Mr Mark Cackler (Sector Manager, World Bank)
It is an honour to present these remarks on behalf of Mr Ian Johnson, Vice President of Sustainable Development of the World Bank.
I would like to congratulate the Food and Agriculture Organization on this Summit. It represents an important part of this year's international focus on poverty and development (together with the meetings in Monterrey and Johannesburg).
Hunger and poverty are intertwined. Addressing poverty and its root causes will go a long way toward eliminating the scourge of hunger and food insecurity.
Poverty reduction, in turn, requires an increase in incomes of the poor, plus improved health, education, water and, where necessary, improved physical access to food. Income growth, both of poor households and of poor countries, is urgently needed to enable them to sustain the social services and infrastructure required to deal with poverty and food distribution.
Yet such income growth must be sustainable. That is, it must be environmentally and socially responsible: What the South African government has called a concern with "People, Planet and Prosperity".
Agriculture, together with energy and human and social capital development, is at the core of sustainable development and poverty reduction and to meeting the Millennium Development Goals adopted two years ago in the Millennium Declaration.
Agriculture is central to long-term economic growth, especially in low-income countries where it represents one-third of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and where three-quarters of the poor live in rural areas and depend, to a large degree, on agriculture.
Agriculture is central to rural employment creation, both directly and, through a multiplier effect, to non-farmer incomes and off-farm employment. Agriculture is central to the sustainable environmental management of our planet: to our water resources, forestry, biodiversity and to our land, where land degradation can significantly reduce agricultural productivity.
Agriculture is central to our social concerns, providing the resources to invest in rural health, water and sanitation, and education.
In sum, Agriculture is central to sustainable development, poverty eradication and food security. Indeed, as the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has noted "Agriculture, when it is highly productive, has the potential to lift up entire economies".
Agriculture and Rural Development have taken a back seat. They must now be placed high on the public policy agenda, at national and international levels. This Summit is a strong and positive testimony to that objective.
Yet, much remains to be done
We have witnessed declining interest in agriculture by developing country governments, by donor agencies and by the private sector.
We have witnessed agricultural ODA fall to its lowest levels and OECD subsidies rise to their highest levels. Neither of these actions helps poor farmers, or poor countries.
We need a new partnership between developing and developed countries, a new deal which gives priority to agriculture and rural development.
Developed countries must address the barriers to trade in order to provide increased market access to developing countries. They must address harmful subsidy policies.
Developing countries should reduce "urban bias" policies that penalize agriculture and hurt the rural poor.
In the World Bank, we are committed to play our role. However, we cannot do it alone: partnerships are a pre-requisite to successful implementation. At the international level, we have strong partnerships with FAO and IFAD as well as with a number of NGOs. However, strong partnerships at the international and regional level are also vital. In this regard I am delighted at the progress made by NEPAD and its strong commitment to agriculture and food security.
If we all work together we can make a difference to food security, to poverty reduction and to wealth creation for poor farmers, and poor countries. This Summit is an important milestone, and I hope its deliberations will be reflected in Johannesburg later this year.
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