Mr Shoji Nishimoto (Director-General, Asian Development Bank - AsDB)
Thank you Chair. Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen. The Asian Development Bank President, Tadao Chino, sends his warmest greetings to you all and asked me to address you on his behalf. I am honoured and delighted to do so.
ADB's vision is an Asia and Pacific Region free of poverty. Hunger is one of poverty's most obvious manifestations. Fighting hunger must take center stage. In 1975, 60 percent of Asia's population lived in poverty. Today, that figure is less than 30 percent. Cereal production and incomes have doubled, famines have nearly vanished, and per capita food availability has increased in Asia by a quarter. Nevertheless, over 800 million Asians still live in abject poverty, most of them in rural areas. More than 100 million Asian children are underweight. ADB must, above all, address the plight of these unfortunate, suffering people.
Agriculture and rural development have always been important to ADB. Assistance to these sectors peaked in 1986, when they received about half of all ADB's lending. Lending then dwindled in the face of competing demands for Asian Development Bank funding but, with the adoption of our Poverty Reduction Strategy in 1999, this trend has been halted. In the last two years, the agriculture and rural development sectors have received about 15 percent of our lending, and many other loans have included components that benefit people in rural areas.
Our Rural Development Strategy is based on empowering the rural poor and on improving their quality of life. We are helping the private sector to make the fullest contribution to rural development. We foster innovation and the adoption of appropriate technology, and we champion efficient and equitable commodity trade policies in both developing and developed countries.
Our Long-Term Strategic Framework and Medium-Term Strategy, approved in 2001, are founded on three operational principles: country ownership and leadership of the development agenda; a long-term approach to development assistance; and strategic alliances and partnerships. All are means for ADB to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. ADB is firmly committed to the 1996 Rome Declaration on World Food Security. In this, I would underscore that if the world is to halve poverty by 2015, it is in Asia that most of the battle must be fought.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Asia Development Bank will continue to place first priority in helping the poor in Asia and the Pacific.
Thank you very much.
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