As Countries Reel from Multiple Crises, Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Development Central to Achieving Poverty Reduction, Sustainable Development Commission Told

4 May 2009
ENV/DEV/1041

As Countries Reel from Multiple Crises, Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Development Central to Achieving Poverty Reduction, Sustainable Development Commission Told

4 May 2009
Economic and Social Council
ENV/DEV/1041
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on Sustainable Development

Seventeenth Session

2nd & 3rd Meetings* (AM & PM)

As countries reel from multiple crises, sustainable agriculture, rural development

Central to achieving poverty reduction, sustainable development commission told

Two-Week Headquarters Session Opens; Will Adopt Policy Recommendations

On Agriculture, Rural Development, Land, Drought, Desertification, Africa

With countries around the world reeling from economic turmoil, food insecurity, and the threat of climate change, the Netherlands’ Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality today told delegations “this is the time to act” to make sustainable agriculture and rural development central to achieving lasting development and poverty reduction, as the Commission on Sustainable Development opened its seventeenth session.

“The daunting challenges facing the international community provide the opportunity to make a real difference in expediting implementation of sustainable development”, said Gerda Verburg, who is also Chairperson of the Commission’s session, which will run through 15 May.  “This CSD should aim at providing not only concrete and tangible solutions, but should focus even more on concrete deliverables”, she declared, stressing the collective responsibility of all participants to come up with innovative solutions to overcome those crises.

Setting the tone for negotiations over the next two weeks, she said that realizing a green revolution required parallel revolutions in ideas, policies, technologies, market access and financial practices.  Moreover, such a revolution called for new and creative thinking about how to combine the best science with farmers’ knowledge.  “It must be home grown [and] it calls for concrete deliverables and actions to be implemented.”  That would be critical to help affected populations in developing countries, especially the most vulnerable, who were the hardest hit by present crises.  Reiterating her motto for the meeting, she said:  “Swords into ploughshares, words into action!”

The Commission’s seventeenth session attempts to chart a sustainable course of action to strengthen long-neglected agricultural sectors and ensure that more food could be grown in a smarter and greener way, especially in Africa.  Building on the outcomes of its sixteenth session, the Commission will discuss and ultimately adopt a series of policy recommendations to guide agricultural development, along with measures to address drought, desertification, land use, rural development, and sustainable development in Africa.

In her opening remarks, the Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, said that, while neglecting to invest sufficiently in agricultural technology and in improving land, soil and water management, the world community had paid insufficient attention to rural infrastructure.  It had failed to connect poor farmers to markets and agricultural value chains.  Except in a few cases, African countries had been stagnating for years, as pests ravaged crops, diseases decimated livestock, and farmer and livestock herders were weakened by diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

Climate change threatened to further exacerbate the situation, she continued, noting that, as soils were depleted, fertilizers remained unaffordable to most and were barely used.  Irrigation was limited to a small share of arable land.  Most farmers were unable to afford capital improvements and, in many places, insecure land tenure -- especially for women -- discouraged such improvements.  Indeed, women’s role in agriculture was generally not adequately recognized or supported, even though they produced the majority of food in many communities and constituted close to 90 per cent of the agricultural labour force in some countries.

She said the international community should take concrete steps to help empower farmers and strengthen agricultural sectors.  Among others, it should ensure the revival of long-term agricultural investment.  Further, it should shift towards sustainable practices.  Also, global agricultural markets should work in favour of agricultural development in poor countries.  Trade distortions that discouraged such investment should be phased out, while international grain reserves were used to stabilize prices and protect food-importing countries from market volatility and shortages.  Also, finite land and water resources should be managed judiciously to address the multiple challenges of food security, energy security and ecosystem conservation.

Ms. Verburg also introduced the Chairman’s negotiating text, which includes policy options in its six main sections, reflecting the Commission’s priority themes and a section on cross-cutting issues.  She said she believed it would serve as a “good basis for discussions” and added that negotiations should be guided by only one principle:  delegations were attending the session to play their role in the broader international effort “to make poverty history”.

When delegations took the floor to comment, they expressed a range of concerns, particularly that, owing to the severity of the climate and food security crises, the text should be stronger and more action-oriented.  One participant, speaking on behalf of African countries, said the cluster on Africa should be strengthened and balanced.  The text’s current “positive spin” was unrealistic.  Many felt the needs of small island developing States, landlocked developing countries and least developed countries were not sufficiently addressed.  A number of other speakers suggested that the text could more effectively address land-management issues, including the need for land-tenure reform.

The Commission began its work this morning electing by acclamation three of its Vice-Chairpersons:  Munionganda Mbuende ( Namibia); Tania Valerie Raguz ( Croatia); and Ana Bianchi ( Argentina).  Ms. Raguz will also serve as the Commission’s Rapporteur.  The Commission had previously elected Chairperson Verburg and Vice-Chairperson Javad Amin-Mansour ( Iran) during a meeting held on 16 May 2008.

In other business, the Commission was briefly addressed on technical matters by Tariq Banuri, Director of the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development.  It also adopted its provisional agenda and proposed work programme (document E/CN.17/20091).

The Commission also heard reports on the outcomes of several meetings and workshops held since its previous session.  Vice-Chairman Amin-Mansur reported on the “Capacity Development Workshop for Improving Agricultural Productivity, Water Use Efficiency and Rural Livelihood”, which had been held in Bangkok, Thailand, from 28 to 30 January 2009.  Vice-Chairman Mbuende reported on a meeting on “African Agriculture in the 21st Century:  Meeting the Challenges, Making a Sustainable Green Revolution”, held in Windhoek, on 9 and 10 February 2009.  Ilan Simon Fluss of Israel reported on the outcome of the meeting on “The Role of Native and Desert-Adapted Species for the Purpose of Slowing Desertification”, which took place in Israel from 22 to 30 March 2009.

Making presentations on the thematic priority areas were representatives of the Economic and Social Council’s regional commissions:  Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP); Economic Commission for Africa (ECA); Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Economic Commission for Europe (ECE); Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

Representatives of the Sudan (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and on behalf of the African Group), Czech Republic (on behalf of the European Union), Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group), Grenada (on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States), United Arab Emirates (on behalf of the Arab Group), Nauru (on behalf of Pacific Small Island Developing States), United States, Japan, Russian Federation, Republic of Korea, and Israel made general statements.

A representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine also spoke.

Also speaking were representatives of major groups:  women, children and youth, indigenous peoples, non-governmental organizations, local authorities, workers and trade unions, business and industry, and farmers.

Also making comments on the negotiating text were representatives of China, Brazil, Switzerland, India, Norway, Mexico, Australia, Côte d’Ivoire, Lebanon, Japan, Morocco and Peru.

Representatives of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also made comments on the negotiating text.

The Commission will convene its three-day high-level segment at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 13 May.

Background

The Commission on Sustainable Development met today to open its seventeenth session, which will aim to take policy decisions on practical measures to bolster programme implementation in agriculture, rural development, land, drought, desertification and Africa, as climate change, ever-increasing energy consumption and declining natural resources produce new realities for food security and environmental sustainability (see Press Release ENV/DEV/1039 issued 1 May).

Delegations will have before them the report of the Commission’s Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting (document E/CN.17/2009/2), reports of the Secretary-General and other relevant inputs.  The Preparatory Meeting, held at Headquarters from 23 to 27 February 2009, agreed on a “Chairman’s negotiating document” containing policy options Governments could use to expedite programme implementation in line with the priority themes, and encouraging Governments to enhance agricultural productivity and sustainability, invest in essential infrastructure and services for rural communities, and strengthen communities’ resilience to drought and desertification, among other things.

The Secretary-General’s report on policy options and actions for expediting progress in implementation:  agriculture (document E/CN.17/2009/3) stresses that further implementation of the agricultural development agenda requires renewed commitment and a new vision for global cooperation to implement policies that simultaneously aim to raise agricultural productivity, create fair trade regimes, conserve natural resources and promote investment in agricultural infrastructure.

It says an integrated and coordinated response is needed from all stakeholders ranging from multilateral donors to local-level farmers.  Targeted investments will also be needed to bridge the gaps in agricultural research and technology transfer, and both public and private investments in the agriculture sector will have to increase significantly.  Together with improved land and water management programmes, sustainable farming practices can make notable contributions towards enhancing agricultural productivity.  Overall, a thriving agriculture sector underpinned by improved productivity will stimulate economic growth in rural areas and augment poverty reduction and food security.

Noting that the majority of the more than 1 billion people living in rural areas is poor, the report on rural development (document E/CN.17/2009/4) underscores the importance of reducing rural poverty through broad-based investments that benefit entire communities, and not just those engaged in farming and other activities.  It says rural development policies are likely to have more sustained impact if they draw on and are combined with community-based traditional knowledge.  Also critical in sustaining the impact of these policies is the enhancement of the rural population’s capacities, through greater access to education, skills training and the use of information and communications technologies.  Success also results from joint policy actions by Governments, the international community and non-governmental organizations in terms of providing access to water and sanitation services, development and rehabilitation of infrastructure, and natural resources management.

The report on land (document E/CN.17/2009/5) underlines the major local and global benefits of sustainable land management.  In particular, it simultaneously increases the long-term production potential of land for agriculture, conserves ecosystems, helps to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and prevents land degradation.  But while policies, programmes, tools and technologies for sustainable land management obviously exist, their adaptation needs to be promoted in a manner consistent with the principles of sustainable development.  In other words, they must duly recognize relevant cultural and institutional contexts.

The report stresses that, to promote sustainable development, land planning and administration processes need to be accountable, transparent, responsive, equitable, participatory, consensus-oriented, and efficient.  To eradicate poverty, they must ensure equitable access to land and other natural resources, along with land tenure security, including the recognition of customary tenure arrangements.  Moreover, to reduce the ranks of the poor and ensure food security, marginalized people should be empowered and provided access to land.

The report on drought (document E/CN.17/2009/6) says drought-reduction policies should be developed and adapted with the participation of all stakeholders.  In addition to focusing on the conservation of natural resources and structural adaptations to climatic variability, these policies should aim at exploiting alternative sources of water through rainwater harvesting, water treatment and water reuse and recycling.  Reclamation of waterlogged lands will also be crucial.

The report says that, to ensure a more sustained impact, policies should be consistent with traditional community-based strategies for coping with the challenge of drought and climate change.  Improving access by developing countries to drought-tolerant crop varieties is also essential for agricultural production and food security in drought-affected regions.  Traditional knowledge and methods for soil and water conservation should be promoted as cost-effective solutions.  Governments, non-governmental organizations and development partners should shift their focus from relief efforts to strategies for resource mobilization, infrastructure development and capacity-building.  Partnerships at various levels could promote increased investment in establishing early warning and monitoring systems.

The report on desertification (document E/CN.17/2009/7) says that, in addition to addressing the root causes of land degradation, national policies aimed at combating desertification must take into account the linkages among land degradation, desertification and poverty in an integrated manner.  Policies aimed at improving land productivity, reducing soil erosion and reversing soil salinization achieve relatively better results if they are “owned” by local communities.  Combining land administration policies with land planning and management policies yields quick benefits in terms of promoting sustainable land-use practices and addressing the factors causing land degradation.

The report also says that, among other policies, improved land tenure security can encourage farmers to invest in soil and water conservation methods.  Building partnerships at various levels can strengthen much-needed technology transfer and capacity-building aimed at protecting the integrity of ecosystems.  Also, community-based organizations need to be encouraged to assume greater responsibility for natural resources management.

The report on Africa (document E/CN.17/2009/8) examines policy options and practical measures to expedite implementation of those actions identified in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation for the promotion of sustainable development on that continent.  It proposes elements for a broad development strategy for Africa based on the three pillars of sustainable development.  To this end, it considers issues relating to:  economic growth and diversification; increasing agricultural productivity and promoting sustainable agriculture; long-term investments in social and human capital, as well as infrastructure; and preserving the environment and the natural resource base by combating drought, desertification and climate change.  It also considers other resources and institutions needed to support Africa’s sustainable development agenda, such as those that address conflicts, strengthen regional and national institutions, and ensure that international development commitments are met.

The report on interlinkages and cross-cutting issues (document E/CN.17/2009/9) highlights the interlocking relationships among the six issues in the thematic cluster and stresses that policies and measures aimed at one issue may have co-benefits for other issues.  It then outlines a menu of policy options and measures of optimal effectiveness and suggests that international cooperative efforts can help ensure that urgent and effective action is taken to build on these interlinkages, thereby contributing to sustainable development goals.

The Commission also had before it a note by the Secretariat on major groups' priorities for action in agriculture, rural development, land, drought, desertification and Africa (document E/CN.17/2009/10).

Opening Statements

GERDA VERBURG, Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Netherlands, and Chairperson of the current session, said the world was facing multiple crises, including poverty, volatile food and commodity prices, economic recession, environmental degradation and climate change.  Those crises were severely threatening the survival of everyone and everything on the planet.  “So, this is the time to act”, she declared, stressing that it was the collective responsibility of all participants in the Commission’s seventeenth session to come up with innovative solutions to overcome those crises.  Such action would be critical to helping affected populations in the developing world, especially the most vulnerable groups.

“Our task at CSD-17, building on the outcomes of the Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting and CSD-16, is to decide on measures that will move the Commission’s agenda forward”, she continued, stressing that only concrete measures would have an impact on the lives and livelihoods of the most affected.  Such measure would prove that the Commission could fundamentally make a difference.  “Therefore, the role of this session of CSD is more important than ever”, she said.  During the Intergovernmental Meeting, participants had identified a range of policy options and actions for overcoming constraints and obstacles impeding implementation.

She believed the Chair’s negotiation document, forwarded by the Intergovernmental Meeting, was a good basis for discussions.  The Bureau and the Secretariat had received several proposals for changes after that meeting.  To be as transparent as possible, the Bureau had brought together the different proposals in a background document.  The five key messages included:  thinking beyond multiple crises, by investing in institutions; making a home-grown green revolution a reality by sharing knowledge and making technology available in all countries; scaling up practices that had proven successful; increasing national support for sustainable agriculture and rural development; and developing safe and sustainable food chains.

Looking ahead to the next two weeks, when the Commission would focus on its priority areas –- agriculture, rural development, drought, water, land and looking beyond the food crisis -- she said her deepest hope was that countries would make the sustainable agriculture and rural development agenda central to achieving sustainable development and poverty reduction.  “This CSD should aim at providing not only concrete and tangible solutions, but should even more focus on concrete deliverables”, she said, adding:  “So, I say again -- swords into ploughshares, words into action!”

She urged delegations not to underestimate the challenges facing the international community, realizing that a sustainable green revolution required a revolution in ideas, technologies, policies, market access and financial practices.  Moreover, it called for new, creative and innovative thinking, how to best combine science with farmers’ knowledge.  “It must be home grown.  And, more importantly, it calls for concrete deliverable and actions to be implemented”, she reiterated, expressing the belief that solutions could be found with a five-track approach, which would be helpful in addressing current challenges to agricultural development, water management and rural livelihoods.

Detailing that approach, she said discussions on increasing investments in sustainable agriculture, especially in Africa, should focus on capacity-building, improving research, training and extension infrastructure. When identifying ways to create an enabling environment, the focus should be on engaging the private sector and ensuring support for favourable policy frameworks.  She also highlighted the need for:  developing and promoting sustainable production chains for integrating production, processing and marketing; improving market access, especially for developing countries; and ensuring food security and emergency food aid through enhanced safety nets and programmes targeting the most vulnerable communities.

Further on the Commission’s work, she said the current cycle must come up with relevant decisions to advance implementation in the identified thematic areas.  Based on the Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting, she elaborated a “Chair’s negotiating text”, which would serve as the basis for negotiations.  The negotiations should be guided by only one principle:  delegations were attending the session to play their role in the broader international effort “to make poverty history”.  She urged delegations to approach the negotiations in that spirit, and stressed:  “The only -- only -- choice available to us is to succeed.”  It was not only important to agree on an outcome that was owned by everyone, but one which could also make a difference on the ground.

To make the current session more effective and relevant, the Bureau was introducing an innovative approach in organizing the Commission’s work.  That included, for example, the holding of three interactive ministerial round tables on:  responding to the food crisis through sustainable development; realizing a green revolution in Africa; and integrated management of land and water resources for sustainable agricultural and rural development.  She noted that the outcomes of the round tables and ministerial dialogues would lead to a political vision to advance the agenda of sustainable agriculture and rural development.  She clarified that such a vision would not be a negotiated document; the only formal negotiated outcome of the session would be the text she had referred to earlier.

In closing, she said the daunting challenges facing the international community provided the opportunity to make a real difference in expediting the implementation of sustainable development for all.  Her contacts with Governments over the past year had convinced her that the members of the Commission were prepared to break with business as usual.  They were prepared to focus on practical and achievable decisions.  They were prepared to make commitments.  Only by working together could the international community ensure that its collective aspirations for the implementation of a fundamentally changed agricultural policy and green economy would become a reality for the benefit of future generations.  “Swords into ploughshares, words into action!” she said.

ASHA-ROSE MIGIRO, Deputy Secretary-General, said that, with the world’s population projected to reach 9 billion by 2050, addressing the issues of poverty, hunger and food security was a matter of urgency.

“The food crisis that erupted a year and a half ago startled the world community, but it did not happen overnight”, she said.  “We have taken the world’s farmers for granted for too long.  Growing demands on them for food, feed, fibre and, now, fuel, without an adequate policy and support framework, are unsustainable.”

While neglecting to invest sufficiently in agricultural technology and in improving land, soil and water management, the world community had paid insufficient attention to rural infrastructure, she said.  It had failed to connect poor farmers to markets and agricultural value chains.  Except in a few cases, African countries had been stagnating for years, as pests ravaged crops, diseases decimated livestock, and farmer and livestock herders were weakened by  diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

Climate change threatened to further exacerbate the situation, she said.  As soils were depleted, fertilizers remained unaffordable to most and were barely used.  Water scarcity was increasing, and drought and desertification were expanding.  Irrigation was limited to a small share of arable land.  Most farmers were unable to afford capital improvements and, in many places, insecure land tenure -- especially for women -- discouraged such improvements.  Indeed, women’s role in agriculture was not generally and adequately recognized or supported, even though they produced the majority of food in many communities and constituted close to 90 per cent of the agricultural labour force in some countries.

Noting the Commission’s particular focus on Africa, she stressed that, as the epicentre of the global food crisis, the continent needed a green revolution.  Food yields across Africa needed to double to reduce poverty, hunger and malnutrition, as recommended by the Secretary-General’s Millennium Development Goals African Steering Group.  In contrast to the original green revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, which largely bypassed the continent, an African green revolution must be sustainable and respect its diverse cropping systems and ecological conditions.  The revolution should also make the best use of local knowledge and practice, and be based on a respect for biodiversity.

An African green revolution must empower both men and women farmers, particularly smallholders, she continued.  That required enhanced research funding and special efforts to extend the research benefits to the fields.  African farmers should also have equitable access to markets for their products.  Investments should be made in farmers’ organizations and marketing cooperatives to manage risk and assure fair prices.

To that end, she said donor funding should increase and African Governments should receive support, so they could meet the Maputo commitment to raise public spending on agriculture and rural development to 10 per cent of their national budgets.  The Secretary-General’s High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Crisis was working to mobilize support for smallholder farmers.  African Governments should also prepare plans to ensure the effective use of those funds for sustainable gains.  For that, the comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme from the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) provided an overarching framework.

Similarly, agricultural challenges everywhere faced communication, transportation and institutional infrastructure challenges, she said.  New communication technologies would help empower farmers by giving them up-to-date information on crops, weather and prices.  Investment in storage facilities and transportation infrastructure would ensure that all could benefit from favourable market conditions.  Coordinated efforts were needed from farmers, research institutions, extension services, rural financial institutions and the private sector, especially agro-industry.

To support those efforts, she said the international community should take four steps.  First, it should ensure the revival of long-term agricultural investment.  Second, it should shift towards sustainable practices.  Third, global agricultural markets should work in favour of agricultural development in poor countries.  Trade distortions that discouraged such agricultural investment should be phased out, while international grain reserves were used to stabilize prices and protect food-importing countries from market volatility and shortages.  Fourth, finite land and water resources should be managed judiciously to address the multiple challenges of food security, energy security and ecosystem conservation.  Particularly, food security must not suffer from growing demands for biofuels.

She stressed that, although the economic crisis remained at the forefront of global concerns, neither the food crisis nor the climate crisis had gone away.  Governments would meet to seal a climate deal later this year in Copenhagen.  If the climate crisis was not tackled, the world faced a permanent state of economic and ecological crisis.  It must, alternatively, address the current crises holistically, robustly and urgently.  The current session of the Commission could increase momentum to meet those crises and, for the sake of the world’s 1 billion hungry people and the small farmers of Africa and elsewhere, she wished delegations a productive and successful meeting.

Reports of Intersessional Meetings

Vice-Chairman AMIN-MANSUR ( Iran), reported on the “Capacity Development Workshop for Improving Agricultural Productivity, Water Use Efficiency and Rural Livelihood”, which had been held in Bangkok, Thailand, from 28 to 30 January 2009.  He said the Workshop had discussed issues and challenges concerning agricultural water management, rural development, land use planning and management, and had stressed the need for adaptation to climate change.  The recommendations that emerged from the discussions included:  that agricultural productivity should be increased by developing policies with the participation of all stakeholders and focusing on achieving sustained food security; and that promoting integrated management of land and water resources was essential, while also addressing interlinked crises of desertification, land degradation and water scarcity.

Next, Vice-Chairman MBUENDE ( Namibia) reported on the outcome of the Africa high-level intersessional meeting on “African Agriculture in the 21st Century:  Meeting the Challenges, Making a Sustainable Green Revolution”.  He said the meeting had underscored the importance that Africa attached to the Commission’s current thematic cycle, especially since the majority of the continent’s population still lived in rural areas and were dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods.  The meeting observed, among other things, that the challenges facing African agriculture needed to be addressed with a sense of urgency.  It also noted that there was a broad consensus on what the challenges were and what needed to be done to overcome them, as reflected in the outcomes of last year’s Rome and Madrid Conferences on food security.

ILAN SIMON FLUSS ( Israel) then reported on the outcome of the intersessional meeting on “The Role of Native and Desert-Adapted Species for the Purpose of Slowing Desertification”, which took place in Israel from 22 to 30 March 2009.  He said the seminar had been attended by participants of several developing countries and intergovernmental organizations.  They had discussed such matters as agro-forestry, desertification, land reclamation and drylands management, among others.  It had enabled the participants to gain an understanding of the sciences related to desertification, afforestation and irrigation.  The main thrust had been to study best practices and lessons learned in Israel, where much work had gone into curbing desertification and reclaiming degraded forests.

The CHAIR then introduced the Chairman’s negotiating text, which is contained in the report of the Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting (document E/CN.17/2009/2) and opened the floor to the major groups for general statements.

General Statements

NADIA MOHAMED KHAIR OSMAN(Sudan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Commission should take into consideration the special needs of developing countries, particularly those in Africa, the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States.  She urged the international community and the United Nations system to address the needs of countries emerging from conflict in the areas of financial assistance, technical support and infrastructure development.  Advancing the implementation of the agricultural development agenda required renewed commitment and a new vision for global cooperation to implement policies that simultaneously aimed at increasing agricultural production, creating fair trade regimes, conserving natural resources and investing in agricultural-related infrastructure.  In addressing the food crisis, it was essential to address trade and market distortions resulting from subsidies applied by developed countries, financing capacity, the role of indigenous people, and the establishment of conducive economic and market environments.  In particular, the Commission should urge developed countries to eliminate agricultural subsides and to improve market access to developing countries.

Noting the threats posed by desertification, drought and land degradation, she said the international community should use such mechanisms as the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and the Global Environment Facility to intensify support to developing countries.  Technology transfer in promoting sustainable land management was also needed.  She called for a substantial increase and allocation of additional predictable financial resources and investment for agriculture, sustainable land management, rural development, combating land degradation and desertification.  With Africa facing big challenges in each of the session’s thematic areas, the international community should step up its efforts to support the continent’s efforts in reducing poverty and hunger and addressing the current food crisis.  It should focus, in particular, on the agriculture sector, which was key to addressing that crisis.  The commitment of developed countries to allocate .07 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to developing countries via official development assistance (ODA) must be met.  A fully supportive and enabling international environment to vacillate and promote the implementation of national development strategies by developing countries was also critical even in the face of a global economic contraction.

JIRI HLAVACEK, Director, Department of Multilateral Relations, Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the opportunity now existed to capitalize on the work that the international community had been carrying out over the past two years in the Commission’s thematic priority areas.  Indeed, with myriad global challenges affecting all countries and populations, it was more necessary than ever for the Commission to agree on concrete outcomes.  He added that it would also be useful for delegations to make the Commission’s work more efficient and influential, as it prepared for its next thematic cycles.

He went on to say that the European Union believed that the Commission’s outcome document should address, among others, ways to:  promote sustainable agricultural development as a central development policy issue; enhance global food security in the long term, with actions based on sustainable agricultural methods; improve access of developing countries to existing markets and sustainably develop new markets for value-added agricultural products and support regional integration processes; and enhance efforts to reduce desertification and land degradation by encouraging the transfer, dissemination and adaptation of appropriate technologies in affected countries.  He stressed that those, and other priorities, should be underpinned by concrete measures and actions, which the European Union hoped would be agreed upon in the upcoming negotiations.

BENITO S. JIMENEZ SAUMA (Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said agricultural productivity was a significant component in securing food for countries’ citizens and contributing to the development and growth of their economies.  Consequently, the Rio Group sought, in this session, an agreement on polices for achieving sustainable agriculture.  Market distortions created by developed countries subsidies had a negative impact.  Open, transparent and equitable trade conditions were needed, and those subsidies should be phased out.  In light of the food crisis, the Group supported the work of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

He said it was also imperative to reverse the current levels of soil degradation, which jeopardized food security and poverty eradication.  Drought was also a serious obstacle to development and created serious economic losses for hundreds of thousands of people.  Water quality and availability were also dwindling, and sustainable water management was needed to combat those phenomena.  The fact that 25 per cent of the world’s lands that were affected by desertification were in the Rio Group’s region should be recognized and acted on.  In that, priority should be given to the restoration of lands in the process of desertification.  Priority should also be given to the development, dissemination and transfer of new and appropriate technologies for combating densification and soil degradation.  Likewise, access to financial schemes for resources to mitigate and reverse desertification was needed.

DESSIMA WILLIAMS (Grenada), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said that, while her delegation would provide more critical responses to the Commission’s negotiating text later in the day, it would nevertheless stress that the outcome of the current session must acknowledge the current unprecedented global crises, including those driven by economic volatility and climate change.  She said the current text had not captured the urgency of climate change.  For small island developing States, it was both an interconnected crisis that posed barriers to sustainable development, and an issue of economic and psychological survival.

She said the text also deserved a focused and inclusive discussion of the sustainable development concerns of small island developing States.  Given their unique geography, small islands remained strongly dependent on the concrete implementation of sustainable development strategies.  It was for that reason that such steps, as the Mauritius Strategy for Implementation of the Barbados Plan of Action, had identified the Commission as the primary follow-up mechanism to review and discuss the international community’s collective progress in addressing the goals set for small island developing States.  With that in mind, she stressed that all the outcomes of the current session must include “careful and specific” discussion on how to meet the unique implementation needs of small islands.  Delegations must also place more focus on ways to address the “how” and “why” for small island developing States, “with a specificity far greater than superficial political commitments”.

Presentation by Regional Commissions

MASAKAZU ICHIMURA, Chief of the Environment and Development Policy Section, Environment and Development Division, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said the challenges in the region could be summarized as:  change and risk; development gaps; empowerment; and transformation.  The context for sustainable development was changing, due to climate change; tightening links between countries economies and sectors; dependence on exports in an imperfect global trading systems; globalizing consumption and production patterns; and voter/consumer awareness of environmental risk.  The risks were seen in the multiple food, water, energy, financial, ecosystem and human health crises.  Development gaps persisted in the areas of food and agricultural production, wealth and poverty, and infrastructure.  Further gaps existed in certain knowledge bases and in levels of investment in people and research.

Against that backdrop, ESCAP had identified several policy priorities, he said.  In the area of empowerment, those included providing farmers with incentives, providing the means for climate adaptation, developing sustainable consumption and production patterns, and implementing land-tenure reform, among others.  In the transformation area, policies should aim for green growth.  Indeed, a sustainable green revolution was needed and investments should seek to be transformative, rather than delivering more of the same.  He cited initiatives in China and the Republic of Korea, in that regard.

He said that ESCAP was working to encourage policy dialogue and regional consensus-building.  It was also working to foster technical cooperation and pilot programme activity and to conduct analysis and make policy recommendations, in collaboration with other United Nations system actors.  In terms of regional and international cooperation, South-South cooperation had been effective in knowledge-sharing.  Increased levels of investment were needed, however, and more emphasis was needed on “capture” fisheries, food security and rural economic development.  Overall, the ESCAP study had concluded that regional food security priorities were:  improving access to food; promoting sustainable agriculture; and, over the long term, adapting to, and mitigating, climate change.

JOSUE DIONE, Director, Food Security and Sustainable Development Division, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said African countries had identified agriculture as a top priority sector among their efforts to implement NEPAD.  To achieve the identified goals -- especially the aim of the 2003 Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa to devote at least 10 per cent of national budgets to agriculture within five years -- African countries must establish a comprehensive mechanism towards accomplishing that target and tracking continent-wide agricultural expenditures.  African Governments must also work with national and private partners to meet those goals and must also harmonize those efforts with those of international donors, to ensure that relevant interventions did not occur in a fragmented manner.

He went on to highlight the broader challenges facing Africa, including in the other thematic areas on the agenda of the Commission, including land, drought and desertification.  He stressed that, in all such areas, there was the need to mainstream gender into social development and poverty eradication strategies and actions.  The Commission would continue to work at regional and subregional levels to promote collective efforts, with a commitment towards regional integration and expanding opportunities for investment that increased African incomes.  It would also work with the African Union by helping expand its technical capacity, and support and consolidate trends towards peace, stability and democratization.

MARIANNE SCHAPER, Sustainable Development Officer, Sustainable Development and Human Settlements Division, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said the region was marked by small markets and high vulnerability, in terms of growth prospects.  For the most part, the price of agricultural inputs had risen to a greater degree than the price of products.  There had been a great increase in the number of cattle -- a fact that had a great impact on environmental planning.

Turning to lessons learned and regional responses, she said a greater emphasis should be placed on providing services to the rural population where education was lagging, and there were lower levels of production, as a result.  In many regions where food markets had changed, corporate responsibility could play a critical role.  In some communities, calls had been made for the development of a new model of agricultural production.  In general, the absence of trade preferences by developed countries towards developing ones should be addressed.  Policies that promoted agricultural development were also needed, including policies for microcredit and those that favoured the development of risk-mitigation schemes.  An integral approach that incorporated water and river basin management with land management methods would also be beneficial, and should consider the pollution of soil, air and water.  In other areas, waste collection should be improved.

Turning to land, she stressed the need for improvements in land tenure regimes.  Good practices in agro-chemicals was largely absent and should be addressed.  Further investment should be made in programmes that addressed the challenges of drought.  Drought-resistant plants better-suited to arid regions should be introduced on a wider basis.  Subregional and national efforts and mechanisms had been developed to combat desertification, but the relevant expertise of traditional knowledge and practices needed to be incorporated.  Environmental externalities also had to be taken into account by those strategies.

MARCO KEINER, Director, Environment, Housing and Land Management Division, Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), focusing on land issues, said some of the most important challenges in the European region pertained to sustainable land management, land tenure, housing and resettlement.  The Commission’s Committee on Housing and Land Management and its Working Party on Land Administration dealt with such matters and had identified several areas of focus, including access to land and security of tenure; improved spatial planning policies; better urban environmental performance; and strengthening social cohesion in cities.

He went on to say that the ECE also addressed such issues as urban sprawl, as well as the policy implications in such areas as reducing transaction costs, and ensuring solid legal systems for securing property rights.  It also focused on increased housing and real estate market regulation in transition countries.  Finally, he noted that the Commission had organized workshops on, among others, the use of electronic technologies to upgrade spatial data infrastructure, and application of cost recovery mechanisms in cadastre and registration services.

CAROL CHOUCHANI CHERFANE, Chief of the Water Resources Section, Sustainable Development and Productivity Division, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said that, as one of the most arid and water-scarce regions of the world, the region had to overcome daunting challenges and constraints when addressing agriculture, rural development, land, drought and desertification.  It was useful to consider that many countries in the region had undertaken structural policy changes due to food security concerns and were now looking to other Arab countries, Africa and Asia to ensure food security, rather than pursuing food self-sufficiency policies.  Non-conventional water resources were no longer unconventional, with desalinization and water reuse as major components of water supply development programmes in many Arab countries.  Conflict and crisis continued to plague the region, making it difficult to engage in long-term strategic and integrated planning involving land and water management.  Climate change, population growth and unsustainable consumption and production patterns placed additional multiplier effects on already difficult circumstances.

In this regional context, she said policies and measures should strive to increase capacity-building, institution-building, private sector development, community-based development focusing on women and youth, access to finance, scientific research and development, technology transfer, knowledge management and risk-mitigation and early-warning systems.  Specific measures had been created in each of the relevant thematic areas -- agriculture, rural development, land, drought and desertification.  Regional and international cooperation could provide and encourage financial and technical programmes that incorporated the specificities and comparative advantages of each Arab country, thereby providing technical assistance in, among other things, desertification and climate change mitigation schemes.

Opening the interactive dialogue, Venezuela’s representative observed that, in the ECLAC presentation, no reference had been made to biofuels -- an area in which the region had been very active, particularly in reducing the energy bills of the world’s poorest countries.  There had also been no reference to enhanced South-South cooperation, nor had any specific reference been made to joint actions being taken to address the food crisis.

Lebanon’s representative, noting the ECE representative’s comments on land management, land tenure, housing and resettlement, wondered how those efforts could be replicated in his region.  He also suggested that the issue of deforestation should be included in the ESCWA report.  He also wondered if ECA was prioritizing regional strategies, rather than focusing on improvements at the local and national levels.

Addressing the presentation made by ECLAC, the representative of Grenada asked how the agricultural model could be changed to respond to the current crises.  Specifically, what cultural model could be developed to hasten the types of changes being called for?

The representative of Iraq suggested that more attention should have been paid to the reuse of water in agriculture in the ESCWA presentation, which had also not paid sufficient attention to the recycling of water resources.  In addition to water, land conservation was critical in increasing agriculture development and production.

Kyrgyzstan’s delegate said it was important for his regional commission to pay attention to the problem of disappearing glaciers now, even though the problem might not be acute for decades.

Responding to those questions and comments, Ms. CHERFANE said the full version of the ESCWA report had referenced the need for unconventional water resources, including in irrigation for agricultural production.  She agreed that land conservation should be a greater focus.

Mr. KEINER said Lebanon’s proposal that land management, housing and settlement programmes should be extended to agricultural areas was “quite right and necessary”.  Due to an ongoing process of segregation, in which small farmers could no longer afford land, there was certainly room for those measures.  He supported the call for a focus on climate change, in light of the problem of disappearing ice caps and diminishing water resources.

Ms. SCHAPER said the presentation had not been intentionally negative.  Indeed, the agriculture sector in Latin America and the Caribbean had grown quite quickly -- and more than the general economy.  But, that had not eradicated rural poverty, nor had it prevented degradation in the environment.  An analysis of the energy sector was also important, and had been included in the full report.  She said a new agricultural development model should respond to climate change, changes in land use, and a reduction in preferences for agricultural products.  Countries in the region were approaching ECLAC to request that the new model improve on the current one by focusing on social developments.

Mr. DIONE said the question from Lebanon was relevant, but what he had mentioned had been a national-level land policy that was developed from the bottom up, in such a way that took into consideration local circumstances.  In response to comments from Grenada about why Africa continued to lag behind in those areas, he stressed that the clear problem of resource constraints played a critical role in preventing concrete improvements.

Mr. ICHIMURA said that a key message from the five regional commissions had been the confirmation that, while signs of sustainability were seen here and there, more efforts were needed.  The common elements in the presentations included:  the importance of an integrated policy approach that addressed social, economic, technical and environmental questions; and the need to promote further international cooperation along with a multi-stakeholder approach.

AHMAD AL-JARMAN (United Arab Emirates), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group and associating his statement with the one made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, emphasized the persistent need to ensure the balance between economic development, social development and environmental protection.  The ESCWA implementation report for the Arab region had been adopted by the Arab Ministerial Council on environment affairs at its ninth session in December 2007.  He also underlined the outcomes of the Arab Economic, Social and Development Summit held in Kuwait in January 2009 and its resolutions on the financial crisis, food security and a broad range of economic, social and development issues.

Despite some progress, Arab countries continued to suffer from the volatility of food prices, which had expanded the circle of poverty and undermined achievements in eradicating poverty.  The international community needed to continue to confront the crisis, especially its causes.  In that regard, the Arab Group was looking carefully at the Global Partnership Initiative on Agriculture and Food Security.  Any dialogue on that initiative needed to be carried out in a transparent manner with the participation of all countries.

He called for an increase of investment in the agricultural sector and the strengthening of South-South and triangular cooperation.  Immediate assistance should be provided to the countries most vulnerable to the food crisis.  The transfer of advanced knowledge and technology in agriculture and agricultural industries, along with the reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers, was also needed.  Agricultural wastes should be used for producing biofuels.  Further, the damage caused in the occupied Arab lands needed to be addressed, particularly the severe damage to natural land and water resources and the ongoing problems caused by war remnants from cluster bombs dropped in June 2006 in Lebanon.  On a regional level, Arab countries were making efforts to address climate change, but those efforts required the support of the international community.  He called for new and additional financial resources for development, as well as a just international trade and financial system.

MARLENE MOSES (Nauru), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States and associating her statement with the one made on behalf of AOSIS, said those members that were a member of the Group of 77 and China associated themselves with the remarks made on its behalf.  She emphasized the need for assistance, including direct assistance to local communities, to increase domestic agricultural production to address food security needs and, where possible, export markets.  Infrastructure should be developed in rural areas to ensure that local structures supported greater efficiency and output.  They should also increase human capacity by educating women and youth in sustainable practices.  Land reform processes should increase cultural sensitivity and recognize customary land tenure.  More awareness about the impacts of sea-level rise was also needed.  Accordingly, assistance was being sought in developing and implementing climate-sensitive land conservation strategies that also addressed agriculture, coastal resources such as mangroves and reefs, water security and erosion.

She said the region should also address the implementation gap between international commitment and concrete results, especially with regard to access to funding mechanisms.  Further, climate change, food security and gender were cross-cutting issues that deserved attention and consideration.  Investment and action were needed to scale up agricultural and fishery production.  Traditional knowledge should be incorporated to improve efficiency and sustainable production.  Assistance was needed to improve statistics and data management capabilities, and to ensure timely early-warning systems.  Assistance to women’s access to land and decision-making processes was also sought.  Overall, efforts should move beyond policy studies to action.

ABDALMAHOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMED (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the African Group, recalled that, at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, the international community had committed itself to support Africa in meeting mounting development challenges.  The international community had again been reminded of its commitment to Africa in the political declaration that served as the outcome of the General Assembly’s high-level meeting on the continent’s development needs.  He noted that Africa remained the planet’s least developed continent and was currently not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  Moreover, current parallel crises threatened to erode even the fragile socio-economic gains Africa had made in recent years.

He went on to say that Africa had taken steps to improve its situation and address its sustainable development challenges, most comprehensively through NEPAD.  Indeed, despite that plan’s limited resources, it had contributed to Africa’s efforts to improve infrastructure and institutional capacity in a number of areas, including agriculture, rural development and environment.  However, the key to the solution to Africa’s sustainable development problems lay in reinvigorating the commitment of the international community in bolstering implementation of the Johannesburg Plan of Action, as well as Agenda 21.  Moreover, Africa must be adequately represented at all levels in all multilateral forums.  There remained a serious democracy and governance deficit in institutions like the recently established G-20, which was making decision that directly affected Africa.

JOHN M. MATUSZAK, Division Chief, Sustainable Development and Multilateral Affairs, Office of Environmental Policy, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, United States State Department, said the Commission’s challenge over the next two weeks was to define pragmatic sustainable development solutions to the current daunting list of global challenges.  “We need to consider new ideas and, at the same time, be practical and realistic, as we account for the real-world details of successful implementation”, he said, adding that the Commission’s vast scope demanded that delegations focused on points of maximum leverage.

Continuing on that point, he urged delegations to think carefully about how change actually occurred.  The United States believed that the path forward required, among other things, expanded support for science, research and education; empowerment of local economies to make decisions; and creative use of communications technology to make information widely available.  He also stressed that the Commission must carefully define its unique contributions and avoid duplication with other entities already providing international leadership in the area of priority themes.

TAKESHI OSUGA ( Japan) said his country had hosted the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) in May and chaired the G-8 Summit in July.  During those summit meetings, the Japanese Government had focused on the same themes that were now before the Commission.  Its initiatives had echoed those taken within the United Nations framework and the Chair’s negotiating document captured well the international debate being held on those issues.

He said Japan was a major donor in the agricultural sector, contributing one third of the total ODA of the Development Assistance Committee countries in that sector.  In extending aid, it applied a human security approach by working to increase production of food staples, which ensured “down to the ground” vision.   Japan welcomed the emphasis made in the draft negotiating document on capacity-building and the empowerment of individuals and communities, as well as bottom-up approaches.  For the Commission to display its added value vis-à-vis other forums within and outside the United Nations system, the debate should concentrate on those issues directly linked to the themes on the agenda.  In other words, the Commission should not weaken its unique role in harmonizing the environmental agenda with the social and economic development agenda by debating subjects that could be dealt with in those other forums.

DMITRY I. MAKSIMYCHEV ( Russian Federation) said the issue of sustainable development was quite rightly found at the top of the international agenda.  His country intended to intensify its commitment to that area on both the national and international levels.  It was of crucial importance to move the session’s work towards the development of balanced and carefully thought-out recommendations.  The draft negotiating text was a good basis for that discussion.  In that process, the economic, development and social dimensions of each country should be taken into account.  Translating those goals into concrete actions was important to the Russian Federation, and he cited his country’s recently adopted policies that supported those goals, in that regard.

YOUN JONG KWON ( Republic of Korea) said the international community was gathering amid challenges that were becoming evermore interlinked.  Therefore, the need for collective, comprehensive action was more necessary than ever before.  He said the Commission had chosen timely issues to consider during its policy session.  In order to ensure much-needed action in the priority areas, there was a need to take into account the national circumstances of individual States.  Indeed, global actors should be facilitators, rather than managers of the implementation of agreed policies and programmes.  On the Commission’s working methods, he urged that the procedures of its working groups should be made clear well in advance.  The work of those groups should also be well coordinated.

AMMAR HIJAZI, Observer for Palestine, said the Palestinian people lived under occupation and were deprived of all control over land and resources.  Undoubtedly, that had serious and negative impacts on their efforts to boost the agriculture sector and achieve socio-economic sustainability.  As the Commission sought to identify concrete policy measures to promote agricultural and rural development, he hoped it would take into account the special needs of people living under foreign occupation.  That would send the positive and necessary message that people like the Palestinian people would not be left alone.  The Palestinian people knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that development could not occur in the face of oppression and degradation.  The struggle of the Palestinian people to achieve rightful self-determination would continue.  In the meantime, however, the Palestinian people would count on the Commission and other bodies to highlight their plight and press for an end to the oppression under which they lived.

Mr. FLUSS ( Israel) said that addressing thematic issues on the Commission’s agenda required a spirit of cooperation, and his country looked forward to that effort.  Those issues should also be addressed in the international context through, among other things, consideration of the effects of the financial, fuel and food crises.   Israel looked forward to drawing from the Chair’s negotiating text as the basis for the Commission’s negotiations.  He called on all members to resolve to strengthen the Commission’s effectiveness by focusing on commonalities and by avoiding a political approach that prevented a useful and successful outcome.

The representative of women’s civil society groups stressed that women were too often considered as a target group, rather than actors with power to effect change.  When women were positioned equability in society, there would be direct improvements that would be enjoyed by all.  The focus should be on gender mainstreaming, so that the needs and capabilities of women were harnessed effectively.  That should be done in a way that recognized the roles of women as primary food producers and environment managers.  Further, women must learn to carry out technical procedures and methods, as well as business management tasks, to enhance their capabilities in the agricultural sector.  Technical training should, thus, be encouraged and facilitated.

On a point of order, the representative of the United States said it was unfortunate that the representative of major groups were being given only one minute to speak, as sustainable development critically depended on the efforts and initiatives of those groups.

The representative of children and youth said that all stakeholders, especially the youth, should be involved in gathering information about, and developing policies to addresses, the issues at hand.  Through collaboration, it would be possible to take decisions that created a more just and equitable world.  “Our lives depend on how the policies being discussed here are implemented at home”, she stressed.

Next, a representative of indigenous peoples’ groups said her delegation had one key message for the Commission:  the current situation in which the world found itself, with its economies and ecosystems crashing under the weight of unsustainable consumption, was the direct result of industrial practices and mechanisms that put natural resource extraction and wealth concentration in the privileged hands of rich and powerful Governments and corporations.  Given the roots of the current crises, Commission negotiators must work to shift the emphasis towards valuing ecosystems and enhancing the role of indigenous peoples, small farmers, fisher folk, land-based producers and pastoralists.

A representative of non-governmental organizations said the world expected no less than a decisive response from the Commission.  The outcome of the session must identify concrete policies leading to enhanced policymaking in the areas of sustainable agricultural and rural development.  “Business as usual is not an option”, she said, stressing that all actions needed to be accompanied by appropriate follow-up mechanisms to ensure full implementation.  “We dare Governments to be bold and radical and to make CSD relevant in this most challenging of times”, she said.

A representative of local authorities said that local Governments worldwide were committed to ensuring achievement of the Millennium Development Goals through integrated management polices based on the close connections between the economy, society, ecology and good governance.  His delegation recommended the immediate examination of the effects of the current global financial crisis and the growing impact of climate change on each of the thematic priority areas identified by the Commission.  He added that local authorities were the closest level of Government to the people and were the ones that would put into practice the recommendations of the Commission.  Local Governments could also help promote sustainable production and consumption activities through private and public awareness programmes.

A representative of workers and trade unions said that, in the context of multiple crises, the opportunity for agricultural practice to ensure the right to food should not be missed.  Inequality was rampant in the world and actions needed to be taken to protect rural and urban workers.  There was a need for a shift from informal to formal work in the agricultural sector, where increased earnings were needed, particularly for women and younger workers.  Moreover, the text did not sufficiently reflect the fact that agriculture remained one of the three most dangerous areas of work in the world.

A representative of business and industry said a mosaic of solutions through the joint efforts of all stakeholders would be needed and cited as an important example the multi-stakeholder effort “Farming First”.  That initiative emphasized that returning farmers to the centre of policy decisions was fundamental to sustainable development.  Governments, businesses and civil society groups should focus on the source of food security, especially smallholders, to grow more crops sustainably through effective markets, stepped up collaborative research and committed sharing of knowledge.  To that end, the Farming First framework proposed six interlinked imperatives:  safeguard natural resources, share knowledge, build local access, protect harvests, enable access to markets, and prioritize research imperatives.

Following that intervention, a representative of the scientific and technological community said science, engineering and technology must be central to efforts to ensure sustainable development and other issues on the agenda of the Commission.  The long trend of declining investments in agricultural research, science and technology, research, education and extension services, must be reversed.

Knowledge and technology must be better targeted to the needs of small-scale farmers, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa, who were among the poorest in the world.  Critical gaps in knowledge in areas of climate change and food security must be addressed through an interdisciplinary approach, he said, adding that a green revolution called for new, creative and innovative thinking as to how to combine the best science with farmers’ local knowledge.

Finally, a representative of the farmers’ group said that, while his delegation was satisfied that agricultural and rural development were well represented in the Commission’s agenda, he hoped that such recognition would lead to the broad awareness that “there can be no food security without farmer security”.  The Commission must, therefore, ensure that public policies for the development of agriculture and rural development and rural economies be knowledge-based and people-centred.  It must also encourage increased long-term investment in agricultural development.  While his delegation believed the Chairman’s text was “thorough”, he believed it would be even stronger if it was more focused on outcomes, to avoid ending up with a “shopping list of good intentions”.

Comments on Chair’s Negotiating Text

Sudan’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the text failed to capture the severity of the climate crisis.  Given the strong links between climate change and sustainable development, it should further underline the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.  It should also more concretely highlight the sovereignty of States over their national resources.

Speaking also on behalf the African Group, she went on to say that the cluster on Africa should be strengthened and balanced.  The text’s current “positive spin” was unrealistic.  She reiterated calls for an African green revolution.  The assumption existing in paragraph 30 that certain issues were endemic to one particular region of the world should be revisited.

The representative of the Czech Republic, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the text’s clear message should confirm that sustainable agriculture and rural development should be at the centre of a long-term development and poverty-eradication policies.  These should, in turn, be carefully designed and based on principles of sustainability and take into account mitigation adaptation measures to climate change, the importance of water-saving measures, the crucial role of soil and land management, and the strong links among these, to ensure long-term food security and sustainable development.  It was hoped that the Commission would strengthen this message, channel it sufficiently to all relevant international bodies, and ensure follow-up to its policy decisions.

He further stressed that the text should also aim for basic internationally harmonized standards for sustainable agricultural production.  In that, the sustainable production of bioenergy should be ensured through the creation of international sustainability criteria for bioenergy.

Speakers from small island developing States said it was regrettable that the text had largely failed to capture the dizzying speed with which the global economic system was unravelling and its impact on them.  Grenada’s representative, speaking on behalf of the AOSIS, said the text should include a separate section on those States to underscore the crucial needs of, and key policy options for, them.  In that, more substantive reference to the Mauritius Strategy was required.  Food security should be included as a cross-cutting issue.  In light of the potential impact of climate change in terms of sea-level rise and the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather, the text should present an integrated approach to address the challenges of climate change to biodiversity, land and ecosystems management.

In a similar vein, Nauru’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States, said the text should suggest how food security challenges could be improved with partnerships that addressed reliance on imported food and reduced vulnerability to price shocks.  Language should also be considered to bolster the framework on customary ownership within land-management strategies.

A number of speakers also suggested the text could more effectively address land-management issues, including the need forland-tenure reform, by incorporating more action-oriented language.   Canada’s representative called for the development of scientific baseline standards that could be used to measure the effects of drought and desertification.   Indonesia’s representative said the preservation of forest resources should not be overlooked as an integral part of sustainable land management.  Efforts to reduce deforestation and land degradation were inextricably linked to poverty eradication and employment creation in developing countries, and an international framework was needed to provide incentives for carbon sequestration, afforestation and reforestation.

While many speakers underscored the role of small-scale farmers in promoting sustainable farming practices for the purpose of reducing poverty, the United States representative said agriculture at all levels should be addressed.  Further, agriculture should be understood to include such areas as agro-forestry and aquaculture, not just farming.  More language to promote women farmers and rural cooperatives was also needed.

Several delegations underscored the barriers created by agricultural tariffs and subsidies.  In that regard, Argentina’s representative highlighted several paragraphs of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, which call for enhanced access to existing markets and the development of new markets for agricultural products.  Other delegations called for a resumption of World Trade Organization negotiations, while others underlined the need to encourage strong rural-urban linkages, particularly through markets.

Also making comments on the text were representatives of China, Brazil, Switzerland, India, Norway, Mexico, Australia, Côte d’Ivoire, Lebanon, Japan, Morocco and Peru.

Representatives of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also spoke.

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*     The 1st Meeting was covered in Press Release ENV/DEV/988 dated 16 May 2008.

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.