Queen Sofia of Spain awarded the Ceres Medal

Her Majesty Queen Sofia of Spain was today awarded the Ceres Medal, coined in her honour by FAO in recognition of her efforts to raise the living standards of rural women in developing countries.

Queen Sofia of Spain and FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf © FAO

10 October 2006, Madrid/Rome - The Ceres Medal – named after the Roman goddess of agriculture – is awarded to distinguished women who have made an outstanding contribution to agricultural development and food security. Previous recipients include the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, the President of Panama Mireya Moscoso, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

During today’s ceremony in Madrid, the Director-General of FAO, Jacques Diouf said the award was made to Queen Sofia "for her commitment to the most exploited people on the planet", and emphasized her support for microcredit programmes helping rural women escape poverty.

Bangladesh, Mexico, Chile and Colombia are some of the countries that Queen Sofia has visited to back the "Bank of the Poor", or Grameen Bank, which provides microcredit facilities to help rural women become set up in business.

"Let us not forget that 70 percent of the world's 854 million hungry people live in rural areas," said Jacques Diouf, emphasizing Queen Sofia's personal involvement in many emergency and rehabilitation operations mounted in the wake of natural disasters. She has visited the victims of the El Salvador earthquake and Hurricane 'Mitch', and travelled to Central America to support a Special Programme for Food Security that FAO is implementing in the region.

Dr Diouf congratulated the Queen on her support and on her contribution to help create a more just world, and in particular "to the noble cause of the right of all humanity to adequate food".

The new Information Office in Madrid

During his visit to the Spanish capital, the Director-General of FAO also inaugurated an FAO Information Office. Its purpose is to familiarize public opinion more with the work of FAO, sensitize it to the issue of hunger, and establish closer ties with the Spanish government, NGOs and civil society, while giving FAO greater prominence in the media. The office will also be responsible for Portugal.

Dr Diouf explained that the new office is part of a general decentralization process being implemented by FAO. There would be similar initiatives in coming months in other European capitals, including London, Stockholm and Berlin, he added.

Other events

Dr Diouf’s visit to Madrid also coincided with the signing of a Cooperation Agreement with the Ibero-American General Secretariat, attended by its Secretary-General, Enrique Iglesias. The agreement focuses on three main areas of cooperation: the Hunger-Free Latin America by 2025 project, preventing avian flu, foot-and-mouth and other diseases on the continent, and supporting the FAO Special Programme for Food Security.

The FAO Director-General's agenda also included the official presentation of the Spain-FAO Association at the College of Agricultural Engineering, Polytechnic University of Madrid, which included the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding.