Dr Diouf calls for economic growth in rural areas of Balkans and CIS
Opening of 25th FAO Regional Conference for Europe in Riga
8 June 2006, Riga/Rome - "The European Union can play a fundamental role in improving the welfare of the countries of the Balkans and the Community of Independent States (CIS), especially of their rural populations, by facilitating the integration of trade. This is particularly important for agriculture," said FAO Director-General Dr Jacques Diouf at the opening of the Twenty-fifth FAO Regional Conference for Europe (Riga/Latvia, 8-9 June 2006).
Dr Diouf noted that many countries of the region had to deal with the WTO-related liberalization of agricultural trade and its impact on food security and poverty alleviation.
"What is important is to align market reforms with effective policies and investments that will enable the poor to seize the opportunities of trade, while putting safety nets in place to protect the vulnerable segments of society."
The Director-General indicated that the agricultural sector dominated the economies of most countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS, and thus played a key role in food security by providing livelihoods to the majority of the population.
Yet this remained a vulnerable sector, with crop and livestock yields significantly below those of research trials.
"The lasting solution for the improvement of agricultural performance in the countries of the region lies largely in the transformation of agriculture through national agricultural research systems able to generate and transfer productivity-enhancing and market-oriented technologies," Dr Diouf said.
The FAO Regional Conference in Riga will be examining the contribution of rural development to the realization of the World Food Summit objectives and the Millennium Development Goals, together with the strengthening of regional cooperation in the control of highly pathogenic avian influenza.
Dr Diouf praised the close collaboration that existed between FAO and its main partners in the region – the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the European Commission - in the control of transboundary animal diseases.
"FAO has always advocated an approach based on prevention, with the training of national officers in early detection and in the control of transboundary diseases, together with the mobilization of international expertise and financial resources," he stated.
A Ministerial Round Table will be analysing the role of FAO as a provider of global public goods. Strategic analysis of FAO's current programmes in Europe will serve to identify activity areas that need strengthening and ways of improving the Organization's effectiveness, within the bounds of its budgetary provisions.
The Director-General was keen to welcome the Russian Federation. "The return to FAO of this important agricultural country is a significant event that reinforces the universal nature of the Organization."
Dr Diouf concluded by restating FAO's commitment to the fight against hunger and poverty: "FAO will continue to work closely with its development partners and with individual governments of the Balkans and CIS subregions to strengthen their agricultural sectors and alleviate poverty in their rural areas."
Information Officer, FAO Regional Office for Europe
Information Officer for Latvia
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