UN sustainable development forum ends with call for more investment in research

16 May 2008 – The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) wrapped up its annual session today by emphasizing the need for ramping up investment in research and development in innovative and sustainable agricultural technologies and infrastructure in poor countries.

The Commission, concluding two weeks of discussions in New York, examined the obstacles and barriers that have prevented sustainable development in the areas of agriculture, land use, rural development, drought, desertification and Africa. Countries will now follow-up on these issues with policy recommendations at next year’s meeting.

The session also provided a foundation for international discussions on the global food crises that will take place in the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) – of which the CSD is a subsidiary body – next Tuesday in New York, and at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome in early June.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in an address earlier this week, said that “after a quarter century of relative neglect, agriculture is back on the international agenda, sadly with a vengeance. The onset of the current food crisis has highlighted the fragility of our success in feeding the world's growing population with the technologies of the first green revolution and subsequent agricultural improvements.”

The Secretary-General stressed that agriculture needs invigorating. “We need to work together to develop a new generation of technologies and farming methods which make possible a second green revolution, one which permits sustainable yield improvements with minimal environmental damage and contributes to sustainable development goals.”

Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang said: “We do need to address the runaway food prices as an emergency. We need to take quick, targeted action to deliver emergency food aid to the people in need.” But he added that crisis management was not enough. “We need to make sure it does not happen again.”

Many countries expressed concern that a number of factors had contributed to the present situation, including climate change, unfair trade policies, poor land management, biofuel production, and a lack of roads and access to markets in rural agricultural areas.

Almost 60 ministers attended the CSD, along with 680 representatives from 126 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Representatives from civil society, including women, farmers, science, business, children and youth, local authorities, workers and trade unions, indigenous peoples and nongovernmental organizations participated far more extensively than in the past.

Participants also elected Gerda Verburg, the Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality in the Netherlands, as the next chair of the CSD – the first time that the subsidiary body of ECOSOC will be led by a woman.


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