From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Barrie Ireton (Director General of Knowledge Sharing and Special Initiatives, Department for International Development of the United Kingdom)

The Millennium Development Goals are at the centre of our work in fighting poverty and hunger. In the Millennium Declaration the international community endorsed the key importance of the issue of hunger, and explicitly linked it to the global poverty target. Transforming this commitment into action means tackling poverty and its root causes – and making sure that food security and nutrition concerns are integrated into poverty reduction processes.

The United Kingdom is a major actor in relation to this agenda, both intellectually and practically. As part of our preparations for this Summit and for the forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development we have produced two key documents, one on the subject of “Eliminating Hunger” and a consultation paper on the role of agriculture in poverty reduction. These have been recognized by the development community as important contributions to the policy debate. I am glad to note that several hundred copies of each have been taken from the information distribution points in FAO this week. And we are one of the largest providers of extra-budgetary funds to FAO, where we support major programmes to strengthen the livelihoods of the poor through fishing, forestry and sustainable development.

The United Kingdom attaches great importance to the role of trade liberalization to achieving food security for all. This was clearly recognized at Doha, where an ambitious Development Agenda was launched. Tackling hunger will require significant progress in liberalization and the opening up of access to agricultural markets, particularly by developed countries. The United Kingdom wants to see substantial cuts by developed countries in agricultural support that distorts trade. And we are pushing for large reductions in all forms of export subsidies and the untying of food aid from agricultural surpluses in developed countries. We want to explore with others what specific measures need to be undertaken in developing countries to ensure that liberalization does reduce poverty and hunger. And we are helping to build capacity in developing countries to negotiate and engage with international processes such as the Doha Development Round.

Monterrey, this Summit and preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in August have given rise to a renewed emphasis on agriculture. The United Kingdom welcomes this. But efforts to increase production and food supplies will not by themselves eliminate poverty and hunger amongst the most vulnerable people. The United Kingdom believes that the priority must be to establish a policy and institutional environment that creates opportunities for poor people to derive better livelihoods from agriculture. Our focus must not just be on agriculture. Agriculture often provides only a part of poor people’s livelihoods.

In the same way, food security concerns must be integrated within poverty reduction frameworks. As is now widely recognized, we need to ensure that they get more attention in this process.

The attack on hunger will require investments in education, health and social protection. The Summit Declaration rightly emphasizes the key importance of improving nutrition if we are to achieve food security. Poverty, livelihoods and nutrition are closely linked: we must pay more attention to improving nutrition amongst the vulnerable groups.

Conflict and disasters are a major factor in slowing progress towards the elimination of hunger. We need to get better at preparing for such emergencies. Effective government investment, policies and disaster response are critical. We must incorporate conflict reduction strategies in our work. This will mean strengthening civil society, promoting human rights, and improving international as well as local mechanisms for settling disputes.

The United Kingdom believes that we should review the way in which food aid is used. The untying of food aid from agricultural surpluses is critical. And we must re-examine the role and effectiveness of food aid. Food is a useful tool in emergency contexts. But we must take care that its use elsewhere does not limit productive opportunities for poor people. Initiatives such as school feeding may have their place, but only where they are firmly integrated with national education policies and programmes.

Strengthening the mechanisms to measure progress in reducing poverty and hunger are important both internationally and nationally. FAO has recognized this. We welcome the forthcoming meeting that FAO is organizing on the measurement of hunger; and look forward to working with them and others to improve the monitoring of poverty and hunger within the context of PRSPs.

As I said at the outset, the Millennium Development Goals are at the centre of our work in fighting poverty and hunger. Governments, civil society and the international community need to work together to ensure that they are achieved, including the reduction of hunger. The United Kingdom is committed to playing a full part.

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