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We, the Heads of the three Rome-based United Nations institutions concerned with poverty, food, agriculture and rural development issues, are deeply concerned that the economic prospects of many developing countries, the prosperity of the world as a whole and our common efforts towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals are being undermined. This stems from the fact that most governments in developing countries and the international community have not faced up to the need to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and to create conditions for higher levels of investment in agriculture and rural development. Hunger in a world of food abundance is principally a result of negligence as it lies within mankind's capacity to put in place the policies, institutions, technologies and logistics both to prevent and eradicate hunger. We look to the International Conference on Financing for Development to reverse declining resource trends towards the important objectives of hunger and poverty reduction and agriculture and rural development, and to address related issues which are preventing meaningful progress towards reaching those objectives.

Nobody on earth should go hungry. Yet, almost 800 million people in the developing world remain chronically undernourished. Hunger is a result of extreme poverty, but it also perpetuates poverty by severely reducing the productivity and productive capacity of individuals, communities and entire nations. Reducing the incidence of hunger is, therefore, an excellent investment, as it enables people to shift from a state of economic dependence and exclusion to participating in and contributing with their talent and energy to growth and development.

We are also conscious that extreme poverty and deprivation on a large scale, taking place in an increasingly inter-connected world, is bound to generate social and political tensions which cannot be tamed easily and have destabilising effects with global dimensions. It is, therefore, in everyone's self-interest - rich and poor alike - to see faster progress in the fight against hunger and poverty.

Most poverty is concentrated in rural areas, especially amongst small farmers and landless families. Much urban poverty is the consequence of rural deprivation and rural economic decline which creates distress migration to the cities. We believe that the fight to reduce poverty has to begin in the countryside. And it has to begin with policies and resources which promote agricultural growth and broad-based rural development. We are, therefore deeply concerned that over the past ten years there has been a sharp decline in the resources - both national and international - devoted to agricultural and rural development in developing countries. We are also concerned that the international trading system is too slow in responding to the needs of developing countries for more open markets for their agricultural products, thereby restricting one of the best opportunities for rural poverty reduction.

Our institutions have worked together to prepare this short paper in the hope that the evidence which it provides will persuade delegates to the International Conference on Financing for Development of the fundamental importance of reversing the damaging trends in the directions of development financing. We hope that our message will get through that an increased investment in hunger reduction, in raising small farmer output and in rural development must command a much higher priority in most countries' Poverty Reduction Strategies and in decisions on resource allocations both at national and international levels.

We commend the paper to your reading and welcome your comments and suggestions.

Jacques Diouf
Director-General, FAO

Lennart Båge
President, IFAD

Catherine A. Bertini
Executive Director, WFP

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