|Sharing the world's resources|
|The richest quarter of the world's population accounts for more than three-quarters of consumption of many natural resources. At the other end of the spectrum, the poor satisfy their immediate needs by destroying their local resources slash-and-burn agriculture, Mexico.||Terraced farmland, Nepal. FAO supports many programmes designed to meet the particular needs of mountain areas such as this, and their inhabitants.|
Less than one-quarter of the world's people, those who live in the developed countries of both West and East, consume 80 percent of the energy and metals and 85 percent of the paper used each year. Three countries, the United States, Germany and Japan, together produce more than half of the planet's economic output, while the 450 million people of sub-Saharan Africa share about the same amount as the 10 million who live in Belgium.
The high consumption and high productivity of the industrialized countries need to be balanced by a shift in investment, research and development, productive capacity, and management and other skills to the developing world. At the same time, the developed countries need to become more efficient by reducing waste and paying the full price of goods and raw materials imported from developing countries.
The intensive use of energy by the industrialized countries causes pollution and contributes to global warming, while the overnutrition of many of their people causes disease and death. Poverty in many developing countries leads people to cut down forests, damage watersheds and degrade the land, while undernutrition also kills and gravely damages health. A more equitable sharing of resources would assist development and help reduce critical pressures on the environment in developed and developing countries alike.
The 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, the Earth Summit, focused world attention on sustainability and natural resources, and set out in Agenda 21 a plan of action for future global partnerships. FAO played a major role in drafting Agenda 21 and has been designated the "task manager" for following up many of its resolutions.
The Organization's primary responsibilities cover land resources, forests, mountain ecosystems, and sustainable agriculture and rural development. But it is also involved in water resources, control of desertification, conservation of biological diversity, oceans and coastal issues, and the provision of information for decision making. FAO promotes joint activities and programmes to encourage the exchange of information, to help develop common strategies and to consolidate and analyse information for presentation to the Commission for Sustainable Development established as a result of the Earth Summit. It also chairs UN sub-committees on oceans and water resources that coordinate the implementation of the corresponding Agenda 21 chapters.
Diagnosing information for sound decision making is a major objective of Agenda 21. FAO is developing indicators of sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD) for a number of areas including forest management (with the International Tropical Timber Organization) and land quality (with the World Bank). It is promoting the design and application of measures to assist countries in analysing the effects of economic development on environmental and social systems.
FAO is supporting efforts to strengthen international cooperation and the exchange of information on such issues as watershed management and development of appropriate farming systems. It is helping to formulate national action plans and investment programmes; encouraging the participation of representatives from mountain communities in national development planning; and is promoting the conservation and development of the technologies and cultures of mountain areas.
FAO is assisting many countries in sustainable agricultural development. It promotes the conservation and sustainable use of plant and animal genetic resources for food and agriculture, fosters sustainable rural energy production and extends the application of integrated pest management, integrated systems for plant nutrition and other cost-effective, environment-friendly technologies. It encourages the wise use of natural resources through land and water management programmes. FAO helps to obtain investment intended to meet these objectives and direct it to resource users. It has also developed agro-ecological zone mapping, evaluating land potential and matching soils, climate and environment to crop requirements.
National energy consumption levels
Per caput energy consumption, 1991
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Figures are for commercially traded energy only. Boundaries of nations formed since 1991 (in former Yugoslavia, in former Czechoslovakia, Eritrea) are shown in grey.
Rates of change in food production
Per caput food production, 1988-93
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Boundaries of newly-formed nations (in former USSR, in former Yugoslavia, in former Czechoslovakia, Eritrea) are shown in grey.