Her Excellency, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Honourable Chairman, Dr. Abdur Razzaque, Minister for Food and Disaster Management
Honourable Special Guests:
- Ms. Begum Matia Chowdhury, Minister for Agriculture
- Mr. Abdul Latif Biswas, Minister for Fisheries and Livestock, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
- Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator, USAID
Guest of Honour:
- Mr. David Nabarro, UN Special Representative for Food Security and Nutrition
My Colleagues, Dignitaries, Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen
Assalamu Alaikum and Good Morning
On behalf of the Director General of FAO Jacques Diouf and the organization, I would like to express my pleasure to be here today at the Bangladesh Food Security Investment Forum.
This Forum is a turning point for us all. 2009 was a devastating year for the world’s hungry. The global economic slowdown, following on the heels of the food crisis of 2007–08, deprived an additional 100 million people of access to adequate food. Over one billion people are now estimated to be undernourished worldwide. In Bangladesh, FAO and WFP estimated that the price hike together with the floods and cyclone of late 2007, raised the number of absolute poor by 7.5 million people and the prevalence of undernourishment to a staggering 45%.
It is against this backdrop that agriculture is now back in the limelight.
Indeed, in addition to making food available, a healthy agriculture sector can promote growth, livelihoods and nutrition. In recognition of this, at the G8 Summit at L’Aquila in July last year, donors committed more than 20 billion USD over 3 years to support food security and agriculture. The Rome World Food Summit that followed in November reaffirmed this pledge and saw 180 countries, including 60 heads of State and Government, commit to ensuring urgent national, regional and global action to fully realize the target of the Millennium Development Goal and the 1996 World Food Summit goal to halve the proportion and number of people who suffer from hunger and malnutrition by 2015. The commitments are reflected in the Five Rome Principles for Sustainable Global Food Security, which I would like to recall briefly:
- Invest in country-owned plans, aimed at channeling resources to well designed and results-based programmes and partnerships.
- Foster strategic coordination at national, regional and global level to improve governance, promote better allocation of resources, avoid duplication of efforts and identify response-gaps.
- Strive for a comprehensive twin-track approach to food security in which direct action to immediately tackle hunger for the most vulnerable is coupled with medium and long-term sustainable agricultural, food security, nutrition and rural development programmes.
- Ensure a strong role for the multilateral system.
- Ensure sustained and substantial commitment by all partners to investment in agriculture, food security and nutrition.
Bangladesh has proved to be a precursor in implementing these principles.
Indeed, based on its National Food Policy, the Government of Bangladesh developed a Plan of Action for the period 2008-2015, translating its objectives for securing availability, access and nutrition into 26 strategic areas of intervention, priority actions and measurable indicators. The Plan of Action was developed and is being monitored through the concerted efforts of 12 ministries/divisions in collaboration with development partners and civil society.
The Government of Bangladesh has certainly embraced the twin track approach to food security as demonstrated by its reaction to the food price crisis, which entailed boosting its social safety nets budget, while, concurrently, enhancing support to agriculture. Placing agriculture at the forefront of economic and social development has been a long term standing of the Government of Bangladesh and personally of her Excellency, the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’: under a previous tenure, her and her government’s role in agriculture development was recognized with the award of the CERES Medal by FAO in 1999.
Bangladesh has also actively promoted regional and global coordination, actively participating in the food security initiatives under SAARC and other regional bodies. As for ensuring a strong role of the multilateral system, historically, Bangladesh has been active in collaborating with multilateral agencies. With FAO, Bangladesh, over three decades of collaboration, has fruitfully collaborated in virtually all aspects of agriculture, rural development, and food security, as I had the occasion to personally experience during my tenure as FAO Representative in this country a decade ago.
This adherence to the principles stated in L’Aquila and Rome clearly places Bangladesh in the forefront to receive additional resources and effective investment for food security, agriculture and nutrition.
Today’s Forum is a step in this direction. The papers that will be discussed in these two days review issues and policies as needed to further advance in a concerted manner towards the identification of national priority investment areas. FAO has contributed to this effort by facilitating the drafting of a Country Investment Plan. The draft Plan has been built on the relevant Government planning documents, including the Revised National Strategy for Accelerated Poverty Reduction, the Perspective Plan 2010-2021, the National Food Policy, its Plan of Action and first Monitoring Report, the Climate change Strategy and Plan of Action, the 6 IFPRI BIDS papers, an inventory of past and ongoing programmes and projects, and extensive consultations with Government institutions and other stakeholders. The Country Investment Plan covers food security in a comprehensive manner: encompassing availability, access and utilization of food.
This Investment Forum is a key occasion toward the finalization of a Country Investment Plan adequate to attract substantial additional external resources, including those being made available under the Global Agricultural and Food Security Program (GAFSP), as a complement to domestic investments in agriculture, food security and nutrition. It paves the way for the effective participation in the Food Security Investment Forum for Asia and the Pacific promoted by ADB, FAO and IFAD, which will take place in Manila next July. We believe that, following the endorsement of the Country Investment Plan, Bangladesh can be presented as a model country in the 36th Meeting of the Committee on World Food Security taking place in Rome next October.
While the main responsibility for addressing the national challenges remains with the Government and its resilient farmers, I reiterate FAO’s readiness to provide the necessary technical assistance to complete the Country Investment Plan and to support Bangladesh’s commitment to achieving food security for its people at all times.