On 6 October 1960, following a request from FAO, the Austrian Federal Government decided to participate in the FAO World Freedom from Hunger Campaign (FFHC). The Austrian FFHC Committee was subsequently established to raise the level of intellectual commitment and sense of solidarity among all peoples for the promotion of development beyond the confines of political understanding and the readiness of government services to act.
In 1978, the Federal Government decided to recognize the Austrian FFHC Committee as a standing group within the United Nations system.
One of the major objectives of the committee is to inform the Austrian population about the causes and consequences of hunger and malnutrition, and about development aid and related issues. In addition, the Committee aims to raise awareness about the implementation and financing of agricultural, forestry and food projects in developing countries, and about assistance to students from developing countries, as the basis for establishing the social preconditions for ensuring an adequate supply of food for growing populations.
The projects supported by the Austrian FFHC Committee are geared in particular towards improving the situation of the most severely affected rural populations, and are based on the recommendations of FAO and of the 1996 World Food Summit. The Committee places emphasis on projects that benefit rural populations and help the poorest sectors in developing countries help themselves.
Starting in the early 1970s, Austrian cooperation with FAO has concentrated on the seed sector: on the one hand, because we are convinced that quality seed is one of the cheapest and most efficient inputs for agricultural production, and is a sector in which a small country can make a noticeable contribution at international level through the transfer of know-how; on the other, because Austria has a long-standing and internationally-recognized tradition in the seed sector.
As early as 1975, Austria and FAO had also jointly organized the First Training Course on Forest Roads and Harvesting in Mountainous Forests. Further training courses followed in 1978, 1983, 1989, 1991 and 1993/94. These courses all aimed to impart knowledge gained from practical logging experiences. At three seminars on forest harvesting management in 1989, 1991 and 1994, forest organizers and managers were invited to introduce and manage environmentally-sound harvesting techniques, in line with the actual level of development. Road construction, use of cable cranes and working techniques were demonstrated and discussed during excursions. In the long term, sustainable forestry adapted to local site conditions can only be realized if agriculture and water management are also taken into consideration.
The world and the role of Europe are changing rapidly. Within Europe, the opening up of the European Union towards Eastern Europe will not only give clear signs of political stability and security, but also raise the profile of its Common Foreign and Security Policy.
The globalization of business and the economy also call for a united and competitive Europe. Only by acting together can we hold our own in global competition and give political force to our thinking on issues such as environmental protection, social standards and the European model of agriculture.
The medium-term plan submitted by the FAO Director-General, and illustrated in various documents, appears to be the correct orientation for future FAO activities. However, updating is necessary and the question of financing the proposed measures will have to be examined thoroughly.
In addition, as a result of political change, mainly in Europe, FAO's activities in Europe will have to take the new situation into account. The configuration of the new Europe poses new challenges for work in the field, for extension, education and in-service training, and therefore merits our full support.
The Austrian FFHC Committee will support FAO's activities in the fields of agriculture and forestry in a decisive manner, within the limits of its possibilities at both regional and global level.
I wish you a successful and fruitful seminar here in Ort.