FAO Conference continues: Director-General re-elected, new member countries welcomed

Former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali delivers twenty-first McDougall Memorial Lecture

The second day of the FAO Conference in Rome opened on a solemn note, as Director-General Jacques Diouf requested a minute of silence in memory of the 24 people who died in the World Food Programme airplane crash in Kosovo on 12 November.

The first order of business of the day was the election of a Director-General to lead the Organization over a six-year term to begin in January 2000. Incumbent Director-General Diouf won the election over Juan Carlos Vignaud, currently Argentine Ambassador to Sweden, by a vote of 137 to 26.

After the election results were announced, Director-General Diouf addressed the Conference. Citing new data from The State of Food and Agriculture, FAO's annual assessment of progress in improving global food security, Dr Diouf said he was encouraged by the decrease in the total number of malnourished people in the world by 40 million between 1990-92 and 1995-97, but cautioned: "This reduction of about 8 million people per year on average is encouraging, but still far below the figure of 20 million required to achieve the objective of the World Food Summit," Dr Diouf said.

Director-General Diouf went on to report on FAO's increasing role in humanitarian crises around the world, the importance of the Codex Alimentarius, and the success of several FAO programmes, including the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), the Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES) and the Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS).

Concluding, Director-General Diouf assured the Conference that FAO would continue to respond to the needs of its member nations and their rural populations, but he underlined the fact that "the future of FAO will also depend on the resources made available to it".

Review of The State of Food and Agriculture continued during the afternoon session. Discussion of the Organization's Programme of Work and Budget 2000-2001 is scheduled for 16 November.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali: underdevelopment and political discontent are linked

On 12 November, the opening day of the Conference, former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali delivered the McDougall Memorial Lecture. Currently Secretary-General of the International Organization of French-Speaking Countries and Regions, Boutros-Ghali spoke of challenges to democracy in the age of globalization. In his address, he highlighted the link between underdevelopment and political discontent: "Peace is not only a political issue but is also a matter of economic development. Everyone needs to clearly realize that underdevelopment is a cause of political discontent." He added: "And it is only by mobilizing everyone - world organizations and regional organizations - that we shall be able to move forward towards that world of our ideals and of our ambitions".

The McDougall Lecture was instituted in 1958 to commemorate the late Frank L. McDougall of Australia, one of the founders of FAO.

Five new countries join list of FAO members

The Republic of San Marino and the Pacific Ocean island states of Kiribati, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Niue and the Republic of Palau became new member nations of the Organization after their applications for membership were approved by the Conference. FAO membership now stands at 180 countries, plus one organization, the European Community.

Award-winners recognized for outstanding work in development

Winners of FAO awards for outstanding contributions in the field of development were also announced on the opening day of the Conference. The A.H. Boerma Award for journalism was shared by two individuals: Patrick Luganda, senior features writer of New Vision newsletter in Uganda, and Alain Zolty, chief editor of the magazine Afrique Agriculture.

The 1998 B.R. Sen Award went to Eduardo Seminario Martin of Peru, for his contribution to upland conservation and development in Burundi. The 1999 award was presented to Moroccan Abdelouahhab Zaid for his work creating a date industry in Namibia.

The 1998-1999 Edouard Saouma Award, given in recognition of the efficiency of an institution in implementing projects funded by FAO's Technical Cooperation Programme, was shared by two government institutions, one in Cuba and one in Yemen.

The non-governmental organization National Fisheries Solidarity in Sri Lanka was the first recipient of the Margarita Lizárraga Medal, given for an explempary contribution to the application of FAO's Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

The Conference continues its review of The State of Food and Agriculture and will discuss progress on the follow-up to the World Food Summit on 15 November.

Listen to or download an audio clip from the McDougall Memorial Lecture delivered by Secretary-General of the International Organization of French-Speaking Countries and Regions Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Also included is an interview with Alain Zolty, one of the recipients of the A.H. Boerma Award (available in French only):

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    Instant play but lower quality than mp3. To listen to a RealAudio sound file, Realplayer G2 is required (available free on the Web).
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15 November 1999

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