2 July 2003


Press Release



Speakers Note National Constraints,

Challenges, Expectations of International Community

(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 2 July (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) this morning continued to hear addresses from government ministers and officials during its high-level segment on an integrated approach to rural development.  Issues related to agricultural subsidies, growth enabling environments, fair terms of trade, investment in social services and infrastructure, and the expectations of both developed and developing countries were raised.

Many speakers from developing countries highlighted specific national constraints they faced in implementing an integrated approach to rural development.  These constraints included the HIV/AIDS pandemic; the lack of infrastructure; environmental degradation; lack of natural resources; extreme poverty; and war and conflict.  They said the international community should increase –- in moral, material and financial terms -– solidarity extended to developing countries, and should address asymmetries in trade between rich and poor countries by progressively eliminating barriers to markets.

Seraphine Wakana, Minister for Development Planning and Reconstruction of Burundi, said that as a result of the war, there had been a sharp social and economic decline in Burundi; the budget deficit had doubled; the number of internally displaced persons had increased; and due to the lack of infrastructure, malaria and the HIV/AIDS pandemic had been unstoppable.  Burundi’s development had been set back 15 years, she said.  One of the first priorities of rural development must therefore be peace and security, and the international community needed to assist post-war countries in their path to development. 

Mohd. Effendi Norwawi, Minister of Agriculture of Malaysia, said the crux to the issue of sustainability for the rural sector in general and the agriculture sector in particular, hinged, to a large extent, on developments at the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations.  Speaking about the requirements for developments internationally, he stressed that the protectionist attitude prevailing in developed countries posed a real threat to rural development in developing countries.  The WTO negotiations must consider the plight of people in rural areas and ensure their fair treatment. 

Semaluka Kiwanuka, Minister of State for the Luwero Triangle at the Office of the Prime Minister of Uganda, said that agricultural development in Africa required international attention and assistance.  The agricultural sector in Africa had been described as an engine that had stalled, but the green revolution that had revolutionized the food situation and banished hunger from Asia had bypassed Africa.  Africa therefore needed to see marked improvement in rural infrastructure, technologies, education and training, market development, the development of agro-industries, irrigation and affordable credit.

Maokola Majogo, Minister of State at the Office of the Vice-President of the United Republic of Tanzania, said sustainable rural development required the addressing of the needs for local and civil society capacity-building; the creation of economic opportunities for both the rural and urban poor; the maintenance of support to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups; the harmonization of development assistance; and dealing with issues of external indebtedness, declining official development assistance, and the non-implementation of internationally agreed commitments.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council heard a short detailed presentation on software developed at the International Health Karolinska Institute of Sweden on the World Development Chart.  The presentation was given by Professor Hans Rosling who stressed the need to be able to visualize development trends in order to understand how development variables interacted over time.

Also speaking today were Petko Draganov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria; Immanuel Ngatjizeko, Director-General of the National Planning Commission of Namibia; Ali Koshroo, Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs of Iran; Joao Carrilho, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Mozambique; Rosella Cominetti, Director-General of Production of INDAP at the Ministry of Agriculture of Chile; and Bjorn Skogmo, Deputy Secretary-General at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway.

Representatives of Saudi Arabia, France, Ecuador, Mauritius, China, and Bangladesh also participated in the debate. 

The ECOSOC also heard from the Institution for the Use of Micro-Algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and the World Federation of United Nations Associations.

Before concluding its meeting, ECOSOC viewed a short video presentation by All India Women’s Education Fund Association on empowerment of women through education, introduced by Veena Singh.  

The ECOSOC will reconvene at 3 p.m. this afternoon when it is expected to conclude its high-level segment and adopt a Ministerial Declaration on rural development.  


PETKO DRAGANOV, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, said that serious opportunities for development cooperation between economies in transition and developing countries existed, which could help to achieve greater efficiency of development efforts, official development assistance and resource utilization.  The past and recent experience of these economies in transition should be used as a frame of reference by developing countries when designing and implementing various policies of development. 

For example, he said that one important lesson was the need for balance between policy areas -- the need for an integrated approach to the work on all aspects of sustainable development.  Also, it was important to realize that the sector-based approach to development, followed for decades, had created policy cycles in which great accomplishments in one area came at the expense of serious damage in others.  The way forward for sustainable development should incorporate partnerships of all interested actors -– economies in transition, and Bulgaria in particular, had the capacity for result-oriented cooperation in matters of development.

SERAPHINE WAKANA, Minister for Development Planning of Burundi, said the theme chosen by the Economic and Social Council –- an integrated approach to rural development -- touched the very heart of Burundi’s concerns since about 93 per cent of its population was rural.  The ECOSOC was reminded that Burundi had been confronted with a war that had resulted in the sharp decline of the social and economic reality of the country.  The budget deficit had doubled; there had been an increase in internally displaced people; and the impact of malaria and the HIV/AIDS pandemic could not be underestimated.  The HIV/AIDS pandemic had disproportionately affected Burundi since the country’s infrastructure, both in terms of health and social services, had been destroyed by the war.  These challenges had cost Burundi 15 years of progress.  Despite the difficult situation, the population of Burundi had not remained idle.  One of the first priorities had been the consolidation of peace and security. 

It was stressed that Burundi was not the only country to have faced post-war difficulties.  There was a need to address the post-war situation regionally; to resettle victims of war and to train people.  A trained and healthy population would be able to engage in revenue gaining activities, improving the overall socio-economic situation.  The contribution of the international community was critical in this regard.  For Burundi to continue to deal with its post-war development, international assistance must be stepped up.  In Burundi, such assistance would mainly target rural micro-credit schemes.  The strengthening of air transport would assist Burundi in overcoming its difficulties in being a landlocked developing country. 

IMMANUEL NGATJIZEKO, Director-General of the National Planning Commission of Namibia, said that his country had taken major steps in addressing rural development, including providing free basic education to all children aged six to 16 years, as well as higher education for many Namibians; linking many rural villages up to the national power grid and upgrading existing roads and creating new ones; providing clean and safe water to the entire population; and implementing extensive countrywide immunization campaigns, which aimed to improve health and social well-being.  However, land reform remained one of the most pressing problems facing Namibia, although legal provisions such as the Married People Equity Act provided for more equity and gender-balanced access to land.

However, he said that despite the progress made in promoting rural development, national efforts were being derailed by the scourge of HIV/AIDS; Namibia ranked among the highest affected countries in the world.  Thus, the Government had enacted several programmes to assist those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, including educational programmes, care and support for orphans and vulnerable children, distribution of anti-retroviral drugs, and training for educators, counselors and home-based care-givers.  Other impediments to rural development and poverty alleviation in Namibia included limited capacity to implement national plans; limited financial resources; and unfavourable terms of international trade.  Yet, Namibia remained determined to face these challenges with its comparative advantages, which included good infrastructure and communication networks and political stability.

MOHD. EFFENDI NORWAWI, Minister of Agriculture of Malaysia, said the crux to the issue of sustainability for the rural sector in general and the agriculture sector in particular, hinged, to a large extent, on developments at the World Trade Organization negotiations.  The agriculture sector provided substantive contributions to the national gross domestic product (GDP), both in the form of raw commodities, semi-processed and processed products.  Prior to the establishment of the WTO, there were high hopes that negotiations on the Agreement on Agriculture would bring greater liberalization in the agriculture sector, thereby providing bigger market access to agriculture products which were the main export of so many developing countries.  However, this did not seem to be so.  According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the average global tariff on non-agricultural products was at 4 per cent, whereas the average tariff on agricultural products remained at 62 per cent.  It was apparent that tariffs for agricultural products were still prohibitively high. 

The protectionist attitude prevailing in developing countries posed a real threat to rural development in developing countries.  There was also a need to address the issue of subsidies in developed countries since their implications were two-fold.  First, subsidized agricultural products in developed countries had made agricultural products from developing countries uncompetitive in the world market.  Second, subsidized agricultural products often depressed world prices of commodities.  The success of the WTO negotiations to agree to an equitable market arrangement was critical.  It was time they considered the plight of billions of people in rural areas to ensure they were not unjustly impacted. 

G. ALI KHOSHROO, Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs of Iran, said that regional disparities had been growing rapidly in Iran, leading to serious problems including migration to cities and more affluent rural areas.  Thus, Iran had embarked upon a systematic plan for rural development and the reduction of regional disparities, which included the development of an energy sector compatible with sustainable development and the livelihood of present and future generations.  Moreover, the Government believed that rural areas could only be developed and poverty eradicated if food was available to all, if sufficient employment opportunities were presented to the rural population, and if education and health for all were secured.

The United Nations had already realized considerable efforts in these areas, he said, but the integrated approach espoused must be more coherent between national governments and international organizations.  For example, these issues were subject to World Trade Organization negotiations because of their trade dimensions.  Thus, United Nations efforts to eradicate poverty should be accompanied by a serious commitment by international trade organizations and their developed members to facilitate all the necessary means and measures to achieve an improved market share and special treatment for developing countries, which would enable the international economic environment to support national development efforts.  The continuance of domestic support and export subsidies in the developed world would have serious effects on the developing world such as the disappearance of employment opportunities and subsequent migration and illicit narcotics cultivation.

SEMAKULA KIWANUKA, Minister of State for the Luwero Triangle in the Office of the Prime Minister of Uganda, said that rural development was a multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral activity, the approach to which should be comprehensive and integrated to include the agricultural, education, health, transport, water and sanitation, energy sectors –- the whole spectrum of political, social and financial infrastructures.  Moreover, among the issues critical to development, which were seldom given the attention they deserved, were the informal sector –- a focus on the development of which would create a source of employment for women and youth and greatly reduce the urban pull/rural push phenomenon, the link between economic growth and rural development and the need for peace and security and global partnerships. 

In this context of peace and security promotion, he said donors could play a useful role in the building of institutions for democracy and good governance and in the development of civil society in the new and emerging democracies of Africa.  Furthermore, human resource development was important to peace and security in the need for an accountable, political leadership as the bedrock of democracy and good governance.

He also said that agricultural development was an area which required critical attention in Africa.  Not only had the agricultural sector in Africa been described as an engine that had stalled, but the green revolution that had revolutionized the food situation and banished hunger from Asia had bypassed Africa.  To achieve its own green revolution, Africa needed to see marked improvement in rural infrastructure, in the volume and quality of high yielding and seed varieties, technologies, education and training, market development, the development of agro-industries, irrigation and affordable credit.

JOAO MANUEL CARRILHO, Deputy Minster of Agriculture and Rural Development Mozambique, said Mozambican agriculture faced the challenge of maintaining reasonable growth rates and broadening the base of beneficiaries of such growth without the depletion of natural resources.  Agricultural development would go hand in hand with the development of rural markets and agro-industries, as well as with the development of institutions such as farmers’ organizations, saving and credit institutions, and the devolution to rural communities of the power to manage their territories.  From the international community, he expected that it kept and, if possible, increased the solidarity extended to developing countries both in moral and material terms.  It was expected that developed countries would agree to the reduction of asymmetries in trade between rich and poor countries, by progressively eliminating barriers to markets, and would respond to the need to increase official development assistance. 

Official Development Assistance was welcomed in poor countries.  However, sometimes, because of the mechanisms by which it was provided, and the number of intermediaries used, as well as because of some domestic inefficiencies, it contributed to market distortions and only a small share arrived to the target population.  It was time for the global partnerships and individual donors to evaluate such impacts and devise creative ways to overcome them.  

EDGAR D. MAOKOLA-MAJOGO, Minister of State for Poverty Eradication in the Vice-President’s Office of the United Republic of Tanzania, said that Tanzania was currently implementing the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper for the third year, which was done in recognition that rural Tanzania accommodated 80 per cent of the population, and the rural population accounting for 87 per cent of the poor.  Rural forms of poverty included poor access to social services, poor rural infrastructure, limited access to micro-finance services and limited income earning opportunities outside the farm.  Thus, in collaboration with stakeholders including civil society and development partners, the Government had developed a Rural Development Strategy (RDS) and an Agricultural Sector Development Strategy (ASDS).

The strategic interventions of the RDS, he said, were categorized in four main areas including promoting pro-poor growth, increasing the opportunities and access to basic services of the poor, reducing risks and vulnerability, and adherence to the principles of good governance.  Improving the living standard of rural people would depend upon intensifying and commercializing small-holder agriculture, providing infrastructure and services, improving access to assets such as education, health, land, financial services and markets, and ensuring the sustainable management of the natural resource base.

Although Tanzania had made progress in reducing poverty levels, he admitted the country still faced a number of challenges in view of the continued unacceptable poverty levels, which included ensuring the sustainability of Tanzania’s achievements.  Moreover, sustainable poverty reductions and rural development would require addressing needs for capacity-building at the level of local communities and civil society, the provision of opportunities for economic empowerment to both the rural and urban poor, the provision and maintenance of support to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, the harmonization of development assistance, and dealing with issues of external indebtedness, declining official development assistance, and the non-implementation of internationally agreed commitments.

ROSELLA COMINETTI, Director-General of Production of INDAP at the Ministry of Agriculture of Chile, elaborated on some of the policies and initiatives undertaken by the Government of Chile in order to implement the Millennium Development Goals.  Chile had managed to grow in a relatively stable manner despite the current international economic setting.  There had therefore been a marked drop in poverty levels in the last decade.  According to statistics on housing, during the 1990s, Chile had experienced a significant transformation in the rural sector due to the improvement in social services and transportation infrastructure.  The standards of living had therefore improved somewhat in the rural areas.  However, the Government still faced problems in the difference of living standards between rural and urban poverty.

The Government had increased its social and infrastructure expenditure and implemented a range of programmes to strengthen the capacities of rural areas.  New programmes had been implemented to address marginalized rural groups, including women and indigenous communities.  Productive matters had been addressed as well as local development and environmental sustainability.   The Government aimed to provide the conditions, capacities and opportunities for rural families to enable them to modernize and meet new challenges.  The Chilean development policies were implemented with flexibility and in accordance to the diversity of needs of the population. 

BJORN SKOGMO, Deputy Secretary-General at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, said that increased awareness of the need for rural and agricultural development had resulted in his country commissioning a group of independent experts to analyze and report on how to strategically increase the focus on agriculture in a broader development perspective, the findings of which were now being translated into policy recommendations.  In Norway’s view, an integrated approach to rural development for poverty alleviation should focus on the question of access.  A staunch supporter of further trade liberalization, Norway remained fully committed to the timely fulfilment of the Doha mandate, including that on agriculture.  With the exception of arms, all tariffs and quotas for the products of least developed countries had already been abolished.

Access to productive assets as well as to markets, he stressed, was needed for participation in a market-driven economy so as to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  The poor must have access to land, financial credit, infrastructure such as roads, electricity and telecommunications, and to basic services such as water, sanitation, health and education.  Among the particular issues deserving critical attention was the need to reform and formalize land ownership rights, to empower women and facilitate their participation at all levels of decision-making and to recognize the needs of vulnerable groups such as minorities and indigenous people.  Moreover, though primary responsibility for poverty eradication and sustainable development lay with national governments, the international community should ensure the provision of a more open trading system, increased official development aid and enhanced debt relief.

ABDULWAHAB A. ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) said that the roots of the problem preventing rural development and the eradication of poverty lay with the lack of fairness of the world order and the trade barriers imposed on developing countries.  It was stressed that developed countries had a responsibility to allay the fears and doubts of the developing countries concerning the world trade regime, and they should honour the commitments they had made.  It was essential that the protectionist attitudes of developed countries be reversed.  International development was a common interest and the subsidies granted by developed countries to their producers made it impossible for developing countries to compete.  There were indications that globalization had made the challenge of development more complex.  More work was needed due to the current economic slowdown and fluctuations in commodity prices.  Social, economic and cultural rights must be ensured, he said, and stressed the need of giving priority to the most vulnerable and deprived people.

The donor countries must help developing countries by canceling or alleviating their debt burden.  Poverty and hunger would remain unless urgent and effective steps were taken to ensure that sufficient priority was given to food security by governments.  The attempts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals were being hampered by the decision of the developed countries to renege on promises made to contribute 0.7 per cent of their gross national product to official development assistance.  Saudi Arabia was contributing to international development programmes benefiting 72 developing countries, and the Government exceeded the development assistance goals set by the United Nations.  Saudi Arabia was in favour of the establishment of a new “humanitarian order” based on joined responsibility and equality. 

BERNARD KESSEDJIAN (France) said that rural development was at the heart of global sustainable development, and if rural development was not simply about agricultural development, that was the heart of it.  Thus, as France had maintained a strong tradition of agriculture, it had set two objectives which guided its approach to rural development.  The first was to guarantee food security by promoting investment in agricultural production and the growth of output destined for domestic markets; and the second, to promote improvements in farmers’ incomes.  Long-term solutions must be found to problems of food security.

France was firmly committed to initiatives taken to ensure fair trade, he said, and was committed, with its European partners, to the commitments made at Doha.  Furthermore, France intended to support the agricultural strategy outlined by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the determination, through the liberalization of agricultural policy and better participation in international negotiations, to take advantage of opportunities for increased access to regional and international markets.  France’s solidarity with developing countries was also signaled by its increase of official development aid, in conformity with agreements made at the Monterrey Conference.

HERNAN ESCUDERO (Ecuador) said the issue of rural development was an issue of utmost importance perfectly elaborated in the Secretary-General’s report.  Ecuador agreed that the unequal access to various kinds of goods for vulnerable sectors such as women and indigenous peoples needed urgent attention.  Agriculture often represented the main sector in developing countries, providing a source of livelihood as well as leading to human development.  The ECOSOC was informed that 40 per cent of the population of Ecuador lived in rural areas and that 48 per cent of the country was devoted to agriculture, which contributed to 18 per cent to GDP, representing the largest sector.  Given the importance of agriculture it was paradoxical that in Ecuador, as in many other developing countries, the worst poverty rates were found in the countryside.

In Ecuador, 55 per cent of rural homes fell under the poverty threshold.  Women, children, indigenous peoples and people of African descent were particularly affected, he said.  This impoverishment of the rural lifestyle was partly a result of the crushing burden of external debt, and the fact that the agriculture sector faced adverse conditions in the international markets.  Nevertheless there had been an improvement in countryside life in Ecuador through improved infrastructure and regional development.  However, these policies would come to nothing if the prevailing multilateral trade system did not change, ending the distortion of the markets.  Developing countries must dismantle their subsidies regimes and open up markets to both developed and developing countries. 

JAYNARAIN MEETOO (Mauritius) said that his country had taken steps to address poverty and rural development, with the collective participation of stakeholders from the private sector, government ministries and non-governmental organizations, aimed at developing a framework for the implementation of poverty alleviation programmes emphasizing the empowerment of the poor through increased access to education and credit facilities.  Programmes had been elaborated in three main areas of community development, income-generating activities and technical assistance, with the objective of boosting the potential of the poor to join the labour market through self-employment and skills improvement.  In keeping with a participatory approach, the poor were encouraged to voice their needs and were assisted by social facilitators and field workers to translate their needs into formal requests and project write-ups, which were then submitted for approval.

Other development programmes, he said, included a Trust Fund for the Social Integration of Vulnerable Groups, under which 107 million rupees had already been distributed to finance projects for social infrastructure, income-generating activities and loans to needy students.  Around 142 million rupees had been allocated to the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s Rural Diversification Programme, while Mauritius had also benefited from the European Union-funded Micro Project Programme for Poverty Alleviation.  Moreover, a specifically designed programme, “Fight Against Exclusion”, had been implemented in the dependency of Rodrigues from March 1999 to March 2002.  Mauritius also intended to review its poverty alleviation strategy in early July 2003, in collaboration with a European Union delegation.

SHA ZUKANG (China) said three quarters of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty in rural areas.  Each country needed to develop a long-term national strategy to address this issue.  Such a strategy must encompass the increasing of input, strengthening infrastructure, helping rural populations, raising income and living standards, and promoting an integrated agricultural growth and sustainable development.  It was important to give top priority to agriculture and pursue sustainable agriculture and rural development as a task of strategic importance.  It was essential to rationally utilize and protect natural resources.  Governments must rely on scientific and technological progress and take path of sustainable agriculture and rural development.  One must also strengthen social security systems in rural areas.

The international community must increase financial assistance, promote the normal development of trade in agricultural products, strengthen capacity-building, and to give play to the role of the United Nations.  It was important that the United Nations mobilize its resources, use its strength and take coordinated, targeted and result-oriented actions to facilitate rural development in developing nations. 

TOUFIQ ALI (Bangladesh) said that the fundamental challenge for countries like his was rapid economic development in a manner benefiting the people, which was a complex task and would be unlike the processes seen in already developed countries.  Not only was development now a race against time, but models of success elsewhere could not necessarily be replicated.  Moreover, the current emphasis on reform and liberalization had not always succeeded, nor had the benefit trickled down to the disadvantaged.  In Bangladesh, rural development was the overriding priority, for which the Government had undertaken targeted income, employment, safety net, education, health and nutrition programmes.  As there could be no development without rural infrastructure, road networks had been expanded and the supply of electricity to villages emphasized. 

Numerous programmes had been undertaken by non-governmental organizations in areas such as micro-finance, he said.  Yet despite these efforts, poverty remained endemic and in this context, external forces had had a profound impact.  For example, although rural areas depended on agriculture, in many cases this sector was unable to contribute to rural development because of distortions in world markets.  Furthermore, developing countries confronted the challenge of an unfavourable aid and debt regime.  Under the current paradigm, a great deal of attention was given to trade.  However, multilateral rules did not give developing countries adequate policy space to benefit from trade opportunities.  Targeted intervention programs to encourage the private sector to set up manufacturing units, particularly in rural areas, were needed to ensure access to the products of trade.

ALESSANDRO MARINI, Institution for the Use of Micro-Algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition, said the Institution was the result of the Conventions for the Use of Food Microalgae.  The Institution believed in the great value of food-micro algae against food emergencies and foresaw the setting up of a network of micro-algae humanitarian productive centres with the goal to produce micro-algae biomass addressed to victims of famine, draught and food emergencies.  Spirulina Platensis had a production of 50 tons of proteins per hectare per year, 250 to 260 times more than beef proteins, 210 times more than rice and 30 times more than soja, at a low cost of production.  Spirulina was used in the treatment and prevention of symptoms of protein-energy malnutrition, particularly in emergency cases, because it consisted of 71 per cent of proteins, 15 vitamins, 11 mineral salts, pigments and essential fatty acids.  It could therefore represent a real life source for victims of famine and for all those people suffering from high levels of malnutrition.  Spirulina was a solution to the tragic problem of malnutrition due to poverty or food emergency.   

NOUREINI TIDJANI-SERPOS, Assistant Director-General for Africa of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that rural development would never fully be achieved without the empowerment of communities and individuals, especially girls and women, in which context, education played a vital role for human and community empowerment.  Literacy acquisition was linked to broader social aims and was connected with all aspects of life and livelihood, yet a great number of people in rural areas did not have access to literacy.  Around 862 million adults could not read or write, two-thirds of these were women; another 115 million children, two-thirds of them girls, did not attend school, the majority in rural areas.  The United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012) offered an opportunity to put special emphasis on literacy for all within the framework of Education for All.

The UNESCO called upon the international community, national governments, non-governmental organizations and civil society collectively to take immediate action for an increased commitment and investment in literacy for rural people, he said.  The UNESCO would encourage countries to consider learner-centred approaches that catered to diverse local needs and stressed ‘literacies’ matched to the various social and cultural contexts in which people lived.  In addition, UNESCO was preparing for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014).  There were four areas in which education was a vital tool for rural development:  HIV/AIDS; rural development itself; natural resources management; and health care.

BRUNA MOLINA FAIDUTTI, Director of the World Federation of United Nations Associations, said that in the context of rural development, the emerging global civil society, in all its diversity, had a vital role to play at all levels –- global, regional, national, and local.  Civil society had great potential but it must be strengthened by the cooperation of the United Nations system, its agencies and active participation of governments, in particular in developing countries.  The bottom-up work of the grass roots organizations needed to be met by the top-down efforts of governments and centralized organizations. 

Concerning rural areas, one must not forget the importance of women’s active and full participation in the development process.  In many parts of the world, women carried the highest burden of survival.  In addition to women, another group not to be forgotten were youth.  Their full and effective participation was fundamental -– they were active agents for positive change and development in society.  They were the future and needed to be involved in all stages of the process, design, implementation and follow-up, to ensure the sustainability of activities.  The importance of access to education and the dissemination of information and communications technology for rural development was also stressed.  

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For information media. Not an official record.