence: my delegation is delighted that this programme has finally taken-off, albeit on a pilot scale. After twenty seven years of operation, it is now clear to all of us (IFAD and her development partners) that the Fund needs to engage, at a much closer level, in the discussion with the other development partners at the country level especially considering the relatively small size of its project portfolio. Under that situation a closer face-to-face interaction at both formal and informal levels offer the best opportunity for the organization to maximize its value added. My delegation is gladdened by the expressed expectation by the Management that the programme will be expanded to cover more countries in Africa.

? Performance Based Allocation System: while lending our support to the scheme, my delegation wishes to re-iterate the caution we advised two years ago in this same forum, that nothing should be done through this programme, to compromise the mission and mandate of the organization; that the plight of the rural poor, especially the poorest of the poor, remains the corporate focus of the organization; that the system is not allowed to degenerate into a punitive instrument of political blackmail and that the procedure should be relatively simple – devoid of the complexities associated with similar schemes operated by the other IFLs. From information available to me, it would appear we still have some way to go in fine-tuning the system. In this regard, my delegation notes with satisfaction the succinct clarification contained in the document presented to this Council on the way forward on this subject, Nigeria will closely monitor the process.

On the programme of Work and Budget itself, my delegation is delighted to note the strong linkage between the programme of activities proposed and the three strategic objectives as captured in the Strategic Framework 2002-2006. We hope that the Fund will indeed align its programmes and strategies for each country with the country's own poverty reduction strategies as indicated in the document. In particular, the issue of micro-financing for the rural communities is receiving increasing attention amongst developing countries. IFAD needs to focus more in this area. Field projects and programmes constitute the most effective means by which the Fund engages the beneficiary countries in any meaningful dialogue on development policy issues. My delegation is therefore a little concerned, about the low number of projects proposed for the year and we hope that it will be possible to review this figure upward in the course of the year.

Mr. Chairman, my delegation notes from the programme of Work and Budget that a good number of other policy instruments aimed at strengthening and enhancing programme effectiveness have been produced under the overall guidance of the Board. We commend both the Board and especially the Management for the hard work being put into producing these documents. May be the time has come to now concentrate more on the implementation of these policies to be followed by a critical assessment of how these various instruments have impacted on the corporate performance of the Fund. We are of course not suggesting a slowing down of forward looking and strategic thinking and planning but we feel some minimum time space is needed for these various policy instruments to actually mature and take roots. We hope our suggestion will be taken into account by the 7th Resource Replenishment Consultation which will soon commence.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, my delegation wishes to commend the Management and staff of IFAD for their hard work in the preparation for this meeting and especially for the high quality documents placed before us for consideration. That you have been able to do such a splendid job in spite of the pressure you all have been under, says a lot of your collective commitment and dedication. This Council is proud of you.

Mr Chairman, Fellow Governors, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your attention.