Mr Chairman, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, as we open our 86th Session, the real backdrop to our meeting is not the array of flags at the back of the hall, but the image of stark human tragedy which is taking place in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa - the appalling pictures of emaciated children, the victims of war,the columns of refugees trailing across a dusty landscape into urban squalor.
Therefore, while we debate the issues on our Agenda, let us not forget the utter destitution and terrible degradation of our fellow human beings that from time to time the camera brings before our eyes.
Let us not forget, behind those images, the harsh realities of drought, desertification and man-made disasters which are further impoverishing the already desperately poor and driving millions beyond the edge of despair, and beyond their sheer survival.
Let us not forget this, Mr Chairman, lest we lose sight of what our real purpose and our real directions are. Let us remain true to our ideals. It is with that consciousness that I face you today and which permeates my thinking even on apparently mundane issues.
Unfortunately, it has never been my lot to be able to present to you a happy picture of the world food situation as it evolves from year to year. How more comfortable and comforting it would have been, if I could have reported to you on this occasion that the harvests were abundant everywhere, that more food was reaching the hungry and that the life of the peasants of the Third World was improving.
How much more agreeable it would be for all of us if I could report that the resources available for food and agricultural development, whether domestic or external, had been significantly increased, that agreement had been reached on a new International Grains Arrangement, that the prices of other basic commodities were equitable and remunerative, and that the present targets for food aid had been surpassed and upgraded.
Unfortunately, I cannot so report. But FAO must report the facts as they are.
In doing so, we understand the problems of the poor countries who should do much more for themselves but find the dice loaded against them. The caprices of Nature mock their best efforts. The artifices of the international economy, in the form of debt, terms of trade and protectionism, tighten up the web and ensnare them further at every forward step. To make matters worse, flourishing trade and use of arms wastes what modicum of wealth they can obtain. And, meanwhile, the primal urge drives even the poorest into creating mouths to feed at a faster rate than increases in food production can match.
The resulting emergencies, which have become a perhaps chronic illness of our times, also create great difficulties for the rich countries, however benevolent and generous they have been or wish to be. They have their own serious economic and social policy dilemmas. They too are at the mercy of the currency and financial markets which do not recognise the relevance of compassion. Their efforts to increase aid - where these exist - in accordance with their strategic, political and economic interests, or their humanitarian impulses, are carefully planned and budgeted and geared to logistic capabilities. But along come emergencies, the images of which excite the public. The public not only give generously but also demand governments to make special efforts, which however inevitably involve sacrificing their carefully laid plans and budgets. Their responses are inevitably seen by the public to be too little, too late.
The easiest answer is to blame the international organizations which are accused of various but contradictory shortcomings.
Nevertheless, I have felt it my inescapable duty since I took office to warn of the impending situation which we now face; including the need for prepositioning stocks for
emergency food aid. Moreover, it is since early 1983 that I have been pressing strongly for the situation, current and impending, in Africa to be fully recognized; the Task Force has been reporting regularly, solidly and factually; and I have been issuing appeals for more help for Africa.
X have not been deterred by the fact that the response has been mixed and that in some quarters even hostile. In some quarters, the measures we have proposed have been characterised as unnecessary or misconceived, or the assessments we have made have been traduced as exaggerated.
As all now see, the problem is even greater in extent and in the degree of suffering than we said. On the other hand, there have been generous governmental responses to my appeals and I have noted with great satisfaction that a major donor has recently taken concrete steps towards pre-positioning.
In any case, Mr Chairman, the events of the past few weeks have fortified my resolve never to be deterred from what I perceive to be my inescapable duty to reveal the facts and t° initiate action.
Thus, for example, I recently issued an appeal for immediately increased contributions to the International Emergency Food Reserve since the resources available are not sufficient to meet requests during the remainder of 1984. I have requested the insertion of an item in the Agenda of the next CFA dealing with measures for ensuring the speedy delivery of emergency food aid. This subject has of course been frequently discussed in the past and was due to be discussed again in the future. However, in view of the severity of the current situation and its almost certain continuation, I feel that we cannot delay considering various measures to ensure prompt response to emergency requests, including borrowing arrangements by WFP from developing countries which have surpluses, purchases from within countries or the region, further pre-positioning measures, allocation of more cash resources and measures needed within recipient countries, including improvements in the assessment of emergency needs, managerial and logistic problems, including transit arrangements, and involvement of NGOs and coordination of emergency assistance. I shall, of course, keep you informed as necessary during your own forthcoming sessions of progress achieved.
I do not today propose to follow the normal practice of reporting on the world food situation, on cereal stocks, food production figures in the different regions and so forth• I have drawn attention to these matters in my speeches throughout the year and they will be fully introduced and then discussed by you when you deal with Item 4, on the State of Food and Agriculture.
Suffice to say that we continue to be confronted with wretchedness in the midst of plenty, our just concern with Africa should not obscure the precariousness of the food situation in other regions, and as regards Africa, we must recognise that the tragedy we are witnessing is not an ephemeral phenomenon.
The need for increased food production in all the developing regions and the achievement of food security are in fact imperatives of the highest political, economic and social order and will remain so for at least the remainder of the lives of all those present here today.
In this context, let me turn now to some of the more important developments during the year since we last met. There have been many important events in FAO and international conferences.
In FAO, we have been greatly honoured by the visits of five Heads of State - from Costa Rica, Spain, Panama, Italy and Senegal. We were specially honoured by the participation of the King and Queen of Spain in the World Conference on Fisheries Management and Development, and of President Pertini and President Diouf on World Food Day. And we are looking forward to the visit of the President of Niger, who is also currently the Chairman of CILSS, on the 27th November.
We were happy to receive visits from the Prime Ministers of New Zealand, Jamaica, and Cape Verde, and we expect to be honoured by the visit of Mr Craxi of Italy on the 27th November.
In addition, apart from Ministers attending the Fisheries Conference, some 30 other Ministers with various portfolios, have visited us in the course of the year. Further, we have received several Parliamentary delegations, including the members of the Budget Committee of the Bundestag.
These visits are not only an honour but a vital contribution to FAO's continuing relevance to and strength in the service of Member States.
Also, most useful in this context were the visits of several executive heads of international organizations, including the CILSS, WMO, UNICEF, WARDA, ECA and EEC.
There have been many other important international meetings this year, but few of them successful in breaking the log-jam of North-South negotiations.
Most disappointing of all have of course been those on the replenishment of IFAD. I take this opportunity of saying farewell and sending our best wishes to Mr Al Sudeary and saluting the appointment of Mr Jezzairi, with whom I am well acquainted and look forward to collaborating.
The results of the prolonged discussions on the replenishment of the IDA, namely the total of $9 billion instead of $12 billion was, of course, disappointing to very many.
As you know, there were many other meetings in which I or other FAO officials participated, including ECOSOC, ICARA II, UNIDO IV, the Population Conference. Some of these were more important or fruitful than others for FAO, but I must turn rapidly now to FAO's own Regional Conferences.
FAO's Regional Conferences were all important insofar as they attracted the Ministers and top policy makers of the regions to come together in the largest regional international fora which exist for discussion of food and agricultural policy, developments, opportunities for regional cooperation and of shaping of our future work.
The Regional Conferences were notably devoid of demagoguery, over-ambitious resolutions, or fractious criticism. They were constructive, action-orientated and realistic. If I now deal mainly with the Harare and Buenos Aires Declarations adopted by the Regional Conferences for Africa and for Latin America and the Caribbean, it is not to diminish the importance and value of FAO's other Regional Conferences held this year in Pakistan, the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen and Iceland.
These too were highly valuable and constructive and it is only through lack of time that I do not go into their reports, interesting as they are. They are available to you in CL 86/INF/14.
The two Declarations are however of special interest since they constitute acts of an unusually high political and policy significance. They were prepared by the Ministers themselves, working together in groups outside the Plenary sessions, and in the very act of preparation stimulated the kind of real intensive policy debate rarely possible in formal sessions. The Declarations also indicate in a clear, pragmatic, action-orientated way a new orientation and resolve. Their content also has relevance for all regions.
In his inaugural address to the 13th Regional Conference for Africa held in Harare, Zimbabwe last July, the Prime Minister, Robert Mugabe, expressed appreciation for the role of FAO in Africa and its many programme activities which supported national efforts to overcome the difficult circumstances faced by African countries.
The Conference discussed a number of issues, some common to other Regional Conferences and others specific to Africa, such as irrigation development and rinderpest eradication. At the conclusion, the draft Harare Declaration prepared by the Ministers themselves, was adopted unanimously.
The basic theme of the Harare Declaration was self-reliance. In it, the Ministers reaffirmed their determination to become controllers of their destinies. In paying tribute to all who struggled with them, be they governments, international organizations, particularly FAO, NGOs and individuals, they fully accepted that the
burden of developing their agricultural and rural area and raising the nutritional standards of all their peoples rested substantially on the efforts of their own governments and peoples. They pledged themselves to continue to give the highest priority to agricultural and rural development, in adopting more effective policies and taking measures to increase efficiency of resource use in government institutions.
The Declaration also supported 'inter alia' the Strategy for Fisheries Management and Development, the new concept of World Food Security, the establishment by FAO of a Food Security Action Programme and the proposal to establish the World Food Security Compact.
Finally, I should like to express my appreciation and thanks to the African countries, that in the Declaration they reaffirmed confidence in FAO, and in its priorities and programmes, as well as in me personally, and pledged to increase support to the fulfilment of FAO's goals and objectives.
This sober, dignified and pragmatic Declaration, which was welcomed by the representatives of the donor community present, widely reported by the media, and is now being cited in the General Assembly, is, I believe, symptomatic of the new sense of urgency and determination taking hold in Africa.
The spirit which imbues the Declaration must now of course be translated into action by Ministers of Planning and Finance. At the same time, the need for continuing and increasing assistance, particularly for emergencies, cannot be ignored.
The Buenos Aires Declaration adopted by the Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean, held in Argentina in August, is also worthy of the Council's special attention.
It also recognizes the responsibilities of the Governments themselves to carry out "a systematic struggle against the socio-economic phenomenon of extreme poverty affecting tens of millions of homes in the region."
But it also speaks for other regions when it places the domestic problems of the countries of the region within the context of the highly adverse effects on their capacities of "the prevailing inequitable international economic order", referring 'inter alia' to high rates of interest, debt, diminished access to public and private resources for financing, terms of trade, protectionism, lack of commodity agreements and expenditures on armaments.
In this case also, I should like to thank the countries of the region for the support given in the Declaration to the Director-General and the satisfaction expressed therein for the valuable contribution of the programmes and activities of the Organization in the region, including its efforts to formulate a World Food Security Compact.
Of outstanding significance for us was, of course, the World Conference on Fisheries Management and Development held here from 27 June - 6 July.
To our great honour, it was opened by His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain for whose interest, inspiring address and encouragement we are deeply grateful.
We are also grateful to our outstandingly successful Chairman, the Secretary of Fisheries of Mexico, His Excellency Pedro Ojeda Paullada, who will soon be presenting the report of the Conference to the General Assembly, and to the 147 States, which made the Conference so successful.
Evidently the Conference was not only timely but well-prepared, since after a slightly hesitant start, it went on in a minimum number of days to reach unanimous agreement on a Strategy and five Action Programmes for Fisheries Management and Development.
These will be the foundation for FAO's continuing responsibility for world fisheries questions and its lines of action for the future. In this regard, a document on follow-up of the Conference is before you.
Also before you are the reports of the Seventh Session of the Committee on Forestry and the Ninth Session of the Committee on World Food Security.
As you will have noted, the subject of forestry and in particular of the protection of the forests was also the subject of a lively discussion at the European Regional Conference in Reykjavik in September.
Both meetings expressed strong interest in marking the importance of forestry by appropriate international recognition, in particular by the proclamation of the Intrnational Year of the Forest. A paper on this subject is before you.
As regards the CFS, the meeting took place some time ago and the next session is now not far off. I will therefore confine myself to saying that the developments affecting world food security in recent months have fortified my belief that world food security is of paramount importance and have steeled my resolve to persist in my efforts in this field.
I wish to confirm that I will be submitting a draft of the World Food Security Compact to the next session. Although it will not contain any new or binding commitments for anyone, it will, I am convinced, provide a much-needed and tremendous moral boost to all concerned with this issue of enormous global importance and a guideline for action by governments, international organizations, NGOs and individuals.
I would be failing in my duty if I did not say something about the recent session of the CFA which concluded only a few days ago.
As you know, FAO gave birth to the World Food Programme and has very important responsibilities as its joint parent and in accordance with several specific requirements of the WFP's Basic Documents.
This unique relationship recognises the complementarity of the objectives of FAO and WFP and the essentiality of FAO's support to the WFP's success. By no means least in this was the role assigned to this Council, along with ECOSOC, as legislator, elector and counsellor of the WFP and the CFA. Only the Council and ECOSOC can change the Basic Documents; the Council elects half the membership of the CFA; the Council considers the targets for pledges, provides guidance on policy and activities to both FAO and the WFP, and where necessary takes decisions.
These are realities which cannot be ignored or circumvented. It is in accordance with these realities that the Programme has enjoyed the success it has had since it was established.
Indeed, I continue to find it paradoxical that it is claimed that the Programme has never before been so operationally efficient and successful, and at one and the same time, that a number of difficulties that have arisen are so enormous as to damage the operations of the Programme.
In any case, the CFA has been informed - and I now so inform the Council, as the body to which I am responsible and report - that in an effort to resolve such difficulties as exist within the Basic Documents - the Secretary-General and I have decided to set up a joint UN/FAO Task Force to review the various problems that may be brought forward in writing and orally by the Executive Director and to provide its conclusions to the CFA and the other concerned intergovernmental bodies.
I should like to assure you that I will instruct my representatives in the Task Force sincerely to seek practical solutions, within the Basic Documents, and to reach conclusions as soon as possible.
I shall do my best to resolve the issues.
It is in the same spirit that I turn to the vexed question of various aspects of our relations with the Host Government.
We recognise the past generosity of the Host Government when first welcoming FAO to Rome and their present generosity in aid to developing countries. As individuals, we do not
ignore the advantages of being situated in the Eternal City and among the most hospitable Italian people.
International Organizations however, have needs that are imperative. These are all we seek. We do not ask for new privileges, immunities and perquisites, but only for maintenance or restoration of what we had.
I am grateful to the Permanent Representative of the Host Country, Ambassador Francisci, for all the efforts he has been making to find constructive solutions. Meanwhile, however, both I and the Finance Committee and the CCLM are constrained once again to express grave concern and have suggested lines of action to you which I hope you can endorse.
If I do not now give further expression to my concern, it is firstly because of the gracious interest expressed by His Excellency President Pertini during his visit to FAO on World Food Day; secondly because the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Andreotti, in the course of his visit here on 7 November, has now discussed outstanding problems with me and has viewed the plans and models of the proposed new buildings; and, thirdly, because of expected opportunity to discuss these matters with His Excellency, the President of the Council, Mr Craxi, during his visit on 27 November, when he will grace a special ceremony in the Plenary Hall together with the President of Niger.
Speaking of President Pertini's presence and inspiring speech on World Food Day, we were also honoured on 16 October last by the participation and address of His Excellency, the President of Senegal, as well as the Minister of Women's and Social Affairs of Zaire.
World Food Day was also celebrated on 19 October in the General Assembly, when the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly and ECOSOC and the representatives of the various groups spoke, as well as myself.
World Food Day has become a truly remarkable demonstration on a world-wide basis of solidarity and resolve in the fight against hunger. From this point of view, the decision of the Conference to institute World Food Day, which at the time caused scepticism in some quarters, can now be seen to have been one of the most successful and far-seeing initiatives which have been taken in FAO. The decision has been fully justified by the results.
The next World Food Day in FAO will also be special in that it will commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the founding of FAO. I believe this 40th Anniversary should be celebrated in a fitting manner. I am working on several ideas for this, on which I shall not fail to consult the Council in due course.
Finally, in this last section of my statement today, I should like to look briefly ahead to some of the important matters which will occupy us in the coming months.
As you are already aware, we will be presenting our major study on price policies next year. Price policies, incentives and inputs will continue to require major emphasis in activities directed towards increasing food production.
You already have our first ideas on follow-up to the World Fisheries Conference. No doubt the World Forestry Congress in 1985 will also point to some new directions which require more attention in our work on forestry.
Another continuing priority of high emphasis is economic and technical cooperation between developing countries. The developing countries rightly wish to keep the responsibility and initiative for new efforts in this field as much as possible in their own hands. But our assistance will also no doubt be required. As part of our normal economic and social programmes, I have therefore undertaken to carry out a major study on economic cooperation between developing countries in agricultural trade.
The need to make concrete progress in the field of rural development, including the role of women and youth, will also be a matter of continuing endeavour. The theme of women in agriculture was not just a passing tribute during 1984, but a priority of great economic and social significance for the future. The needs of youth, whose proportion
of total population continues to increase, cannot be neglected, since the combination of youthful energy and aspirations with their unemployment and frustration is a truly explosive one.
Above all, Africa will continue to be our first and greatest priority. The greater part of our efforts are already directed towards the needs of African countries. We will make every effort to increase these, while trying to avoid doing this at the unnecessary expense of the needs of other regions. Our efforts must not only be direct within the modest limits of our Regular Programme, but above all fruitful in catalysing the assistance and aid of other institutions and of governments.
As already indicated, I am considering means by which we can improve our services to the international community in foreseeing emergency situations and in providing the necessary basis of information and advice upon which aid can be more speedily and effectively mobilised.
I am also, as desired by the Regional Conference for Africa, elaborating the framework and elements of a new major study on Africa, the focus of which will be to avoid duplication with other studies already made by FAO, the World Bank and others, and to concentrate on practical action which can and should be taken to increase food production. From this point of view, I consider that the study should avoid becoming another set of macro-economic policy prescriptions or another assessment of financial requirements for investment and technical assistance or yet another compendium of technical activities covering every possible disciplinary interest.
On the basis of my present thinking, the study should concentrate on the major domestic crops such as maize, sorghum, millet and cassava, as well as tubers and roots, and the basic needs of water, seeds and inputs necessary to increase yields and improve nutritional quality, and on the implications for national governments and the donor community of making a real impact thereon. This will be a large, complicated and difficult task but I think it is a contribution which FAO is uniquely qualified to make, albeit of course that we shall seek to draw on all available sources of expertise and advice in other organizations and institutions, as well as in the countries themselves.
Obviously, the present emergency in Africa far exceeds the food and agricultural context which is the special province of FAO. Involved here are a whole series of economic and social issues which only the United Nations can deal with as a global unit. This was why I suggested last April before the Administrative Committee on Coordination of the United Nations, which brings together the heads of all UN agencies under the chairmanship of the UN Secretary-General, that a special conference or a special session of the General Assembly be convened on the social and economic situation in Africa. This idea, which I repeated before the Economic and Social Council last July in Geneva, seems to be gaining ground. It was taken up again by the Conference of Ministers of the Economic Commission for Africa in May 1984, the ministerial session of the World Food Council in June 1984 and the Harare Declaration adopted at the Regional Conference for Africa, again in July 1984. It is now up to the Secretary-General to determine what should be done about this matter.
More details of this study will be available in due course but it is urgent to embark upon it as soon as possible.
I have mentioned a few of the most important Regular Programme priorities. There will, of course, be many others requested by Member Governments which must find place within our limited resources. The needs of countries are not decreasing: on the contrary. Population pressures are remorseless. Hunger and malnutrition remain, often more acutely than ever. More aid and assistance is required not only in general but also in specific demands by Member Countries on FAO.
This great pressure on our regular programme must be taken into account in preparing the next Programme of Work and Budget for 1986-87. In preparing this, I will be conscious not only of the continuing climate of austerity in the developed countries but also of the economic and financial crises affecting the developing countries. As shown from the
current contributions situation, they are finding it ever more difficult to pay their contributions, however small in absolute terms, on time. All I will say today, therefore, is that I will be exercising considerable prudence in formulating my proposals.
At the same time, it is important to stress the role of FAO in promoting investment in food and agricultural development and in providing technical assistance under external financing, resulting in a total of some $3 billion reaching developing countries in 1983.
Hitherto, the proportion of the total multilateral resources reaching agriculture has been rather higher than the proportion of bilateral assistance, which remains disappointingly small. Nevertheless, multilateral institutions must maintain and even improve their performance. FAO will be seeking to do this in close collaboration with the World Bank, the Regional Development Banks, UNDP, Trust Fund donors, and other institutions.
We must however make every effort to avoid putting money into "white elephants" and to ensure that as far as possible the resources are at one and the same time directed particularly towards the small farmers, as well as being used as effectively as possible.
As we look ahead, we cannot fail to be concerned about the magnitude of our tasks, what needs to be done by all of us. The prospect of more hunger and hardship in Africa is truly daunting. The condition of the urbanized masses and the poor peasants in other regions should be a matter of continuing concern, especially since one or two disastrous harvests could bring upon us a calamity far exceeding in scope that which we are witnessing in Africa.
How much worse would it have been or would it be if, particularly in Asia, Member Governments had not made such successful efforts to cope with the demands of their ever-rising populations. How much more they could have done and would achieve were the international economic and financial system less tilted against them.
There is, therefore, no cause to despair but every reason to go on striving. This is a duty of governments, international organizations and individuals.
It is a sacred duty. In all religions, the partaking of food is preceded by a prayer which expresses gratitude for the receipt of our essential sustenance and also celebrates the mystic union between Nature and humankind.
In most cultures, there is reference to a Golden Age in which Nature was unstintingly bountiful. Perhaps that is only a universal myth. But it is a myth which should continue to inspire us: to create a Golden Age where famine will be unknown and hunger an exception rather than the normal lot of half the population of our planet.
Whilst our work must be practical, down-to-earth and efficient, yet let us never dispense with such a vision to encourage and inspire our best efforts.