Director of International Division,
Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Vienna
Austria, with an area of 83 849 km² and a population of some 7 988 million, is a predominantly mountainous country. The greater part of its area (64 percent) is taken up by the Alpine region. The foothills of the Alps and the non-Alpine areas are limited to the north and east.
Climatic conditions vary considerably from one area to another, the eastern and northeastern parts of the country being greatly influenced by the Continental Pannonian climate. This is characterized by frosty winters, with comparatively limited snowfall and by high summer temperatures. The climate in most of Austria, however, comes within the Alpine climatic region, in which the decisive factor for the prevailing conditions is the height above sea level. The average annual rainfall in the low-lying parts to the east amounts to between 500 and 600 mm, reaching over 2 000 mm in certain Alpine areas. The variety of the landscape and climatic zones in Austria results in widely varying production conditions, despite the modest total area concerned, for farming and forestry activities.
Of the approximate 8.4 million ha of land in Austria, an area of about 3.8 million ha is wooded. This proportion of 46 percent makes Austria the most richly wooded country of Central Europe. The only European countries by which it is surpassed in this respect are Sweden and Finland. In the most dense forest areas the proportion exceeds 70 percent, and it is only in the eastern part of the country, largely devoted to agriculture, that it falls below 30 percent. The wooded area is at present increasing by nearly 2 000 ha annually.
More than two-thirds of Austria is mountainous. Of this, 52 percent is above 900 m and 32 percent above 1 200 m. In accordance with the country's mountainous characteristic, conifers account for 80.4 percent, leaving a proportion of 19.6 percent for broad-leaved, deciduous trees.
Where ownership is concerned, small forests (under 200 ha) make up 53.9 percent as against 30.4 percent of those over 200 ha. The Austrian state owns 15.7 percent of the total. The forest is an important factor in Austria's economy. For almost 250 000 people, farming represents a supportive function. Timber and wood products make up about 14 percent of Austria's exports. In such a mountainous country, however, particular mention must be made of the natural protection provided by forests against avalanches, mountain torrents, and landslides. The Forestry Service for Avalanche and Torrent Control, created in 1884, has an excellent international reputation.
2. COOPERATION WITH FAO
Since 1947 Austria is a member of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Austria's interests in FAO are represented by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, unless foreign policy requires a representation of Austria by the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Austrian contribution is calculated on the basis of contributions of the UN and is presently 0.86 percent of the total FAO budget, i.e. for 1994 US$ 2.6 million.
Already in the early 1970s Austria focused its attention within the framework of FAO in the seed sector; this because quality seeds are one of the cheapest and most efficient means of production and because this very sector enables a small country to make a considerable contribution on an international level by transferring its know-how. Moreover, Austria has a long-standing, internationally recognized tradition in the seed sector.
Austria also serves on a number of technical committees, such as the World Commissions on Agriculture and Forestry, the Committee on World Food Security, the Committee on Commodity Problems as well as the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission. This Austrian cooperation was recognized by the election of the chairman of Commission 1 at the 27th FAO Conference in November 1993.
Within the European region Austria takes a particular interest in the European Commission on Agriculture and its Working Party on Women and the Agricultural Family in Rural Development. Austria is presently chairing this Working Party. Furthermore, Austria actively participates in the European Forestry Commission and its Working Party on Torrent and Avalanche Control and in the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease as well as in the European Inland Fisheries Advisory Commission. Also worthy of mention is the work of the Coordinating Committee of the FAO Codex Alimentarius Commission for Europe. Austria chaired this commission for many years.
Also for many years Austria supported FAO in training of foresters from developing countries. The first Training Course on Forest Roads and Harvesting in Mountainous Forests was organized jointly with FAO as early as 1975. Further training courses followed in 1978, 1981, 1983, 1989 and 1991. All those courses aimed at imparting experience from practical logging. At two seminars on forest harvesting management in 1989 and 1991, foresters at the organization and management level were addressed to introduce and manage environmentally sound harvesting, depending on the development stage.
Road construction, the use of cable cranes and working techniques were discussed and demonstrated during excursions. In the long run sustainable forestry adapted to the site can be realized only in cooperation with agriculture and water management.
In 1963 the World Food Programme (WFP) was founded jointly by FAO and the UN. The main activity of this institution is the use of food for projects to foster economic and social development. For this purpose food is used to implement labour-intensive projects with unemployed and underemployed labour. These projects comprise the settlement and development of rural areas including the reclamation of land, drainage and irrigation, afforestation, the promotion of animal husbandry, the development of village communities and the distribution of relief meals at schools. Under this programme, also, projects relating to infrastructure, mining, industrial and housing projects are encouraged.
Since 1963 WFP provides assistance to millions of refugees in various parts of the world. Since the establishment of the WFP, Austria supports its activities. The Austrian contribution always amounts to 0.5 percent of the target. At present, the target amounts to US$ 1.5 billion, which means that Austria's contribution is US$ 7.5 million for the biennium 1993/94. Thus the WFP receives US$ 3 750 000 annually, 10 percent of which are provided in cash, 90 percent as donations in kind (i.e. whole and skim-milk powder and cheese).
The International Emergency Food Reserve (IEFR) of FAO is a follow-up measure of the 1974 World Food Conference. This voluntary reserve was established by the General Assembly of the UN in 1975 to enable the WFP to become active in critical situations. Since 1981 Austria provides 5 000 tons of grains or the respective equivalent per year under the IEFR.
3. AUSTRIAN PARTICIPATION IN FFHC
After a request by FAO, Austria decided in a resolution of the Federal Government on 6 October 1960 to participate in the world Freedom From Hunger Campaign (FFHC). For this purpose the Austrian FFHC Committee was founded. With this step, the intellectual commitment and feeling of solidarity among all peoples should be stirred to promote development above and beyond political understanding and the readiness of government services to act.
In 1978 the Federal Government decided to incorporate the Austrian FFHC Committee as a standing functional group into the United Nations. One of its major objectives is to inform the Austrian population about the problems of hunger and malnutrition, their causes and consequences and about agricultural development aid and related questions.
Other objectives are the implementation and financing of agricultural, forestry, and food economy projects in developing countries, and assistance to students from developing countries to establish the social preconditions for an adequate food supply for the growing population. The projects supported by the FFHC Committee are particularly geared to improve the situation of the most severely affected rural populations and are based on the recommendations of the 1974 World Food Conference. Particular attention is paid so that the projects mainly benefit the rural populations and assist the poorest in the developing countries to help themselves.
Austria welcomes the priorities set in the FAO Programme of Work and Budget 1994/95. However, in accordance with the priorities and activities of FAO this also means that member states must cope with their liabilities, as laid down in the statutes.
The budgetary proposal submitted by the Director-General of FAO for 1994/95, which provides for a zero growth - although it cannot adequately tackle global problems - seems however to be realistic under the circumstances. It is hoped that this proposal will meet with broad consensus.
The medium-term planning submitted by the Director-General for the years 1994-1999, as described in Conference Document C 93/23, seems to be the right orientation for future FAO activities. However, current updating will be necessary and the question of how to finance these measures will have to be thoroughly examined. The new concept of establishing the programme and budget has proved to be successful. A concentration or division of work, as required, seems to be urgently needed. In Europe a close cooperation with the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and, at a global level, with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) seems appropriate.
Due to political changes, mainly in Europe, it is necessary that FAO's work in Europe considers the new situation. The set-up of a new Europe requires hard work. The fields of extension, education, and in-service training, therefore, deserves full support.
Within the bounds of its possibilities, Austria will support FAO's activities in a deliberate manner, both at regional and global levels. This applies to the field of agriculture as well as forestry.