FAO Liaison Office in New York
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65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly - Second Committee
General debate on the agenda item 20: sustainable development

65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly Second Committee
Statement during the General Debate on sustainable development
Delivered by Ms. Lila Ratsifandrihamanana
Director of the FAO Liaison Office with the United Nations
1 November 2010

Madam Chairperson,

I wish to express FAO’s appreciation to the Secretary General’s reports presented under the Agenda Item 20 Sustainable Development under consideration of the  Second Committee.  FAO aligns itself with the Secretary General’s recommendations in his Report on the Implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, to which FAO provided substantive input.

FAO is committed to support countries for their efforts in implementing Agenda 21 and has worked closely within the UN interagency group on the preparatory process for Rio+20. FAO has also established an inter-departmental working group and is currently engaged in addressing implementation gaps in Sustainable Agriculture for Rural Development (SARD) and other relevant issues on the Agenda 21 related to land use, deforestation, desertification, mountains, biodiversity, oceans, water, and wastewater management in rural areas

In particular, FAO will examine how the green economy translates into the food and agriculture sector. Alternative development scenarios, prospective challenges and policy options will be outlined in the Greening the Economy with Agriculture (GEA) Report. Additionally in the next few days, FAO will launch a webpage which will display its detailed programme of work and initiatives for Rio+20.

Madam Chairperson, 

Food Security depends on sound natural resource management and will most likely face critical challenges in the decades ahead, with growing food demand, competition between food and biofuels, deteriorating soil quality and high dependence on fossil energy sources for mechanization and pesticides and fertilizers, the agriculture sector will need to affordably and nutritiously nourish nine billion people worldwide by 2050.

Thus, agricultural production must increase and if that increase is to come from existing land and water resources, (as available new agricultural areas are already scarce) a new paradigm of more sustainable land and water governance and management is needed. This new paradigm should also consider adapting to or mitigating climate change. 

The new strategic framework of FAO adopted in 2009, includes Strategic Objective on sustainable intensification of crop production, while in 2010 a strategy for sustainable crop production intensification through an ecosystem approach and an enabling environment was supported by member countries. Clearly, the need to keep the focus on agriculture is more pressing than ever but with a view to adapt to changes in the natural resource base, technological progress and population In this regard, conservation agriculture can make a significant contribution to climate change adaptation and mitigation, to the diversification of production, the decrease in input use and water management and, consequently could provide significant socioeconomic benefits. 

But for sustainable agriculture to take place, access to land and water needs to be addressed. In the first meeting of the reformed Committee on Food Security held two weeks ago in Rome,  land tenure (including access and use) was identified as a key issue to increase food production and productivity. FAO’s figures show that up to 30 million hectares of farmland are lost annually to environmental degradation, conversion to industrial use or urbanization, a trend that is exacerbated by the expansion of agrofuels and the speculation on farm land. 

On the issue of water, FAO is in the view that safely harnessing wastewater for food production can offer a way to mitigate competition between cities and agriculture for water in regions of growing water scarcity. FAO welcome the SG report on the Midterm comprehensive review of the implementation of the International Decade for Action, “Water for Life”, 2005-2015. FAO is working to provide policy advice in agricultural water management and has developed training materials designed to promote better use of water in agriculture. 

On the critical issue of land tenure, FAO is working on the Voluntary Guidelines for Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land and other Natural Resources (VGs). The Voluntary Guidelines is in response to growing concerns for international instruments to improve the governance of tenure and will provide practical guidance to States, civil society and the private sector on the responsible governance of tenure as a means to alleviate hunger and poverty, empower the poor and vulnerable, enrich rural livelihoods, support growth and development, enhance the environment, and reform public administration. 

I am pleased to announce here that FAO will hold a panel discussion on the Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land and other Natural Resources here at the UN during the first quarter of 2011. This will be an opportunity for all of us not only to discuss these issues but also to identify the policy measures and actions that will lead us to a new development paradigm. 

Thank you Madam Chairperson.

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