FAO Conference continues: Kazakhstan becomes Member Nation, Canadian Agriculture Minister elected Chairman

The flag of Kazakhstan joined the other 174 national flags of FAO member nations flying outside of the Organization's headquarters in Rome on Friday 7 November. The acceptance of the republic's application for membership was among the first business of the opening day of the FAO Conference.

Kazakhstan's Ambassador to Italy, Mr Olzhas Suleymenov (right), raises his country's flag at FAO headquarters 

The 29th session of the Conference, the top global gathering of ministers and senior officials on food and agriculture issues, and the main governing body of the Organization, was opened by FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. Other opening day business included the election of Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agrifood Lyle Vanclief as Chairman of the Conference.

Major items on the agenda of the 11-day meeting include establishing the level of FAO's budget and its programme priorities for the next two years and a review of the state of food and agriculture, with statements from member countries about key achievements and concerns. The Conference will also review progress since the 1996 World Food Summit in reducing the number of chronically hungry people around the globe.

"There can be no peaceful life for populations affected by hunger," said Dr Diouf in a statement delivered on Saturday 8 November, before the gathered delegates began their deliberations on issues that will affect the future of FAO's work to eliminate hunger in the world.

Introducing the proposed FAO Programme of Work and Budget for 1998-1999, Dr Diouf said: "The next biennium should see FAO being fully active, together with a broad range of partners, in assisting Member Nations in the achievement of the World Food Summit commitments. Summit follow-up and the goal of sustainable food security for all were clearly among the prime movers in the design of the Programme of Work for 1998-99".

The Director-General said that efficiency savings would be continued in the Organization, but warned: "Clearly - and this needs to be emphasized - the negative impact of a below zero nominal growth budget on programmes of high priority to member countries would obviously be aggravated."

A below zero nominal growth budget of US$650 million was one of two funding levels outlined in the Programme of Work and Budget submitted to the Conference by the Director-General. A zero real growth proposal of $675.3 million, which would include some additional funds to compensate for inflation, was also presented. Under the $650 million budget option, programme cuts would be necessary to offset increased costs. FAO has made efforts to protect the priority areas of its programme, including:

Putting the proposed zero real growth scenario in context, Dr Diouf said: "FAO's budget is just over two days' consumption of tobacco in North America and less than two months' consumption of champagne in one European country. Where, then, does the fight against the hunger of 800 million human beings fit in the scale of priorities of the affluent?"

A supplementary Conference issue of FAO's Food Outlook puts first estimates of 1997 global agricultural production put expansion at 1.1 percent, a marked slowdown in production growth compared to 1996. And the latest information on food aid in 1996/97 shows a sharp drop of 37 percent to 4.9 million tonnes - the lowest level since the start of food aid programmes in the 1950s. Official development assistance to agriculture also continued to decline for the eleventh year in a row. The special issue of Food Outlook, giving the latest FAO estimates for total crop and livestock production, will be distributed during the Conference.

The 1996-1997 A.H. Boerma Award for journalism was presented jointly to the Association of Food and Agriculture Journalists (AFAJ) of Kenya and the Inter Press Service, a Third World news agency based in Rome. Forester Hon Tat Tang, a Malaysian national, received the 1996 B.R. Sen Award for outstanding field expert. Les Clark of New Zealand was the 1997 Sen Award winner for his contribution to the Namibian fisheries sector. Bangladesh's Department of Fisheries and the Iranian Agriculture Ministry's Infrastructure and Technical Directorate shared this year's Edouard Saouma Award, which was established in 1993 to recognize commendable field projects.


8 November 1997

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