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SPEAKING IN NEW YORK AT A PREPARATORY MEETING TO THE JOHANNESBURG WORLD SUMMIT - JACQUES DIOUF UNDERLINES THE IMPORTANT POTENTIAL OF AGRICULTURE TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

FAO Press Release 02/05


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Eve Crowley, FAO Expert, tel: 0039.3492376036


New York/Rome, 29 January 2002 - Dr Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), today underlined "the important potential of agriculture" to help achieve the goals of the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg on 26 August - 4 September 2002.

Dr Diouf, in a message to the participants to the second preparatory committee meeting of the WSSD (Prepcom II) at UN Headquarters in New York, that was delivered by FAO Assistant Director-General Jacques Eckebil, stressed that agriculture, forestry and fisheries should take a central position on the agenda of all preparatory events leading to WSSD.

"Environmental degradation and poverty are strongly linked," Dr Diouf pointed out. Therefore, initiatives to reduce poverty and hunger should be accompanied by good environmental management, which can only be achieved if the needs and motivations of farmers are given due consideration, the FAO Director-General said.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization is the task manager for the land, food and agriculture related issues in Chapters 10, 11, 13 and 14 of Agenda 21, adopted by the UN Conference on Environment and Development at Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

Considered as major challenges for the WSSD, poverty and food insecurity are two top-priority issues for FAO. At the World Food Summit organized by FAO in Rome in 1996, Heads of State and Government and representatives of 186 countries made a solemn commitment and provided a set of concrete actions to halve by 2015 the number of undernourished people worldwide, presently standing at more than 800 million.

Poverty and hunger can be alleviated because the planet produces enough food to feed all its inhabitants. However, FAO has stressed the need for a stronger political will and sufficient financial resources to help developing countries achieve food security. The forthcoming World Food Summit: five years later, that will take place in Rome on 10-13 June this year, will address these two major constraints to achieving the goals set up by the 1996 World Food Summit.

"In mobilising the international community once again and committing it to adequately address these two crucial factors that are equally important for sustainable development and the effective implementation of Agenda 21, FAO will be making a direct contribution to the goals of the WSSD," Dr Diouf stated.

FAO Director-General also said that "the WSSD must help to reverse the decline of official development assistance to sustainable agriculture and rural development, forestry and fisheries."

"FAO will ensure effective follow-up to the WSSD," announced Dr Diouf, indicating that his Organization has identified new opportunities for programmes that could lower poverty and food insecurity and help at the same time to mitigate climate change, lower the threat of desertification and reduce the loss of biodiversity.

As part of the preparatory process for the WSSD, the FAO and major groups in civil society working on land and agriculture have organized an informal side event at UN Headquarters in New York .

The event will be held as a multi-stakeholder dialogue and will take place on the evening of January 31 in Conference Hall 1. It will be co-chaired by Jacques Eckebil, FAO Assistant Director-General, Sustainable Development Department and a representative of a major civil society group. Participants will include FAO experts and representatives from governments, indigenous peoples, farmers, business and industry, trade unions, NGOs, and other major groups and civil society organizations and intergovernmental organizations.

The purpose of the multi-stakeholder dialogue is to provide assessments of progress, lessons learned, new challenges, main constraints, and possible responses in the area of integrated land, food, and agriculture policy within the framework of poverty eradication, resource management, sustainable consumption, and other crosscutting sustainable development themes. Stakeholder perspectives will be offered on the emerging themes of access to resources, global campaign on fair (decent) conditions of employment in agriculture, good practice for sustainable agriculture and rural development, and others areas of possible commitments.

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Note to editors: At the multi-stakeholder dialogue, speakers will present their views on priority issue areas for action to implement the UNCED objectives, from which "specific time-bound measures to be undertaken" by governments, intergovernmental organizations and major groups are expected to emerge at the WSSD to enable sustainable development through sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD), FAO expert Eve Crowley indicated.

For further information contact FAO Liaison Office with the United Nations in New York, tel. 001 212 963 6036.


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