Dr Diouf was addressing FAO’s supreme governing body, the 192-member Conference, at the start of a week-long session due to decide on proposals for a major reform of the Organization and to vote on its budget.
“During the course of this week you will be making decisions that will have a profound impact on the future of the Organization,” Diouf said. “Those decisions will be made in a new agricultural context on the world stage. In the last two years agriculture has returned to the international agenda,” he added.
The centrality of agriculture was underscored in the World Bank’s recent 2008 World Development Report, the first to be devoted to agriculture for a quarter of a century. “It is time to place agriculture afresh at the centre of development, taking account of the vastly different context of opportunities and challenges that has emerged,” Diouf said, citing the report.
“On climate change, energy supply, natural resources depletion, population movements, and indeed on the very health and security of nations, agriculture is central both to the problem and to its resolution,” Diouf said.
Equally pressing is the challenge of feeding a world population estimated to top 9 billion by 2050, he added. “This will require a second Green Revolution aimed at virtually doubling food production in the first half of this century.”
The Director-General underlined FAO’s fundamental contribution in addressing these issues and recalled that he has proposed two high-level meetings to discuss them next year.
The first meeting, scheduled for June 2008, will focus on climate change, bioenergy and food security, while the second will address issues such as population growth, migration and urbanization and their impact on future food security.
Recent activities, way ahead
The Director-General highlighted FAO’s work over the past two years, including its role in the ongoing fight against bird flu, its food safety activities and its efforts to reverse erosion of the world’s genetic resources for food and agriculture.
Regarding the way ahead, Diouf said that FAO was being called on to “reform with growth” as a result of the Organization’s first Independent External Evaluation, which includes over 100 recommendations for changes.
Such reform would enable FAO to play a still more incisive role in helping to cut the numbers of the 850 million human beings still suffering from hunger and malnutrition and achieving the Millennium Development Goals’ target on hunger and poverty reduction, Diouf said.
He welcomed the evaluation’s recognition of the “unique importance and relevance of FAO’s role in the United Nations and in the world” and hoped Members would “allow FAO to maintain the balance of the recommendations made by having the necessary financial means to implement the proposed reforms.”
Over the past few years, FAO’s work has been affected by a series of effective budget cuts.
The Conference observed a minute’s silence for the victims of the cyclone in Bangladesh. It was attended for the first time by the Russian Federation, which joined last year. It also welcomed the Republic of Montenegro and the Principality of Andorra as new Members and the Faroe Islands as an Associate Member.