Mr. James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank

May I first of all congratulate you, Ladies and Gentlemen, on your election, and particularly, for this Rome Declaration and the Plan of Action. The World Bank is involved in nearly every aspect of this Action Plan, working and assisting governments in both the conception and in the implementation of those aspects of the Plan which relate to World Bank activities. I think you know that our central objective is poverty alleviation in a sustainable environment, and that of course is the other side of the coin of food security as is so clearly pointed out in this admirable document. We too are convinced, as the Declaration states, that the multi-faceted character of food security necessitates concerted action, both nationally and internationally, and as I read the six points which are made in the Declaration, I note that we in the Bank, perhaps more than anybody else are working with governments to assist them on exactly those six points.

Let me touch upon them briefly: to ensure the political, social and economic environment, to create the best conditions to eradicate poverty. We, of course, are not intruding on the political side but on the social and economic we are working as deftly and as well as we can to be of assistance. We are working on the physical and economic access which is referred to in this document, as well as on education, and in fact in these areas of access, health and education, we are perhaps the largest single source of funds. We are working of course, with you on the participatory sustainable food, agriculture, fisheries and forestry and rural development policies. And we are not only working on them but we are trying to assist with financial resources.

In the area of trade we are supportive of the Declaration and, as you know, we have assisted significantly in work on natural disasters and man-made emergencies. And finally, of course, we are deeply involved in the optimal allocation of funds. So the Bank could not be more closely associated with this Declaration, nor indeed with the Action Plan in almost every aspect of which we are participants and supporters. I cannot deal with all the aspects of the Bank's work in the short time allotted, but I would like to just draw your attention to the work we are doing in the agricultural and rural development sectors. And I must say that in the last ten years our involvement in this has, in fact, been on the decline. What I would like you to know today is that we have reversed that trend and that indeed it is now central to us that we should increase our focus in this area. We have produced an Action Plan which is available to you and to our clients to help revitalise their rural economies. It is a systematic multi-pronged strategy focused on overall rural growth and poverty reduction: to create incomes for the rural poor, to afford the food they need and to stop their rapid movement into overcrowded cities.

It is quite clear to us that action taken at the rural area is an essential pre-requisite for solving the urban problems. We are concerned with the needs of smallholders and the landless, especially access to education, healthcare, land, credit markets, transportation, communication and technology, and we are making sure that the long neglected needs of rural women are addressed. We are also, and this may surprise you, trying to work out better ways where we can listen to people, not just lecture them, to hear the needs of people in individual countries and to act on them. We are committed to helping rural people and we are committed to doing it in a way that meets their own specific conditions.

We have five principles:

· First, national policies and institutions must be supportive of agriculture and rural development;

· Second, whenever possible, we should try and involve the private sector to get investment capital, production and agricultural services;

· Third, we believe that governments should reduce their intervention in the rural economy and concentrate on creating an economic and regulatory environment that fosters agricultural growth;

· Fourth, institutions at all levels should be involved: from community groups, local and regional governments, to the central government ministries;

· Fifth and finally, projects and programmes should be decentralized in both design and execution with the full participation of communities, associations and local governments.

Based on these five principles, we are moving forward with new approaches.

In the rural development area, we are talking integrated rural development. It has been clear to me as I have travelled around that it makes no sense just to increase food production, unless you have communications, unless you have marketing facilities, unless you have credit, unless you have everything that goes to ensure that food production is able to be transmitted and transmitted with value to the farmers. We are trying therefore, to increase the access to credit and I think you know of the activities of CGap, our Consultative Group, to assist the poor.

Environmental considerations are central: in irrigation we have moved away from focusing just on irrigation systems to water resources management. In the area of forestry, we are promoting joint forest management with government agencies and residents and I have just seen this in Maharastra and Andra Pradesh in India. In the areas of land reform and land policy, we are working extensively in Eastern Europe, South Africa and Latin America and of course we continue our support for the CGIAR, and finally, we are very supportive of open markets at the international level.

Mr. Chairman, I really want you to know that we are committed to these programmes, that we applaud you for the Plan of Action and that you can count on the World Bank to be there when you need us.

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