From the podium

From the podium


His Excellency Laurens Jan Brinkhorst (Minister for Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen.

We have already heard many speakers. I share a great number of their points, which I shall not repeat. Of course, we have to build upon the results achieved on trade in Doha and on financing for development in Monterrey and we have to provide an important input to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Therefore, we need more political commitments. The question is what can we then do to break the vicious circle of hunger and poverty.

What can we do better to accelerate progress in reaching the target set, in addition to our usual action ? First of all, billions of people are directly depending on agriculture, food production, processing and marketing of their daily livelihoods. Agriculture and rural development are central issues in combating poverty and hunger, and therefore deserve a high place on the international political agenda.

Too long we have seen that the agricultural sector has been neglected, especially in developing countries. Underlying causes are, among others, pervasive urban bias, failing programmes and projects for agriculture and rural development, insufficient empowerment of farmers and lack of coherent policies. I am glad to see that during this Summit, developing countries are willing to reverse this trend and put a strong impetus on revitalizing agriculture and rural development.

However, the agricultural sector can only be developed successfully under favourable political, economic and social conditions. This means an enabling environment, which is built upon the principles of poverty reduction, sustainable development, good governance and a rewarding investment climate. Precisely in these areas we can do better and make progress. At the same time the agricultural sector needs to be stimulated.

Secondly, also developed countries have to do better. We have committed ourselves to extra funds for fighting terrorism and achieving a more secure world. But all this is illusory if we cannot bring relief to the hungry and achieve food security. This is where we are still failing.

Also, the Doha Development Agenda merits our full support; the process of further liberalization in world trade in agricultural products must be continued. We can only achieve this if we aim at the phasing out of trade distorting subsidies. The Netherlands is a strong supporter of this.

Also, market access in agriculture remains essential for developing countries. The industrialized countries carry an important responsibility in this respect.

The Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey has resulted in extra funds for achieving the Millennium Development goals. As hunger and poverty eradication is its first goal, we have to use this opportunity. There can be no rural development without agriculture and no agriculture without rural development.

Within the poverty eradication strategies more impetus should be given to rural development. Funds should be directed to concrete, homegrown, sector-programme for agriculture, especially for agricultural infrastructure, and institution, and capacity building. Here, especially, developed countries have a major responsibility.

Programmes should be focussed on: improving productivity; access to land and land reform; conservation and sustainable use of natural resources; expanding rural infrastructure; transfer of technology, research, extension, education and communication.

In order to be successful, coherent agricultural trade and macro-economic policies are required in industrialized countries, which pay due respect to the interests of developing countries.

Developing countries must be able to fully benefit from increased market access. Therefore, countries need to be in a position to deal effectively with international agreed standards for safety in the field of food, plants and animals. This requires expertise and adequate institutional capacity. Support from the international community in the form of institution and capacity building is the key element. We could work on the idea to have timely consultations with exporting countries before implementing the standards. New initiatives should pave the way for effective coordination mechanisms and for cooperation between regions.

We only do better if we have a direct involvement of the private sector. We have to ensure that we have coherent poverty eradication strategies that include priorities for rural development and creating an enabling environment for private investments. More private investments should be mobilized.

Investments are particularly necessary for strengthening the food chain from production to consumption, from farm to table. Active support should be given to initiatives from private industries and civil society, such as farmers' organizations, traders and cooperative rural credit institutions.

We as developed countries, can and should do better in the field of means of implementation. We have to ensure that we use existing funds more efficiently through more effective donor-coordination and harmonization in the bilateral, as well as the multilateral field. We have to focus these funds on the priorities I mentioned.

Let us not forget AIDS. AIDS has a devastating effect on human life and agricultural production. We have to give higher priority to fight and mitigate the effects of this disease. FAO in cooperation with CGIAR, and bilateral donors, should play a catalytic role in this.

With our new impetus on agriculture and rural development, FAO can get a new perspective within the UN-system. Within the limits of its financial means, FAO should focus on its priorities and should play an active role within the UN system together with other international organizations, such as the World Health Organization and the World Bank, civil society and private sector.

FAO should increasingly serve as a policy platform for a dialogue and negotiations on key issues in the field of agriculture and food safety as basic elements for sustainable development.

To sum up, what is the significance of this Summit between Monterrey and Johannesburg ? Monterrey has given a new financial framework for development.

Within that framework agriculture and rural development are essential building blocks for solving the problems of poverty and hunger in the world.

This Summit can be successful if we are able to refocus on agriculture and rural development and give priority to the Anti-Hunger Programme. Developing countries have to set the priorities for the implementation of this programme. In this respect the Summit can give a strong impetus in the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.

A multilateral approach remains fundamental for achieving our goals.

Thank you.

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