FAO Director-General presses for action on MDGs
Hunger and poverty reduction is key to Millennium goals
7 September 2006, Rome – Reducing hunger and extreme poverty is a prerequisite for achieving the international community’s Millennium Development Goals, the Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Dr Jacques Diouf, said here today.
Addressing a high-level advisory committee set up to help FAO respond more effectively to the challenge of meeting the MDGs by 2015, Dr Diouf said achieving the eight objectives “will test the international community’s political will to deal with a number of global problems and unite behind actions required for solving them”.
“I believe you share my conviction that reducing hunger and extreme poverty is the key to achieving all the MDGs,” Dr Diouf declared.
“We stand very little chance of achieving the rest of the goals – environment, education, child mortality, maternal health, gender equality, HIV/AIDS – unless the first MDG is achieved,” he added.
Dr Diouf noted that, as the lead UN agency for agriculture, forestry, fisheries and rural development, virtually all of the organization’s activities – including monitoring, analysis, resource mobilization, partnership building and field activities – supported progress towards the MDGs.
“But I have a sense that our efforts need to be more focussed and participative to be really effective,” he continued. In order to strengthen FAO’s capacity to meet the challenge ahead, he had therefore initiated an extensive reform of the Organization, a process that was also intended to foster increased cooperation with the rest of the UN system.
“To this end I wish to thank you for having agreed to bring your great expertise, experience and wisdom to the High-Level External Committee convened today. I have no doubt that your able guidance will show us the ways to enhance the effectiveness of our activities in support of the MDGs”, Dr Diouf added.
Members of the committee are: Chairperson: Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation; Dr Walter P. Falcon, Director, Centre for Environmental Science and Policy, Stanford University; Carlos E. Aquino González, former Director-General, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture; Prof. Bo Bengtsson, Department of Crop Science, Alnarp Swedish University of Agricultural Science; Prof. Dmytro O. Melnychuk, Rector, National Agriculture University of Ukraine; M. Cheikh Mouhamady Cissokho, Honorary President, Conseil National de Concertation et de Coopération des Ruraux, Senegal; Dr Adel El-Beltagy, Chair, Global Forum for Agricultural Research, Cairo; Ms Barbara Stocking, Director, Oxfam, UK; Moise C. Mensah, former Assistant President, International Fund for Agricultural Development.
Mr Prabhu Pingali, Director of FAO’s Agricultural and Development Economics Division, told the committee that at the global level the MDG goal of halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger by 2015 appeared within reach “presuming high levels of investment in, and policy commitment to, enhancing food security”.
Whereas 20 percent of people in developing countries were undernourished in 1990 – the benchmark for the MDGs – FAO’s most recent estimates pointed to 17 percent, or 815 million people, still suffering from hunger in 2000/02 and projected 11 percent for 2015, Mr Pingali said.
However, a high incidence of undernourishment, 23 percent, would still be found in sub-Saharan Africa in 2015, he continued. Roughly one third of Africans are currently hungry and unless special action is taken, meeting the Millennium hunger target there would have to wait until about 2030.
Similarly, the goal of halving poverty between 1990 and 2015 was on track at the global level but appeared beyond reach in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Very little progress [in the region] will be achieved unless performance is significantly enhanced in the near future and the absolute number of poor may in fact rise considerably,” Mr Pingali said. “Should this scenario materialize close to half of the world’s poor will live in sub-Saharan Africa in 2015.”
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