Sumario: June 12, 2002: Speech by Poul Nielson, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, on "Multi Stakeholder Dialogue" at the World Food Summit: Five years later (Rome)
The European Commission has made considerable efforts in line with the 1996 World Food Summit commitments and its Plan of Action. Fight against poverty has been confirmed as the central objective of the EU development co-operation policy. Rural development and food security are among the priority areas where the EU is concentrating its support. Efforts to enhance food security are at the heart of the European Union's approach to poverty reduction.
The European Commission's view is that the best way to achieve food security for all is to implement a broad-based policy for sustainable development and poverty reduction. Poverty is not solely defined by a lack of income and financial resources, but also includes the notion of vulnerability, low human capabilities and lack of empowerment. We need to confront these inequalities by addressing issues of land tenure and land reform, generating employment, providing universal access to health and education services, assuring gender equality and empowerment of women.
The EU has therefore reviewed its food aid, rural development and agricultural strategies in view of ensuring their effective contribution to poverty reduction and food security. We have gradually shifted our aid towards supporting broad-based food security strategies along the lines of availability, access to food and crisis prevention.
In this context, I would like to stress that the European Union, as a distinct entity, is the fifth largest donor in the world and provides an annual contribution of roughly €7.5 billion of ODA. The most important part of it is targeted to poverty reduction and to enhance food security. In particular, €1.2 billion are targeted to actions that directly address food security objectives, such as activities to increase availability and access to food, food aid in-kind, safety nets, early-warning system, rehabilitation. Another €1.5 billion are targeted to broader development programmes that also contribute to food security, such as rural development, agriculture production and research, natural resources management, water management, capacity building, economic and social infrastructure.
Concentrating the food security interventions on the most vulnerable countries has been one of the priorities over the last few years. Whether direct or indirect, the interventions targeted 34 countries. Among the countries where we have good experiences, let me mention Ethiopia, Mozambique, Bangladesh, Bolivia and Haiti.
The EU is also the most important donor of humanitarian assistance in the world, providing about 50% of global humanitarian aid annually. We have recently implemented a new system, enabling the European Commission to respond immediately to "sudden-onset" crises. In 2001, this allowed us to make rapid interventions in Peru, Afghanistan, Algeria and Belize.
Research and scientific co-operation in agriculture, fisheries and forestry at national, regional and global level play an important role in supporting policy and action that can contribute to eradicate poverty and promote food security. At the global level, we will continue to support the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), for which we have allocated €62 million for the next three years.
Environmental problems are important cause of food insecurity and poverty. The European Union has been a major actor in the international environmental scene and one of the leading proponents of international action to address trans-boundary/global environmental problems. The EU has provided important input and arranged financial and technical assistance through different channels for the implementation of a whole range of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Desertification).
In this context let me point out another issue: global public goods. The idea of global public goods is not new in the international co-operation debate, but it has recently found renewed interest. Increased globalization and interdependence in the world have made this issue more relevant than ever. The fight against communicable diseases and the protection of the global environment are examples of issues that cannot be solved on a purely national basis and clearly show the need for innovative approaches. GPGs and the financing of their provision are however not being dealt with in the international fora in an adequate manner. I am convinced that due to the potential GPGs have for poverty reduction and social development, more attention for ensuring their provision is warranted in the near future. Recognizing the importance of GPGs should not divert attention from the more traditional modes of development co-operation.
It is now widely accepted that the ownership of aid and development programmes by beneficiary countries is the key to the success of development co-operation. This sense of ownership must be built through the widest possible participation of all groups of society in defining national development strategies that create conditions for the participation of the poor in the benefits of growth. Such a holistic approach to development emphasizes the fact that the "state versus market" dichotomy must definitely be abandoned and all different kinds of players must be involved in the international effort to eradicate poverty.
Although the international community has an important role in supporting food security, the primary responsibility lies with national governments. Good governance, the rule of law, appropriate policies, democracy and accountable government are essential to fight poverty. Many countries have already prepared comprehensive Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, which are a promising sign of government commitment to poverty reduction and policy reform.
The international community can assist governments in tackling food insecurity in numerous ways, such as providing aid, facilitating trade, encouraging regional integration, supporting international agricultural research, joining the fight against communicable diseases and addressing global environmental problems. An important concern is to achieve policy coherence between these different policy areas.
As a major donor providing approximately half of public aid to developing countries, an important trading partner, a large food producer and a significant political body, the European Union has an important role to play in ensuring that processes of development and globalization deliver benefits for the poor and food insecure.
Resources are important. The EU is committed to achieving the agreed 0.7% GNI target and as a first significant step towards this objective, has announced at the Monterrey Conference that its Member States will increase their ODA to 0.39% GNI by 2006. This will provide a total of roughly €20 billion of additional resources for the period 2003-2006.
We are convinced that trade has an important role to play. I am proud to say that the European Union is by far the largest importer of agricultural products from developing countries, taking annually more than the combined total of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Furthermore, we have taken unprecedented measures by the implementation of the "Everything but Arms" initiative, which provides unrestricted, duty-free and quota-free market access to all Least Developed Countries' products, including agricultural commodities.
We welcome the comprehensive agenda of negotiations agreed in Doha. This agenda represents a new approach to trade and development globally by integrating developing country interests in all areas of negotiations. We have to make sure that developing countries not only have access to markets, but also that they have products to offer. This also implies building meaningful regional integration initiatives.
While on the subject of trade, I should mention our commitment to the WTO negotiations on a reduction in measures, which distort trade in agricultural products. In this context, we in the EU, like many other countries in the world, are very concerned about the change in US farm policy embodied in its new Farm Bill, which actually increases the type of trade distorting support we are all committed to reducing in the Doha Development Round. We are especially concerned that the effect of the Bill will be to disturb world markets to the detriment of the very same countries and people we are gathered here today to help.
For our part, the direction of the EU agricultural policy is clear: reductions in production-distorting support and an increased focus on food safety and quality, rural development and environmental services for society at large. And we are also committed to further reduce the export refunds we are so frequently criticized for, provided that other forms of trade distorting export assistance are similarly disciplined.