Summary: 23 October 2009, New York - Statement on behalf of the European Union by Mr. Jakob Ström, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Sweden, at the 64th session of the General Assembly Second Committee on Item 60: Agriculture development and food security, United Nations
I am honoured to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Armenia align themselves with this statement.
At the outset I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Secretary-General for his comprehensive report on Agriculture development and food security.
Food Security is a fundamental requirement to the wellbeing and economic and social progress of any society or nation, as recognized in the Millennium Development Goals. The fact that one out of six human beings suffers from hunger and malnourishment is unacceptable and it is our profound belief that freedom from hunger is essential for the enjoyment of Human Rights. Most people are hungry because they are poor, not because there is not enough food to eat. This global food security challenge must be addressed imminently. Sustainable agricultural development has a vital role in producing food, providing jobs and contributing to economic growth that benefits poor people.
The European Community has significantly increased the share of the agricultural sector in the official development aid and the EU calls on all donors to take a similar approach. This is particularly important in a long process of bringing back this crucial issue on the agenda, and making sure that food security stays at its top. In December 2008 the European Parliament and the European Council adopted a regulation establishing a one billion Euro Food Facility. Out of this 1 billion the European Commission has already decided upon projects amounting to more than Euro 700 million.
In this regard, the European Union strongly welcomes the G8+ initiative taken in L'Aquila, including the five principles identified, to enhance the progress of sustainable agriculture development, rural development and food security on a global scale. The European Union furthermore welcomes the unprecedented commitment made in this connection to mobilise 20 billion USD over the next three years - to which the EU members states will contribute 10,2 billion USD and the European Commission an additional 3,8 billion USD. This initiative adds further to a clear political momentum to boost sustainable agriculture development and food security and it is imperative that we do not fail to seize this historic opportunity.
The European Union believes there is a need to both invest in agriculture development and improve access to food. Attention must be paid to medium and long-term actions and policies, emphasising rural development and intensification of agricultural production in a sustainable manner. It is not enough to address only the agricultural production part of the equation since many people lack adequate resources to buy food, even where food is actually available on the market. In addition poor nutritional status and malnutrition can persist as a result of diets which are unbalanced or insufficiently diversified and that are unable to provide the nutrients required for a healthy life. The outcomes of poor diets and malnutrition lower individuals' and societies' development potential and contribute to the perpetuation of poverty. It is essential that poor people do not find themselves forced to make trade-offs between nutrition, health, education and production.
In our view, broad ranging efforts are needed. One end of the spectrum should focus on raising agricultural productivity for example by improved farming techniques. Experience and scientific advances show that much can be done in terms of improved seeds, irrigation, agro forestry and livestock management. In many countries, it is equally important to increase incomes, create employment, ensure functioning markets and infrastructure and expand social protection and safety nets. Women play a critical role in the rural economies of developing countries, and for food security. They participate in crop production and livestock care, they often have a primary role in feeding the family and providing water and fuel, and they engage in off-farm activities to contribute to and diversify family income. Women's role in agriculture and their specific needs, including nutritional needs, must receive much more attention than is the case today. Despite their key roles, rural women are particularly vulnerable to poverty. Although they work the land, they often lack rights of inheritance and formal and clear land titles. This makes them extremely vulnerable to eviction and negatively affects their productivity and economic and political empowerment.
Trade is an important component of the policy mix necessary to address agricultural development and food security issues. The EU strongly supports a comprehensive, ambitious and balanced conclusion of the Doha Round in 2010. In relation to agriculture the current draft modalities for agriculture foresees a significant reduction of trade-distorting domestic support, lower market access barriers which includes special provisions such as the special safeguard mechanism for developing countries and the elimination of export subsidies by 2013 as well as disciplines on other forms of export subsidisation. Open trade flows and efficient markets constitute important tools for integrating developing countries in their region and in the global economy, thus creating economic growth and improving food security.
Hunger often occurs as a result of emergencies. Basic needs must be met even where disasters strike or conflicts arise. It is essential that emergency food aid does not disrupt normal markets and food production. We need to deploy a mix of tools and approaches that protect food consumption whilst avoiding the possible negative impacts of traditional food aid. Whenever possible, food aid should be procured locally in such a way that it supports the local production and strengthens market integration rather than disturbs it. More attention needs to be paid to linking Humanitarian Relief, Rehabilitation and to ensuring Development, and ensure a better integration of short-term and longer-term food security responses and modernization of food assistance. In any given context the right combination of emergency tools must be applied and be well coordinated with recovery and long term developmental interventions.
Many developing countries are heavily struck by the economic crisis. This translates into unemployment, reduced remittances and increased poverty for many people world wide. Social protection and safety nets, such as social security systems, public works, cash for work and food for work, can reach them especially in times of crisis. We need to find creative ways of using social protection and safety nets to support productivity thereby helping people work their way out of hunger and malnutrition. Many UN agencies, bilateral agencies and NGOs have been working on these ideas and testing them in practice - let's learn from these experiences.
It is essential to focus on government policy to guide the food security efforts. With a clear national or regional policy to strengthen food security, which is sustained over time and backed up with sufficient financing, the prospects for improvement grow. The EU welcomes the wide-ranging realization that the fostering of sustainable agriculture in developing countries is key to achieving economic growth, poverty reduction and food security in realization of the right to food. National policies often benefit from adapting traditional practices to new conditions and improving the resilience of farmers. Building on their local knowledge and experience, there is a fair prospect for progress and a good reason for hope. Regional policies offer opportunities for harmonized and complementary approaches for agricultural development.
There is a wide recognition of the need to improve the regulation, functioning, and transparency of financial and commodity markets to address excessive commodity price volatility. The European Commission is now working on a policy communication to tackle this issue.
Donors should align behind country and regional strategies and assistance should be well coordinated in support of them. In the context of agricultural development in Africa, we think that the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) of the African Union should be a reference framework for donors and development partners. The EU believes that the mobilization and provision of support for country-led initiatives can be enhanced by the Global Partnership for Agriculture and Food Security (GPAFS). The GPAFS, with a reformed and strengthened FAO's Committee on World Food Security (CFS) as an important element, was agreed last week in Rome. We envisage that the CFS would constitute the political pillar of the Partnership, while the High Level Panel of Experts would provide the scientific expertise needed. The Partnership is expected to be launched by Heads of State and Government at the World Summit on Food Security in Rome this coming November. An effective response to the world food security problems requires strong international leadership and coordination at the highest level.
We furthermore need the multilateral institutions to be effective as well as efficient. In a situation with ever increasing competition for resources, the ability to deliver results will be vital. The on-going reform of the FAO is a good example. The European Union has faith that the reform process will result in a more effective Organization that is able to perform in accordance with the needs of its membership. We are already seeing positive signs in this direction.
Efficient and effective institutions in themselves are necessary but not sufficient in today's world. It is of utmost importance that the UN agencies, especially the FAO, WFP and IFAD, as well as the International Financial Institutions, continue to hone their cooperation so that their respective comparative advantages come into play and maximum development impact is ensured. They must continue to work together to increase the effectiveness of the UN development architecture, under the overall framework of UN system-wide coherence and reforms, and deliver as one at country level where applicable. The EU welcomes in this regard the Secretary General's High Level Task Force on food security (UN-HLTF). All actions undertaken at country-level should, to the extent possible, make use of the valuable experiences already gained through the work of the UN-HLTF.
We call upon all countries to learn from good examples, where the system has worked: national ownership, efficient support agencies and effective partnership. Some of the very poorest countries with little wealth in terms of natural resources and capital have yet been able to raise the level of food security significantly thanks to concerted efforts by the government and the donor community. A common thread running through many of these successes is the confluence of science, policy, and leadership. Let me refer to one of the available resources: the IFPRI report "Millions fed, proven successes in agricultural development" which gives us inspiring success stories to be replicated, spanning from interventions enhancing productivity to combating diseases and pests, conserving natural resources, expanding market opportunities, improving human nutrition, and improving the policy environment.
Finally Mr Chairperson,
It would be irresponsible not to acknowledge the effect that climate change will have on global food security in the years to come. Agriculture does not contain the silver bullet to halt global warming, but it can play an important role in mitigation. It is imperative that the adaptation potential of agriculture is supported and that the mitigation capacity of agriculture is unleashed.
I thank you!
* Croatia and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.