Mr Riswanul Islam (Director, Recovery and Reconstruction Department, International Labour Organization - ILO)
Mr Chairman, Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is an honour and privilege for me to represent the International Labour Organization and make a statement on behalf of the Organization at this important Summit. However, given the fact that it is already quite late in the evening, I shall only highlight a few points from my statement and will refer to the full text for details. Hopefully, the full text will find some other outlets, particularly the Website of this Summit, or even ILO's own Website.
Mr Chairman, high rates of economic growth in general and of food production, in particular, are essential for achieving faster rates of poverty reduction and moving more rapidly towards ensuring food security. That, however, is not going to be sufficient because an adequate production and supply of food on an aggregate basis does not guarantee universal access to food.
For higher food production to ensure universal access to food, the fruits of growth and higher production must translate themselves into means of access to food and other necessities of life. Decent and productive employment plays a key role in generating the needed income for ensuring access to food. Economic growth must, therefore, be accompanied by social progress and decent work is the key to poverty reduction, which, in turn, can contribute to food security.
Coming to agriculture, there are an estimated 450 million agricultural workers who work for some form of wage, and they are among the occupational groups with the highest incidence of poverty. Of course, a large number of the small and marginal farmers in the developing countries also face the problem of food security. So while talking about food security, we must consider all categories of farmers and workers in the agricultural sector-farmers of various size groups and wage workers of different categories.
On the employment front, high levels of under-employment and low wages of agricultural workers are serious impediments to food security. Improvements in agricultural productivity associated with higher employment and real wages and diversification of the rural economy through the promotion of rural non-farm activities would be important for overcoming these impediments. Work in agriculture also involves high levels of health hazards and accidents. Some 170 000 agricultural workers are killed in accidents each year. These workers are not protected and they are not organized.
Mr Chairman, today is the World Day for Elimination of Child Labour and, in that context, I should like to highlight the need to eliminate child labour from the agriculture sector as well.
Finally, an approach to reducing poverty and ensuring food security should include the following elements: increasing the opportunities for sustainable employment in general, particularly through a diversification of the rural economy; second, adoption of measures including appropriate labour legislation to improve conditions at work, especially regarding health, safety and environment in the agricultural sector; third, strengthening social protection for agricultural workers for all categories and; finally, ensuring that agricultural workers also have greater voice and rights at work.
To conclude, Mr Chairman, the ILO continues to remain committed to the fight against hunger and malnutrition, and it contributes to that fight by promoting decent work for all workers which is a major route out of poverty and towards food security.
Thank you very much for your attention.
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