Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates and Observers, Ladies and Gentlemen,
At this autumn session, one year after the Conference, it is customary for the Council to begin with a review of the world food situation and of the Organization's activities during the past year. This is not an occasion for a display of learned theories or idle rhetoric; it is an occasion to face the facts and assess them without complacency.
My subject today may be entitled "FAO in Action"; in particular, I am going to tell you how the Organization is applying the new policies adopted in 1976, how it is providing or mobilizing resources for concrete action in the field at country level, and how such work contributes directly to the establishment of a New International Economic Order.
The context of our action obviously is the world food situation. You will find it set forth in Document CL 74/2 on the State of Food and Agriculture. I will thus stress only a few essential points.
As I told the Economic and Social Council in July, poor results in the agricultural sector, especially in the 45 most seriously affected countries, would not fail to have very serious repercussions.
If present trends continue, total annual grain import requirements of developing countries will rise from 66 million tons now to 90 million tons and more in 1985!
The heavy responsibility of giving adequate priority to their food and agricultural development lies with the developing countries themselves. To be sure, many of them are placing great emphasis on the progress of agriculture, but the overall effort is not sufficient. In this respect, we see an alarming symptom, even though other factors may have been involved as well: the share of agriculture in UNDP projects as a whole has shrunk in the past year - from its traditional level, which was one third of the total, it has dropped to about 26 percent. .
But it will not be enough to increase food production: it is just as important to bring the poorest people - small farmers and landless labourers - into the mainstream of development. How could this be done? This is the essential problem to be dealt with by the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development.
The developing countries cannot accomplish the job on their own. It is absolutely necessary that the developed countries put an end to renascent protectionism and open their markets to imports from the Third World. I think especially of the three richest countries whose aid on concessional terms is making practically no headway; they should turn over a new leaf and approach the target of 0.7 percent of their gross national product.
At international level, there are numerous instruments to help developing countries tackle the problem of hunger. Our Fourth World Food Survey has again brought out the enormity of the problem, which is worsening without letup because the population is growing whereas food production stagnates.
All our activities are resolutely directed toward the ultimate goal laid down in our Constitution: ensuring humanity's freedom from hunger.
Bilateral efforts have always done much for this cause. I was therefore glad to learn that the President of the United States had established a Commission on World Hunger. Ambassador Linowitz, who directs its work, has already expressed to me his appreciation of all that FAO has done and his desire to work closely with me.
I strongly hope that this Commission will succeed in convincing all concerned in the United States that a wider and more far-sighted approach is necessary toward the quality, modalities and amount of assistance to gain a decisive victory over hunger in the world.
Mr. Chairman, I have so far dealt with the world situation. Let me now give you a few concrete facts, which are important in themselves and. illustrate, if only partially, how effective FAO's action has become.
In the past few months, our immediate concern has been to deal with exceptionally numerous crises caused in many parts of the world by drought, desert locusts, floods, and epizootics.
In the past, for emergency food aid we had only an allocation of the World Food Programme. Fortunately, since 1976 we have been able to draw on the resources of the Technical Cooperation Programme, which are still very small but can be mobilized quickly. It is also very fortunate that my appeals for voluntary gifts of food aid met with immediate and generous response from more donors. In all, 570 000 tons of food worth 145 million dollars could be mobilized for countries in distress.
By November, however, WFP allocations were practically exhausted and the International Emergency Food Reserve was down to less than 50 000 tons. Fortunately, the Committee on Food Aid Policies and Programmes has recently decided to increase WFP's emergency provision, if only by ten million dollars. It is therefore essential to replenish the International Emergency Food Reserve.
At the same time, I should like to emphasize the need of rapidly attaining the 950 million-dollar target set for contributions to the World Food Programme, which is doing such an effective job under the direction of my colleague, Mr. Garson Vogel, in close and friendly collaboration with FAO.
I should also like to emphasize the need that the current negotiations lead to the conclusion of a new international grains agreement and a new food-aid convention before the end of this year. Mr. Chairman, unfortunately I have learned that the negotiations which had been going on in Geneva for several days have been broken off and adjourned indefinitely. As I observed to the Economic and Social Council, it is paradoxical - to say the least - that negotiations of such crucial importance to the Third World are being delayed by misunderstandings among developed countries and not between them and the developing countries.
Turning back to emergencies, Mr. Chairman, no less than 437 500 tons of grains and protective food have been mobilized and shipped, plus agricultural recovery assistance of about 30 million dollars; part of this aid was forwarded this year to the Sahelian countries by our Office of Special Relief Operations. In this connection, I refer to the agreement concluded with CILSS (the Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel), whereby USAID (U.S. bilateral aid agency) will provide 25.6 million dollars for integrated pest control in the Sahel; more than 13 million dollars of that sum will also be channelled through FAO.
Desert locusts: Another grave crisis: Swarms of desert locusts have appeared again, seriously threatening the countries of the Near East and of North and East Africa. I am happy to report that my efforts to mobilize voluntary assistance, in addition to what was. provided at once from the Technical Cooperation Programme and the Working Capital Fund, were generously rewarded by gifts totalling 1 650 000 dollars. I should like to thank the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, Canada, Denmark, the Federal Republic of Germany, Sweden, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom for their generous, prompt and effective help. I also thank the European Community which decided two days ago to allocate 1 800 000 dollars to FAO as emergency aid; this is, of course, in addition to the 1 650 000 dollars I have just mentioned. In this connection, I am glad to toll you that we are about to conclude a cooperation agreement with the Community, not only for emergencies but also for development activities.
To be sure, it would be unjust to establish a hierarchy among the donors I have just listed, but I should like to name the Government of Saudi Arabia which, in addition to the traditional donors, has made an extremely generous contribution on this occasion.
Another item of good news: Under an agreement I have signed with the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, the latter will allocate 15 million dollars to projects, especially Sahelian projects which I have just mentioned. This considerable amount, from contributions of oil-producing Arab countries, will make it possible to deal vigorously with the drought problems and other obstacles to food production in Africa.
The agreement was concluded at Khartoum last July at the summit meeting of the Organization of African Unity, which I attended for the second year running. The resolutions of the OAU Conference express appreciation for the efforts of FAO in such fields as desertification, drought, pests and diseases.
Other Regions: We should not forget that countries in Asia and the Far East, too, have been victims of drought and floods. Lao, Viet Nam and the Philippines have suffered veritable disasters; China, stricken by the worst drought of the century, has succeeded in overcoming it by its own efforts. The eastern region of India has been ravaged by extraordinary floods sparing neither people nor animals and devastating houses and crops. Reconstruction is under way with minimum external aid.
We now have to cope with an epizootic of African swine plague in some Latin American countries. This scourge may have serious and widespread economic and nutritional consequences. In line with the Resolution of the Regional Conference of Montevideo, I am therefore going to contact the institutions and governments concerned to help the stricken countries take urgent counter-measures. Meanwhile, I could allocate more than one million dollars from the Technical Cooperation Programme, which has served to finance part of the first emergency operations in the stricken countries.
Mr. Chairman, even though we have been greatly concerned with emergencies in recent months, we have of course not neglected our other activities. In Africa, the significance of our concepts and plans has been recognized. For example, our projects for a perspective study on the Sahelian countries and the Food Plan for Africa were praised and received with enthusiasm at the Regional Conference in Arusha.
In this connection, I should also like to reassure those who might still be concerned about our firm determination to prevent FAO from becoming an ivory tower full of dusty papers which nobody reads and which are useless because they are too abstract and look too far ahead. During recent visits to Geneva and New York, I had the impression that we are notably advanced in policy and planning. I refer in particular to "Agriculture Towards 2000" and our commodity studies designed to help UNCTAD and the UN in making the necessary progress in the "North-South dialogue". Our Member Nations will find in them an objective basis for their economic studies and plans in the vital sectors of food and agriculture; moreover, these activities can also help solve the problems involved in the approach toward a New International Economic Order.
World food security remains one of our foremost objectives. I have already said that much has yet to be done in this respect. But FAO's Food Security Assistance Scheme allows me to speak with some optimism.
Since the Conference, an additional 9.1 million dollars has been pledged for this programme, bringing the total to 27 million dollars. The Netherlands has generously pledged a new contribution of 12 million florins, and Switzerland, which has already donated 4 million Swiss francs, has informed me that it intends to pay an equal amount annually. Other countries have also made contributions.
More than 17 million dollars have already been allocated to projects for strengthening food security in vulnerable countries. Many other agricultural projects are being prepared and will be ready soon.
Mr. Chairman, I have strengthened internal coordination for dealing with country requests for all types of assistance, including requests under the Action Programme for Prevention of Food Losses.
You will see from the information note on this programme that so far only one country has declined to allow its share of cash savings in the last financial period to be trans-ferred to the Special Account or to pay an equivalent contribution.
Some countries have given more than their share of savings. Others are making separate but parallel contributions for the activities to prevent food losses.
But I must point out that neither the target of 20 million dollars nor the minimum target of 10 million dollars per annum for the programme has been reached. Yet prevention of food losses is now generally recognized as one of the most powerful means of ensuring adequate food supplies. I therefore hope that the Council will respond to the Finance Committee's recommendations on this subject.
Investments: Investment in food and agricultural development continues to have very high priority in the new strategies and policies proposed and approved in July 1976 following the review of programmes.
In the past 14 years, the Investment Centre has prepared projects in 85 developing countries. Financing has been approved for 332 projects, involving investments for a total of just over 13 billion dollars.
Nearly half of these funds - about six billion dollars - has been generated in the past two years. One third is in loans from financing institutions, the balance has been provided by the countries themselves.
To a large extent, FAO has also identified and prepared projects for IFAD. This agency, headed by my distinguished friend, Ambassador Al-Sudeary, became operational only at the beginning of this year. We have already undertaken eight missions on its behalf, and another two will be made in the next two months.
Thanks to friendly cooperation between IFAD and FAO and our concern for complementary action, we can jointly intensify our action to the full satisfaction of the beneficiary countries and our respective governing bodies.
CONFERENCES AND MEETINGS IN 1978: Mr. Chairman, I should like now to deal with some important conferences and meetings during the past year. I refer, of course, particularly to our own Regional Conferences. I attended all of them for at least part of the time. They were, I would venture to say, highly successful conferences. They were attended by an exceptional number of agriculture ministers, and their deliberations were at a high level, with very concrete and practical implications. The recommendations and resolutions of the conferences are contained in a paper placed before you.
The UN Conference in Buenos Aires on Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries was certainly not an easy one. But its decisions, despite a lack of firm promises of financial support, clearly call for concrete reaction from the organizations of the UN family. FAO has for years been in the forefront of such activities: it helps movements toward regional integration and sponsors and participates in efforts by country groups in various critical fields - drought, locust infestation, plant protection and phyto-sanitary control, epizootics, and training in numerous sectors. The Conference has given a new dimension and a new field of action to TCDC. Accordingly, we shall intensify our efforts, as indicated in the paper before you.
Mr. Chairman, another very important conference on the global level was the World Forestry Congress organized by the Government of Indonesia, to whose effectiveness and hospitality I should like to pay tribute here. Its conclusions were very thoughtful and innovative. I am glad to report that, in particular, it endorsed our views on the role of the forest in the service of the community - that is, in the service of man - and on firewood supplies.
I must also mention the meeting of the Committee on Fisheries. You will consider its report later, so I want to confine myself to two points. Firstly, the organization of regional activities raises very difficult problems for us. In my opinion, these problems need thorough examination to which the necessary time should be devoted during the next financial period. Secondly, I would not on any account slow down or relax our efforts to help the developing countries in the exploitation of their exclusive economic zones.
In this connection, I should like to thank the Norwegian Government which not only generously hosted this year's annual meeting of the Scandinavian countries with my colleagues and myself but has since announced its intention of creating a trust fund of about 3.5 million dollars to facilitate work concerning the exploitation of exclusive zones. This will enable us to help our developing Member Nations in the better utilization of their fishery resources.
My outline of important meetings this year would not be complete without some reference to the two sessions of the Administrative Committee on Coordination, at which the Executive Heads of the Organizations of the UN family dealt with a number of important questions.
One of them is of particular gravity: I wish to speak about the latest attempt by some governments which want to withhold part of their ordinary contributions or to attach conditions for their use with respect to certain activities financed by the United Nations and specialized institutions from their approved regular budgets.
In the case in point, this would mean drastic cuts in the funds allocated to the United Nations, the World Health Organization, FAO and other organizations of the UN system, together with an injunction that none of the appropriations may be made available for technical assistance.
The UN Secretary-General and the Heads of Secretariat deal with governments, not with parliaments; but we had to make it quite clear, collectively through ACC and individually, that such demands contradict the obligations of Member Nations under the UN Charter and the other constitutional instruments. The Executive Heads could not agree to comply in violation of the statutes of their organizations.
But I also have some good news for you concerning the situation of the Regular Programme. During a recent visit to Austria, the Government told me that, to make up for the decline in real value of its dollar contribution to the Regular Programme. It intended to pay an additional 240 000 dollars for purchasing goods and services for emergency food aid.
However, owing to the fall in the value of the dollar since the last session of the Conference adopted a rate of 879 lire we fear that the Special Reserve Account created at the time may be depleted by the end of the biennium.
Another important matter discussed by ACC was the reorganization of the ACC machinery to conform with General Assembly Resolution 32/197 on the Restructuring of the Economic and Social Sectors of the UN System. This is a complex set of decisions which may have serious financial, administrative and technical repercussions.
Before concluding, Mr. Chairman, allow me to refer to two or three important items on your agenda.
First, you will recall, Ambassador Andrew Young had proposed in his McDougall Lecture that an International Volunteer Food Corps be set up. I was requested to report to the Council on this matter.
To assist me, I appointed a special consultant and took account of a wide range of experienced opinion. My views on the possibilities for promoting greater involvement of young people in rural development are now outlined in the Council paper before you. I have not proposed the creation of any new administrative structures, but rather have put the emphasis on a practical approach utilizing existing mechanisms. I have noted with pleasure that the Programme Committee has fully endorsed my proposals.
Next, I should like to refer to, but not discuss, Item 13. The fact is that I am not ready to discuss the level of the budget far 1980-81, nor do I think a discussion of this point would be useful.
I have been reviewing and synthesizing all the complex components involved in the preparation of the 1980-81 programme; this began at the last session of the Conference and continued through the meetings of the Council Committees, Regional Conferences and numerous statutory and consultative bodies.
There are still some factors, both on the programming and costs sides, which it would be premature to assess at this moment. But we know already that the Regular Programme will have to accommodate numerous priority activities; it will have to take into account the consequences of the Third General Conference of UNIDO and of new scientific and technical developments, as well as agrarian reform and rural development. Increases in costs will be unavoidable, especially what used to be called "mandatory" costs, for instance for premises and staff, not to mention the combined effect of inflation and currency fluctuations.
In short, I am under no illusion either about the tremendous demand for FAO's services from Member Nations or the repugnance of many governments against strong increases in the regular budgets of international organizations at a time when they face economic and financial difficulties at home. All I can say now is that I shall do my best in drawing up the Summary Budget in the weeks after your session.
I think the Council will be interested to learn that the General Conference of Unesco, which met in Paris some ten days ago, approved its 1979-80 budget unanimously less one vote, with twelve abstentions. Compared with the previous budgets, the increase amounts to about 33 percent, 27 percent of it for mandatory costs, such as inflation, and 6.1 percent for programme expansion. Thus, the Unesco budget, which totalled 224 400 000 dollars for the 1977-78 biennium, will be 303 million dollars for the 1979-80 biennium, that is, an increase of 79 million dollars in two years. I thought it would be useful to mention this.
By contrast, my assessment of the Technical Cooperation Programme is precise and explicit in every respect. The document and the Programme Committee's comments speak for themselves.
In TCP operations, quality is just as important as quantity. As testified to by a.1 observers, and first of all by the interested governments themselves, the fact is that all TCP projects meet the recommended and approved criteria: they are small, short-term, concrete, rapid, economical and effective projects which do not duplicate but complete and sometimes catalyze other forms of assistance.
This does not mean that we are complacent or see no room for improvement. On the contrary, the document itself proposes some changes in the programme to enhance its essential characteristics - quick and flexible action.
The changes are not fundamental; what is fundamental is the historic decision taken by the large consensus of an overwhelming and enthusiastic majority. It is fundamental for implementing the mandate assigned to FAO by its Constitution, for the quality and vitality of the Organization's relations with its Member Nations, for providing immediate, small-scale technical assistance to the Member Nations which need it.
The Technical Cooperation Programme is not just a symbol; on the contrary, together with our policy of decentralization to the country level, it is the cornerstone of the new FAO which we have been building for the past three years.
These innovations have been accompanied by new orientations of our programmes. In this respect, I refer to the emphasis on investment in the food and agricultural sectors, the mobilization of national, international and multilateral sources for emergency food and agricultural aid, the action programmes in crucial technical sectors and, in general, the quality of our technical services and their adequacy to the real needs of countries. I also refer to the importance we attach to paying adequate attention to food production and distribution policies and plans as well as to food aid and rural development for the benefit of the poorest people.
We are not just paying lip-service or adding words to what has been written on global strategies and development targets. We are taking action on a wide front in the most decisive sector for the establishment of a New International Economic Order. Such an order could not be. established and would be meaningless without adequate conditions for employment, welfare and, above all, food for the hungry rural masses.
This is why I believe that FAO deserves attention - especially by the hardest-hearted financiers, bankers and coordinators - for its needs of increased support to its functions, programmes and resources for action.
I dare to hope that you will also agree that through your decisions and support in the past you have shown that FAO in action is perfectly capable of using such increased resources for achieving tangible and worthwhile results. Let us therefore go forward together because we share the same vision of the future and the same spirit of our common mission - to build a better world.