It is a pleasure to welcome you and all the representatives of Member States to Rome again for this most important session of the Council.
Your agenda is long and heavy: even more so than usual. I shall therefore be brief. The fact that I will not discuss certain matters at this stage does not, of course, mean that I do not consider them to be important. Though I have often begun my statements to the Council by discussing the world food situation, I will not do so on this occasion. In any case, this is the first item on your agenda.
You will review in particular the food situation in Africa. This continues to be so grave that I feel I should make some comments here and now on emergency food aid needs, and our Rehabilitation Programme.
First, however, I should like to express to the Government of Bangladesh, on behalf of myself and my colleagues in the Secretariat, our profound sympathy for the victims of the recent disastrous tidal wave and floods.
Each day, unfortunately, brings it home to us that the world in which we live is a violent place. Apart from the violence of man, nature retains its primordial capacity to inflict death, injury and suffering on a vast scale. In this regard, some of our Member Nations are particularly prone to nature's vicissitudes. Bangladesh, unlike those that have repeatedly had to face the consequences of drought, is a victim of flood. These repeated tragedies place a heavy burden on a people and a Government working to cast off the shackles of poverty.
We have also recently witnessed destructive floods in the northern and southern parts of the Western Hemisphere.
Our condolences go out to the survivors of the tragedy and to the Governments which have to cope with these new disasters./
These events give added emphasis to the point I have made on several occasions in the past, namely, that if disaster strikes in more than one developing region at the same time, the international community is not equipped on an adequate and continuing basis to meet the tremendous demands which arise for emergency food and non-food aid. This is what happened again this year.
Turning now to the problems of drought in Africa, I would recall that at the last Council session held in Rome from late November to early December, I began with a review of the African food crisis. I spoke of the millions of children, women and men reduced to abject poverty and dependence: emaciated shadows, which have called forth both compassion and a sense of outrage throughout the world.
Since then, there have been massive aid efforts. Let us take this opportunity to again pay tribute to the developed countries, which have been so forthcoming, and to the developing countries, such as China and India, which have unhesitatingly made sacrifices in order to help. I should also like to express my support for the initiatives taken by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and for the work of my friends and colleagues, Mr Bradford Morse and Mr Maurice Strong in the office of the United Nations Emergency Operation for Africa, in assisting a concerted effort by the UN system. I trust that they will succeed in their efforts to mobilize the funds necessary to meet the urgent needs of the situation.
Since the last Council, there have also been rains. Unfortunately, however, this does not mean that our hearts and minds can cease to be agitated by the tormented images of African suffering.
You will see from the special paper CL 87/13, which is before you, that after taking account of the rising commercial imports and of donor pledges amounting to 5.7 million tonnes of food aid, the prospective supplies of cereal imports still fall more than a million tonnes short of estimated food import and food aid requirements in the 21 most severely affected African countries.
Although in the past year more food aid than ever before has been committed to Africa, this has come too late to prevent the death by starvation of thousands of people.
Even now, more than half of the food aid which has been pledged has not yet arrived at its final destination. We are the dismayed witnesses of food aid piling up in the ports while hunger in the hinterland persists. There is not only congestion in the ports: there are also serious problems in inland distribution. The situation is particularly acute in Chad, Mali and the Niger in the Sahel, as well as Ethiopia and the Sudan in eastern Africa.
In these countries and in Mozambique, only concerted major national and international efforts can avert disaster. Others remain in a precarious condition. Morocco is particularly vulnerable among the countries of northern Africa.
Even while we are discussing these matters, the fate of thousands is being decided, since in many countries the planting season is now. Its outcome will be critical to the situation next year. In the Sahel, the planting season is still a little way ahead. In either case, we can only hope that the harvest will be good. But if it is not, let us all be better prepared to deliver and distribute the necessary aid and assistance promptly.
Very few African countries now consider themselves immune from the occurrence of a food emergency. Better preparedness and rehabilitation of agriculture are essential to cope with an inevitably grim future.
Fortunately, prospects are good in several countries, located in all the subregions, where rain has been timely and plentiful. This is not only encouraging in itself. It also reminds us that, when circumstances are right, Africa can produce well.
The most important direct cause of the current food crisis lies in climatic aberration. To simply blame faulty policies is to oversimplify. Africa can do more to help itself, but it also needs aid. It has the capacity to make good use of assistance that is sensibly conceived and generously provided.
It is in this spirit that I put forward programmes for the rehabilitation of food and agriculture in 21 African countries in January and March.
Rehabilitation should go hand in hand with emergency food aid. Only thus can the stricken countries recover their lost production capacities, overcome the emergency, and avoid a deepening dependence on the charity of others.
The programme I put forward for the most affected countries was a unique effort, in that the programme was not made from generalized estimates cobbled together by nonexperts, but consisted of concrete projects, worked out with the countries themselves. FAO has already funded some of these projects out of its own pocket. My colleague, Mr Lignon, will give you more details on this in the presentation of his report.
We have a continuous dialogue going with the donor countries. The European Economic Community has already funded a number of projects in Ethiopia. We are engaged in discussions with the Governments of the People's Republic of China, Belgium, Spain and others. They have demonstrated their concern and have pledged to fund a number of projects. Italy, our Host Country, is now reviewing some 70 project proposals for selection and eventual assistance. The discussion is very active, and bears on a sum of US$52 million. I am very happy about this.
A large gap, however, remains uncovered, while the planting seasons are already or will soon be upon us. Farmers in Ethiopia plant in May or June, but the North African planting season starts in the next few weeks. I shall keep the Council informed of further progress.
In this connection, I should also like to express my satisfaction at the decision taken by the Finance Committee, with the strong endorsement of the Programme Committee. Under this decision, which is now being implemented, up to US$15 million in savings, mostly on salaries, will be available and may be used exclusively to finance projects in our African Rehabilitation Programme, for which timely bilateral funding is not available.
In terms of help being forthcoming from the regular budget of a UN organization, the proposal and decision may have been somewhat unusual. But neither the proposal nor the decision of the Finance Committee was a breach of the canons of programme or financial orthodoxy. It was a straightforward decision to take the opportunity to use available savings for urgent rehabilitation action on behalf of stricken Africa.
It is, of course, true that it will cost the membership of FAO - all of the Member Nations - a small amount in terms of a foregone additional share of the eventual cash surplus for 1984-85, which will, however, still be substantial. But I am not ashamed of proposing to seize that opportunity, and I do not think anyone else could feel shame for such a decision. I can, however, assure the doubters that the decision does not change the budget base, or prejudice the budgetary level for the next biennium.
Mr Chairman, the Summary Programme of Work and Budget 1986-87 is a subject which would normally come toward the end of my opening statement. But since I have mentioned it, let me deal with it now.
My proposals for the next biennium are put before you with a frank and unflinching recognition of the need for a programme increase, albeit a minimal one, at a time of great needs on one side and great constraints on the other.
Neither you nor the Conference have previously accepted the harsh, undiscriminating doctrine of zero growth in all organizations of the UN system, regardless of their mission, the state of their subject field, the support for their policies and programmes, or their record of efficiency and economy.
I can say frankly that despite all the conflicting pressures upon me, I did not doubt that I was doing the right thing in presenting proposals which involve yet once more a cut of approximately US$3.75 million in non-technical, administrative and support areas and devoting the resources thus saved to programme growth in the technical programmes, so that they can grow by US$9.4 million, or 3.8 percent.
In this, I was guided by the advice on priorities given by the preceding Regional Conferences, main Council Committees, and Technical Advisory Bodies. I am glad to note that all the main intergovernmental Committees of FAO, the Committee on Agriculture, the Committee on Fisheries and the Programme Committee, have given strong endorsement to the priorities proposed in this Summary Programme of Work and Budget. Indeed, in some cases, I have been urged to go further. I am proud as well as happy that FAO's priorities continue to enjoy unanimous support.
No programme proposed by the Secretariat has failed to be adopted by Governments; no cuts were requested in ongoing programmes; none were curtailed.
However, because of the cuts in administrative and other forms of support, I have kept the net overall real programme increase to less than 1.5 percent: 1.4 percent for nearly two years, or less than 1 percent for each year.
This is not to say that I took lightly the problems that could result for all Member Nations - I repeat, all - in paying increased contributions for even this minimal amount of growth.
On the contrary, I finalized my proposals after a thorough assessment of the overall financial framework which would govern the eventual net amount of contributions. Briefly and simply, apart from keeping cost increases to a minimum, I took account of the possibilities of safely increasing the amount of Miscellaneous Income which, as is normal, will be set off against the full cost of the proposed programme before levying contributions. I also had in view the probable currency situation.
Consequently, as you will see from the full Programme of Work and Budget to be presented to the Conference, I will be presenting you with proposals that, subject to the dollar/lira rate decided by the Conference, will result in the same or even a lower level of contributions in dollar terms compared with the current biennium.
Mr Chairman, is zero growth in the dollar contributions not better than an artificial and penalizing zero programme growth?
Mr Chairman, I will not say more on this subject now, except to commend to you the words of the President of the World Bank in his last address to his Board of Governors: "Flows of concessional finance, through both multilateral and bilateral channels, must be expanded and made more effective if the enormous problems facing the poorest nations are to be realistically tackled." I am unshakeable in my belief that the same applies to all forms of assistance under the FAO Regular Programme.
Mr Chairman, the Programme of Work and Budget is a biennially recurring subject. On this occasion, you also have on your agenda two other very important, indeed unique, matters.
The first is the draft Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides. We have made a truly extraordinary effort to place before you a draft which can go forward to the Conference for adoption in full consensus and support. It inevitably represents a compromise between conscientious interests of all kinds, and even of zealous extremes.
The contents of the Code have been the subject of intense negotiations. The draft submitted to the Council was the eighth version. It found general support in COAG, but at the end of a long and difficult debate I was invited to make a further effort, in the hope of achieving even wider agreement.
I therefore carefully examined the suggestions which were made from all sides and have put before you, in CL 87/9-Sup. 1, a new draft in which the proposed changes are identified.
It will fully satisfy neither the bluest blood of free enterprise nor the greenest sap of environmentalism. In this hard world, however, nothing is perfect. We have to move forward as best we can.
I might refer to the Bonn Summit, which evoked the need to harness both the mechanisms of governmental vigilance and the disciplines of the market to solve environmental problems, such as management of toxic chemicals and strengthening protection of soils, fresh water and the seas.
I appeal, therefore, to the good sense and spirit of cooperation of the Council to carry us through toward an adoption by consensus here and in the Conference.
The other unique issue before you is the draft Compact on World Food Security, which was the subject of a controversial, even heated, debate in the Committee on World Food Security.
How is it that a set of purely voluntary, moral, exhortatory principles can excite such passion? Precisely because from the dawn of civilization, the human race has attached great importance to the ethical, moral and religious concepts by which it felt that its presence, its dominance, its future in the universe must be guaranteed.
The Compact is not, of course, to be considered as being of earth-shaking importance. It is more humble and limited than that. But I would insist on its moral inspiration, which is not the exclusive property of any single individual or nation, and its universal relevance at this time.
In the world in which we live, and more particularly with which this Council and our Conference is concerned, the overwhelming importance of the ideal and the concept of world food security cannot be denied.
And in these days of disaster and famine in Africa and deprivation and malnutrition elsewhere, every sign, every gesture, every word toward achieving this ideal is precious; an inspiration, an encouragement, an incentive, for governments of every sort and degree, for organizations, for NGOs and for individuals.
I am therefore resolute in my conviction that the Compact is timely and imperative. We obviously cannot satisfy every point on the draft that each one of 156 Member Nations could reasonably put forward. And I do not think that we can practically resolve differences by turning the Council and Conference into drafting committees.
Nor, however, do I think we should override any and every concern with the text presented to the Committee on World Food Security, if, in fact, a change or two could lead to consensus.
The time is ripe. The fortieth anniversary of FAO will be the right occasion to adopt by consensus a Compact on World Food Security.
Thus, although I was not specifically asked by the CFS to do so, I have taken it upon myself to review once more the draft text and to present to you in document CL 87/10-Sup. 1 a new text, showing the changes I suggest.
In this connection, I would appeal to all on all sides to follow the example of Switzerland and withdraw their reservations, and to work together in a spirit of goodwill and consensus on the basis of this revised draft, so that also in this case the Conference can adopt it in a constructive, tranquil spirit of resolve to work together for the achievement of world food security in the years ahead.
Mr Chairman, there are other important matters on your agenda, arising from the sessions of the Commission on Fertilizers, the Committee on Agriculture, the Committee on Fisheries, and the Committee on World Food Security, as well as on relations with the Host Government and the World Food Programme.
We also, of course, have important decisions to take about the arrangements for the Conference.
My representatives and I will deal with these matters when you come to them on the timetable.
The note I would prefer to end on today is the one I had in mind in talking about the Compact.
This year we will celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the founding of FAO. We will be honoured on the actual day, 16 October, by the presence of the highest authorities of our Host Country at special ceremonies here, including the laying of a foundation-stone for our building scheme. The Host Country is also organizing through its National Committee, under the distinguished leadership of the Honourable Tina Anselmi, numerous memorable, commemorative activities in Rome and throughout Italy.
We also hope that His Holiness Pope John-Paul II will celebrate a Pontifical Mass in St Peter's commemorating the fortieth anniversary of FAO, to which the Conference will be invited.
During the Conference, on 14 November, we expect to be honoured by visits and addresses from two Heads of State, the President of France and the President of Indonesia, at a special ceremony.
All this demonstrates the highest importance of the mission of our Organization and the interest and support of its Member Nations. I nearly forgot to mention that the President of a country to be determined by the Council next week will also attend.
All this testifies to the Member Nations' strength and commitment after forty years of striving for a better world, forty years of successes and failures, of concrete achievements and incomplete plans, of hopes realized and yet to be fulfilled, of belief and confidence in the ideal of international friendship and cooperation among all the sovereign nations of the world.
We must keep this ideal alive and strong. For this, we need strength in our convictions, honesty and frankness in our arguments, and confrontation in our ideas, provided that these are then followed by tolerance, sympathy, compromise and consensus, which are the foundations of international accord.
Our fortieth-anniversary Conference should demonstrate these qualities in the highest degree. The international camp should be united, not divided. The pleasure of debate, the excitement of argument, the passion of controversy sometimes blind us to the fact that there is more that unites us than divides us.
On our fortieth anniversary, let us by our actions on the main issues before the Council and Conference emphasize our unifying ideals, aims and efforts, and set the highest example of cooperative consensus, true fraternal collaboration and international accord.
We owe this to our ultimate constituents - the poor, the weak, the hungry millions of our world.
Thank you all.