TWENTY-FOURTH FAO REGIONAL CONFERENCE FOR EUROPE
Montpellier, France, 5-7 May 2004
Agenda Item 4
STATEMENT OF THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to address the Twenty-fourth FAO Regional Conference for Europe, which is being held in France for the first time, in this modern and dynamic city of Montpellier. On behalf of the Organization and of all of you, I should like to express my profound gratitude to the French Government and to the authorities of the Languedoc-Roussillon region for hosting this Conference and for their warm welcome.
(State of food and agriculture in the world)
During the first half of the 1990s, the number of undernourished people in the world declined by 37 million. In contrast, during the second half, it increased by 18 million. Positive achievements in many countries were countered by setbacks in many others. In 1999-2001, there were 842 million undernourished people in the world, including 798 million in the developing countries, 34 million in the countries in transition and 10 million in the industrialized countries. At this rate, the World Food Summit’s objective of halving the number of hungry people by 2015 will only be achieved in 2150.
In 2003, world cereal utilization totalled some 1 970 million tonnes, exceeding production by 100 million tonnes.
The prices of many export commodities from developing countries are now lower than ever. Coffee is one of the most spectacular examples, but the same has occurred for cocoa, sugar and banana. Moreover, 43 countries earn more than 20 percent of their total export revenue and more than 50 percent of their total agricultural revenue from just one commodity.
After the failure of the Cancun Ministerial Conference, negotiations have resumed following the meeting of the General Council of the World Trade Organization in December 2003. Commitment to achieving the Doha Development Agenda for the agricultural sector was confirmed at the Round Table held on this subject during the Thirty-second Session of the FAO Conference, for a fair trading policy essential for rural development and food security. In this context, the role of FAO’s Committee on Commodity Problems is more important than ever. It is with this in mind that I wish to invite representatives of the Ministries of Trade to the next session of this Committee in February 2005.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations should promote agricultural development and protect the income of farmers in all countries of the world. FAO should support all actions that defend the parity of farmers’ incomes with those of workers in the secondary and tertiary sectors. Related measures should not however cause distortions in the international agricultural commodity market, with a resulting deterioration of living conditions of farmers in developing countries, as has happened with cotton.
At constant 1995 prices, external aid to agricultural development fell from US$27 billion to between US$10 and 15 billion during the 1990s, whereas the amount should be doubled and agriculture’s share of national budgets should be increased if there is to be accelerated progress in reducing undernourishment.
(Round tables on financing for agricultural development)
For the purpose of mobilizing such financial resources, FAO has decided to organize, with the regional development banks, round tables on financing for agriculture alongside each of its 2004 Regional Conferences in the developing regions.
(World Food Summit: five years later)
During the June 2002 World Food Summit: five years later held in Rome, the Heads of State and Government resolved to hasten implementation of the Summit’s Plan of Action and called for an International Alliance Against Hunger.
National alliances are thus being formed in member countries to mobilize governments, parliaments, NGOs, civil society, the private sector and agricultural organizations.
The developing countries need to take up the challenge of agricultural productivity and market competitiveness in order to improve their food security.
Soil degradation is accelerating, affecting 21 million hectares of arable land. In the arid and semi-arid areas that make up 45 percent of the world’s land surface, the integrated management of land, water and fertilizer can significantly mitigate this situation.
Urban and periurban agriculture and home and school microgardens would help rapidly improve the nutritional status of poor population groups with relatively modest levels of investment. FAO has undertaken such projects in all the regions of the world, notably with Technical Cooperation Programme resources and TeleFood funds.
Livestock sustains some 800 million rural poor and meets 30 to 40 percent of total food requirements.
Transboundary animal diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease, haemorrhagic fever, Rift Valley fever, swine fever, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and avian influenza, are sources of concern for trade and public health. Yet, real progress has been made in this domain. The battle against old and new epidemics is a major challenge that FAO and its partners are striving to meet under the Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES).
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture has already been ratified by 48 countries, including 12 European countries, and will come into force on 29 June 2004.
A ministerial meeting on forestry will be convened in Rome in 2005 to study the recommendations of the Regional Commissions and to make strategic decisions on the future of the sector, especially to strengthen measures against forest fires.
In the fisheries sector, almost 10 percent of the world’s fish stocks are depleted and 18 percent are overexploited, mainly because of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, more efficient new technologies and excessive fishing capacity. The situation is aggravated by the absence of monitoring and surveillance of vessels employing satellite transponder technology, in particular.
FAO will therefore be convening a meeting of Fisheries Ministers at its Headquarters in 2005 to add renewed impetus to actions needed in this sector.
(Sustainable agricultural development)
As regards sustainable agriculture and rural development, FAO is formulating a four-year project for mountain regions.
The International Conference of Small Island Developing States will be held in Mauritius in August 2004. FAO is actively involved in this initiative and will organize a Ministerial Conference on the Development of Agriculture in Small Island States in Rome in 2005.
Although women account for 60 percent of agricultural production in developing countries, they still have unequal access to productive resources. FAO is striving to tackle this problem, devising specific indicators for appropriate policies.
At the end of 2003, 38 countries were faced with serious food shortages requiring international assistance. Food aid in cereals fell to 7.4 million tonnes in 2001-2002, down 23 percent from 2000-2001.
Eight million small farmers and agricultural workers died from HIV/AIDS between 1985 and 2000 in the 25 most affected countries. FAO is involved in the fight against this pandemic, conducting surveys of its impact on food security and developing agricultural production techniques that are less labour intensive.
(State of food and agriculture in the region)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This Conference meets at a historic moment for Europe as ten more countries have just become members of the European Union.
Europe is a very diversified region. It includes some of the most advanced countries of the world as well as others that have high levels of poverty. Factors fuelling poverty in the past fifteen years include the difficulties associated with moving from a centrally planned economy to a market economy, declining production in agriculture and the agrifood sector and resulting unemployment. In the Balkans, the situation has been further exacerbated by conflict.
The level of poverty in the region based on a poverty line of less than US$2 per day stands at 21 percent and 5 percent of the population are affected by food insecurity. Such levels are lower than in most other parts of the world but significant differences exist among the countries.
Agricultural production in the region as a whole fell by about 0.5 percent per year between 1998 and 2003. Agricultural production gained in the so-called "transition" countries that were able to complete their land reform rapidly or that did not need to restructure their agricultural sectors as farms were already in private hands.
Agriculture accounted for 12 percent of the region's Gross Domestic Product in 2001. Agricultural exports represented 7.4 percent of total exports in 2002, for a value of US$211 billion, against agricultural imports of US$222 billion. The 25 countries of the European Union account for more than 90 percent of these figures.
The year 2003 was unfortunately not a good year for agriculture in most countries of the region. Drought, frost, flooding and other problems, such as locust and rodent infestation, led to a sharp decline in agricultural production, especially in Armenia, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine.
During the last biennium, six countries of the Balkans and Commonwealth of Independent States received emergency assistance from FAO to deal with crises in their agricultural sectors, for a total of some US$15 million, including US$2 million under the Technical Cooperation Programme. FAO also helped prepare the agricultural components of the United Nations Consolidated Appeals in the region.
(The Conference agenda)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
(Quality of food products)
Improving the safety and quality of food products remains a key objective of governments, private sector and civil society organizations of all the countries of the region. Such improvement will help safeguard public health, meet consumer expectations and encourage local and international trade.
(Role of agricultural research in sustainable rural development)
The transfer and adoption of appropriate technology is essential for the sustainable intensification of agricultural systems. Very important to Europe in this connection are the promotion of exchanges, the existence of regional and global partnerships and the strengthening of linkages between public and private research, extension, education and communication institutions.
(Follow-up to the World Food Summit)
The Conference will be reviewing the follow-up to the World Food Summit and the initiatives taken to achieve the Summit's objectives and the Millennium Development Goals. It will also be looking at the measures that have been taken under the Anti-Hunger Programme, the Right to Adequate Food and the International Alliance Against Hunger.
(Main challenges and priorities for the future)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Special attention needs to be paid to the poorest countries of the region, especially those of southeast Europe and the Community of Independent States, to help resolve their problems of food insecurity and rural poverty.
FAO must continue to pursue its long-term priorities for Europe which extend until 2007 and which were determined at its Twenty-second Regional Conference for Europe four years ago. The region must take up the challenge of poverty and concentrate on strengthening sustainable rural livelihoods and food security. It also needs to improve food safety and quality and the management of natural resources. Lastly, it needs to strengthen its institutions and facilitate transition to a market economy, especially in the agricultural sector.
FAO is seeking to meet these challenges by working in close collaboration with its development partners in the region and with individual governments in order to address national priorities as defined in their poverty reduction policies and strategies and related programmes.
Through its Investment Centre, FAO is working with the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and other financial institutions in establishing pilot technical cooperation projects. These could serve as models for the sustainable development and modernization of the agricultural sector and subsequently evolve into programmes that are much broader in scope.
I am confident that a determined Europe can meet the challenges of poverty and food insecurity. FAO, for its part, will continue to support governments and regional partners for the implementation of coherent and effective programmes and for the mobilization of domestic and external financing.
I wish you every success in your work and thank you for your kind attention.