World leaders call for greater international cooperation to tackle hunger and poverty at IFAD global meeting

The fate of the world’s poorest and wealthiest nations are interconnected, and eradicating poverty and hunger will be impossible without urgent and focused international cooperation efforts directed at long-term development, said world leaders speaking at the opening of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) annual Governing Council meeting today.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis should drive home the message to all – rich and poor, weak or powerful – that their destinies are intertwined. We will perish or survive together,” Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, told representatives of IFAD’s 177 Member States. “We need a common plan and strategy for global recovery and the survival and prosperity of all humanity.”

Highlighting the long-term and profound economic damage the pandemic is now having in low-income countries where poverty and hunger are on the rise, João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, President of Angola, compared the challenges ahead to his country’s recovery from civil war.

“International cooperation, both bilateral and with development organizations, was crucial for our struggle for post-war reconstruction and it continues to be necessary so that together we can tackle the effects of the crises we are facing,” he said.

According to both leaders, fighting growing global hunger and poverty needs to be addressed through global partnerships and greater long-term investments in the rural people who grow so much of the world’s food, but often are the poorest and hungriest.

Gilbert F. Houngbo, who was reappointed today as IFAD’s President for a second term, said in his opening statement that international organizations and government partners need to rethink the nature of food systems that often lead to greater inequalities, poverty and hunger.

“My conviction remains intact. We can achieve a more fair and equitable world, a world without abject poverty, a world without hunger,” he said. “But the pandemic and the effects of climate change are forcing us to radically rethink the way we produce and eat.”

Announcing a significantly increased financial commitment to IFAD of €84 million for its work over the next three years, Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said “guaranteeing the right to food is a moral imperative.”

“We need adequate and sufficient resources to intervene on the ground, to invest in rural economies, food security, access to food and sustainable production cycles,” he added.

Reducing food imports and securing a sustainable locally-produced food supply for a country like oil-dependent Angola is critical, said President Lourenço, and this can only be done by revitalising and developing local agricultural production. This includes rehabilitating access roads and ensuring water supply in rural areas.

Prime Minister Khan highlighted the importance of investing in environmentally sustainable agricultural processes and infrastructure that ensures the efficient use of water and land, and to “produce food with greater respect for nature.”

This was reinforced by Minister Di Maio who said, “I believe that the priority given to environmental sustainability must unite the main economies of the world, harmonising post-pandemic reconstruction and ambitious climate action.”

One in 10 people in the world are hungry. An additional 132 million more people may also go hungry due to the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Extreme poverty also looks likely to increase for the first time in decades.

Economic growth in agriculture is two to three times more effective at reducing poverty than growth generated in other sectors. With long-term investments in environmentally sustainable rural development, poor small-scale farmers can increase their food production and generate employment, which in turn stimulates local and national economies and creates more stable and prosperous societies.

The 44th Session of the Governing Council is a two-day meeting with the theme: Rural development – a pre-requisite for global resilience.

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