From the podium

From the podium

Mr Ivano Barberini (International Cooperative Alliance - ICA)

Mr President, Distinguished Government Representatives and Delegates. Our review of the advances towards achieving food security and reducing poverty worldwide has shown that some progress has also been made. There remains the biggest and most important challenge to face. The International Cooperative Alliance will lend its full support to this end which will require that Governments, the United Nations Agencies, together with the civil society, to create the necessary dynamic to move rural poverty and the food security issues back to the top of the international agenda.

Ending hunger will require actions that will not only increase agricultural productivity but which will also raise the income of rural communities, improve access to food by those most in need, support women and their equal access to resources, and rural financial institutions, promote gender equality and improvement.

Last, but not least, an issue that developing countries have full access to markets, research and investment. We know that there is no single simple way to eradicate poverty and guarantee food security for all. However, some of the answers must emerge from a fundamental rethinking of the international financial and trade system. Some must come from policy changes and commitments by Governments at all levels, while others must come from local communities and individuals. It is here that the worldwide cooperative movement can make a real contribution. The cooperative movement is significant both in terms of membership and impact. Half of the world's population was made secure by cooperatives. The cooperative form of enterprises has been chosen by over 760 million individuals, including farmers and fisherfolks, who organized themselves to maximize the benefits of production, processing, marketing and to benefit consumers and workers who ensure food availability and distribution.

In many countries cooperatives are responsible for over 50 percent of domestic agricultural production and marketing, and are also active as food exporters. Cooperatives are the key to creating income for people around the world, which is crucial to combating poverty. They provide an estimated 100 million jobs, which is 25 percent more than multinational enterprises cited so often as being the movers of our global economy. Cooperatives are autonomous associations of persons united voluntarily to meet their common, economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprises. Cooperatives are gaining new recognition by the international community and organizations, first of all by the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies, among which FAO was one of the first to underline the role and potential in alleviating and reducing poverty, supporting the development in manifold domains in the different world areas.

We believe that a more widespread and effective application of the cooperative movement model must be one of the most important answers to combating poverty and food insecurity, as underlined in the FAO Anti-Hunger Programme which stresses the need to promote the emergence of small-scale farmers in food supply; processing and marketing cooperatives and associations to expand rural infrastructures and broaden market access.

The essence of cooperative approach is disarmingly simple: maximize the capacity of local groups and communities to control their own destiny through institutions they own and operate in a democratic manner. It is an approach that can be remarkably successful, simultaneously providing economic benefit while sustaining cultural vitality and fostering democratic practices. We know, too, that the cooperative model works in different cultures, building upon traditions of mutual aid and social cohesion.

Invariably entrepreneurial when operating effectively, the cooperative movement can become a powerful voice for people in major economic and social discussions. Hunger may be eradicated if you eliminate the underlying causes of hunger, including poverty. The International Cooperative Alliance, as an independent non-governmental organization, renews its commitment to contribute to the eradication of poverty and the attainment of food security. In our efforts we are ready and eager to strengthen our collaboration with FAO, the UN System, other international institutions, Governments and civil society actors worldwide.

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