Higher FAO profile in Europe
Rural development essential in CIS countries
14 June 2006, Riga/Rome – The FAO Regional Conference for Europe underlined the key role of rural development driven by agriculture in achieving food security and combating poverty, especially in Europe's transition countries.
Attended by agriculture ministers and delegates of 51 countries and numerous observers, the Conference in Riga, Latvia, 8-9 June 2006, examined the guidelines and measures needed to bolster FAO's contribution to food security and poverty alleviation in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
Latvia's Minister of Agriculture, Martins Roze, set the tone in his statement focusing on the need for cooperation among European countries, with FAO support, to achieve the targets of the World Food Summit and the Millennium Development Goals.
Mr Roze noted the importance of FAO support to Latvia's rural development after its independence, which later enabled it to support the development of neighbouring countries.
Agriculture and food security
Many countries called on FAO and the European Commission to foster the exchange of experiences in promoting rural development through the cultivation of traditional food products and the preservation of national and cultural heritage.
Such activities could add to the attraction of rural areas and support employment through tourism.
The Conference recognized the importance of FAO support for achieving the World Food Summit targets and the Millennium Development Goals.
The Ministerial Round Table reiterated FAO’s relevance to the many challenges facing Europe: environmental pollution, climate change, regional conflicts, transboundary diseases and food safety.
It underlined FAO's unique role in providing global public goods, particularly in its fight against world poverty and hunger.
FAO should help governments reach agreement on the priority measures needed, presenting proposals and studies for discussion in its role as neutral forum.
The Round Table underlined FAO's role in consumer protection and conservation of the environment. It called for changes in development policies and strategies to include the poorer populations in economic growth.
Europe and FAO's reform
FAO reform is triggered by changing international circumstances. It entails reorganization at headquarters in Rome and decentralization.
The Conference of Riga endorsed the principles of reform and reiterated its support to the Director-General. It called for a balance between FAO's normative tasks (harmonization of food standards, international treaties, building of knowledge) and its operational tasks (field programmes).
It also agreed that FAO should have a budget that reflected its mandate and should seek alliances with other organizations working in the same sector.
Control of avian influenza
The Conference urged greater FAO cooperation with and assistance to the countries of the region. It welcomed the close collaboration that existed between FAO, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank, the European Union and the UN System Coordinator in the fight against avian influenza.
It asked to be informed on the follow-up from the various conferences on this subject. It stressed the urgent need for delivery on pledges in order to avoid a global spread of the H5N1 virus and the need for ad hoc preventive measures to prevent the risk of a pandemic, especially in developing countries.
The Regional Conference was preceded by a civil society consultation that reported its findings to the representatives of the region's governments.
FAO Regional Office for Europe
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Information Officer for Latvia
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