Eradication of hunger and poverty central challenge of development, says IFAD

UNITED NATIONS, June - The eradication of poverty and hunger is recognized as the central challenge of development, the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) told delegates here.

Addressing the Group of 77, IFAD President Fawzi H. Al-Sultan expressed the hope that the G-77 will work to ensure that this recognition at the international level is translated into meaningful new resources to end hunger and poverty.

“The Group of 77 played an important part in the World Food Conference in 1974 which led to the establishment of IFAD. Your efforts helped to shape IFAD which remains to this day the only international financial institution in which developing countries enjoy a majority vote,” he said.

IFAD, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, focuses exclusively on the problems of rural poverty and hunger. During the last 20 years, it has helped finance 496 poverty projects in 112 developing countries for which it has provided about $5.0 billion towards their total investment cost of $17 billion. On full development, IFAD projects are expected to help over 200 million poor people achieve more secure livelihoods and food security.

Al-Sultan said IFAD has worked in the most marginal and resource poor areas in the world, with groups who have been long ignored by mainstream development programmes. Among the poor, he said, women merit special attention.

A central focus of IFAD’s operations has been Africa, and 40 percent of the Fund’s total lending has gone to this region. IFAD was also the first international institution to launch, in 1987, a Special Programme for Sub-Saharan Africa.

The two phases of the Special Programme mobilized some $700 million and developed particularly innovative and path-breaking projects, especially for the sustainable use of natural resources.

“Our projects have focused on the rural poor and the specific characteristics of smallholder agriculture in Africa through programmes for research and extension, credit, social and economic infrastructure, and community development,” he added.

Al-Sultan said that even as international concern about poverty has risen, unfortunately resources to help overcome poverty have declined. Overall development assistance has fallen and support for rural and agricultural development has fallen even more sharply. Yet, the bulk of the poor, about three-quarters, live in rural areas.

The Group of 77, he said, has long played a strong role in enhancing official development assistance (ODA). “That role is today especially important to halt and reverse the declines in such assistance,” he added.

Al-Sultan appealed to the G-77 “to work to enhance resources for rural development.” In 1999, IFAD will be initiating negotiations for the Fifth Replenishment of its resources. IFAD is unusual in that it is a real partnership between North and South, with developing nations contributing about a quarter of the funding.

“We look to you not only to maintain your own support, but to call on industrialized countries, especially the major ones, to provide their fair share of the Fifth Replenishment,” he concluded.