Ninety-six governments recognize ‘essential role’ of agrarian reform and rural development in fight against poverty

Representatives of 96 FAO member countries participating in the International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD) have recognized the essential role of agrarian reform and rural development for sustainable development.

© FAO/A. Proto

10 March 2006, Porto Alegre, Brazil - At the end of the Conference, which concluded today in Porto Alegre, Brazil, a declaration was released bringing together 350 government delegations and representatives of over 70 farmer- and civil-society organizations from throughout the world.

During four days of talks, high-level government representatives, international experts and civil society representatives worked together to identify new opportunities for rural development and to make concrete recommendations and proposals for action.

In his message to the closing ceremony, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf stressed some of the main proposals and results of the Conference. “When FAO agreed to organize this Conference, we were under no illusion that dialogue on a subject like agrarian reform would be easy. However, one of the great results of this Conference has been the level of dialogue reached between government representatives and members of peasants´ and civil society organizations, laid out in a common vision about the importance of introducing urgent and needed changes to eradicate hunger and poverty.”

Dr. Diouf emphasized concrete results reached in the field of bilateral and multilateral cooperation, such as the agreement signed yesterday between FAO and Portuguese-speaking countries to build national capacities in property regime- and land management and related legal issues.

In the declaration, signatory governments committed themselves to developing mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation to reinforce processes of agrarian reform and rural development at national and international levels and to establish mechanisms for periodic evaluation of progress in these areas.

Participation and the fight against poverty

Governments that signed the declaration reaffirmed that “wider, secure and sustainable access to land, water and other natural resources” on which rural people depend are “essential to hunger and poverty eradication, which contribute to sustainable development and should be an inherent part of national policies.”

They also reiterated their commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and recognized that “food insecurity, hunger and rural poverty often result from the imbalances in the present process of development which hinder wider access to land, water and other natural resources and other livelihood assets.”

To achieve these objectives, the delegates present at the conference recognized that joint action by governments, international organizations and civil society organizations is fundamental. “We emphasize that agrarian reform and rural development policies, laws and institutions must respond to the needs and aspirations of rural people, and therefore must involve relevant stakeholders in the decision-making process,” the declaration said.

Civil society representatives actively participated throughout the entire ICARRD process, and for the first time in the history of FAO’s international conferences participated in plenary and technical sessions and a civil society declaration was included in the official documents of the conference.

In keeping with this spirit of collaboration, the declaration affirmed that governmental and civil society organizations play a fundamental role in the sustainable implementation of agrarian reform and rural development policies and recognized “the crucial role of the State to provide fair and equal opportunities and promote basic economic security for women and men, as equal citizens.”