Working together, pressing new challenges in agricultural development focus of meetings with Saudi officials and IFAD Assistant President

Release number IFAD/07/08

Rome, 29 January 2008   IFAD Assistant President Matthew Wyatt will meet key government officials in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to discuss future cooperation and strengthen collaboration in the face of new and growing challenges for poor rural people.

"Saudi Arabia's vision and wisdom played a critical role in the creation of IFAD 30 years ago to fight hunger and poverty," said Wyatt. "The Kingdom has continued to champion those causes ever since.

"Now with urgent new challenges such as climate change, a precarious global food supply and rising commodity prices, our long and successful partnership is more crucial than ever," he said.

Wyatt is on a three-day official visit to Riyadh to meet with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Finance, the Saudi Fund for Development, and the Gulf Cooperation Council. He will seek the government's view on IFAD's progress in realizing the vision of Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members when they founded IFAD 30 years ago.

"I see the meetings as an opportunity to look back on our shared achievements," said Wyatt. "But even more importantly, I see this as a chance to look forward and together plan for the future during a time when so many new challenges are creating more uncertainties for poor rural people."

IFAD is especially eager to work with Saudi Arabia more closely on the growing challenge of climate change. Last November, IFAD participated in the Third OPEC Summit Symposium in Riyadh. During the summit, the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Abdullah, announced an initiative to allocate US$300 million to finance research in the areas of energy and environment, particularly climate change.

"For IFAD, climate change has a special significance because our mission is to enable poor rural people to overcome poverty and hunger," said Wyatt. "The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said very clearly that climate change will hit the poorest and most vulnerable people hardest.

"This is why there is a clear economic, social and moral imperative to help poor rural people adapt to climate change in a sustainable way," he said.

IFAD has 30 years of experience helping poor rural people tackle desertification and environmental degradation and building resilience to weather shocks. Most of its programmes and projects are in marginal, rainfed areas that are at risk from water shortage, land degradation and desertification. Through loans and grants to developing country governments, IFAD is addressing such issues as desertification and changes in cropping patterns due to climate variability.

Saudi Arabia is a founding Member State of IFAD, and gave the organization its first President, Abdelmuhsin M. Al-Sudeary. The Kingdom is IFAD's second largest contributor; to date, Saudi Arabia has provided nearly US$400 million to combat hunger and poverty in developing countries.

IFAD was created 30 years ago to tackle rural poverty, a key consequence of the droughts and famines of the early 1970s. Since 1978, IFAD has invested almost US$10 billion in low-interest loans and grants that have helped more than 300 million very poor rural women and men increase their incomes and provide for their families.

IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency. It is a global partnership of OECD, OPEC and other developing countries. Today, IFAD supports more than 200 programmes and projects in 84 developing countries.