ECOSOC calls for abolition of agricultural subsidies

2 July 2003 –

The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) called today for the reduction and elimination of agricultural subsidies and urged developed countries to implement the commitments they made at the Doha trade conference in 2001 to facilitate market access for the products of developing countries.

"Without prejudging the outcome of negotiations, reductions of, with a view to phasing out, all forms of export subsidies, substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic support and enhanced market access for developing countries" are needed in the agricultural sector, a Ministerial Declaration said at the conclusion of ECOSOC's high-level segment meeting in Geneva.

Taking note that rural areas of developing countries were home to three quarters of the world's poor, the Council recommends that rural development be pursued through an integrated approach encompassing the economic, social and environmental dimensions, taking into account the gender perspective, and consisting of mutually reinforcing policies and programmes.

It also notes that although rural development is the responsibility of each country, it is important that an enabling international economic environment support the effectiveness of national development efforts.

In concluding remarks, ECOSOC President Gert Rosenthal, of Guatemala, said he felt the Declaration’s major points stressed that it was inconceivable to think about achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – particularly those related to poverty – if rural development was not addressed.

The MDGs, adopted by the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, seek to achieve a series of targets, including halving the number of both the world’s poor and hungry by 2015. Throughout the three-day meeting speakers emphasized that these goals would be unattainable without addressing the problems of rural poverty and development.

Mr. Rosenthal expressed his gratitude to Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, for his important contribution to the ECOSOC agenda, whose theme this year is "Promoting an integrated approach to rural development in developing countries for poverty eradication and sustainable development."

In response, Mr. Desai said the political process of the UN enabled not only countries, but also non-governmental organizations and civil society to talk, discuss and negotiate - factors essential for the progress of the world.

At an earlier news conference Mr. Desai said addressing the problems of the rural poor, particularly ensuring sustainable development, would not be possible simply through welfare programmes. "It can only be done by accelerating growth, raising productivity, particularly of poor people, and since three-quarters of the world's poor were in rural areas, this really translated into bringing back a strong focus on raising rural incomes and productivity," he said.

Tomorrow ECOSOC begins consideration of its operational activities segment with a high-level panel on resources for operational activities for development.

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