Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

10 February 1998


ROME, 4 February (IFAD) -- The twenty-first session of the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will open on 11 February 1998. The Governing Council session will consider two innovative schemes to help some of the world's poorest people. The first would develop a fund for countries crippled by debt for reasons beyond their control. Another fund would provide financial assistance for projects in the West Bank and Gaza. The establishment of these funds will expand geographically and conceptually IFAD's operations, while continuing the tradition of innovation and inclusion that has encompassed the Fund's activities since the start of its operations in 1978.

The two-day session, which marks IFAD's twentieth anniversary, will be inaugurated by Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro. Other key speakers will include President Alpha Oumar Konare of Mali, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and the President of IFAD, Fawzi Al-Sultan.

Statements will also be delivered by special guests, including: the former Prime Minister of France, Raymond Barre; the First Lady of Ghana, Dr. Nana Konadu Agyeman, and former IFAD Presidents Abdelmuhsen Al-Sudeary and Idris Jazairy. In addition, ministers of finance and of agriculture, as well as high-level delegations from 160 member States, will examine the Fund's budget and programme of work for 1998, which forecasts a record investment level of $459 million in new loans and grants.

IFAD's Trust Fund for the Heavily-Indebted Poor Countries Debt Initiative springs from a recognition of the link between the sustainability of the poorest countries' debt and efforts to eradicate poverty on a sustainable basis. The Trust Fund, which complements similar initiatives of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is an internal mechanism to relieve the debt burden on some of IFAD's poorest member States, allowing them to channel more resources into their most needy communities. Anticipating the establishment of the Trust Fund, in 1997 IFAD's Executive Board approved plans for the reduction of Uganda's debt to IFAD by approximately $5.67 million and that of Burkina Faso by $2 million.

The Fund's intervention in the Middle East reinforces efforts to bring stability and development to the region. The Council will discuss the establishment of a Fund for Gaza and the West Bank in order to provide financial assistance for projects and the programmes for Gaza and for such areas, sectors and activities in the West Bank which are, or will be, under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority pursuant to the relevant Israeli-Palestinian agreements. The new Fund would be authorized to conclude loan agreements with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), acting on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, and in line with new provisions of the Interim Accord (28 September 1995) between the PLO and Israel.

The forward-thinking strategies of IFAD, envisioned at the Fund's inception in the 1970s, have been recognized in another agenda item -- the choice of the Fund to house the Global Mechanism for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. The decision, which was made by the first conference of parties to the Convention in October 1997, has resulted in a ground-breaking collaborative institutional arrangement between IFAD, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the World Bank. The Global Mechanism, through appropriate liaison and coordination arrangements with the Secretariat of the Convention, will direct the process of mobilizing, channelling and allocating resources for the purpose of implementing action programmes and activities to combat desertification and
to mitigate the effects of drought in developing countries, particularly in Africa.

Desertification affects many of IFAD member States. So, too, does food insecurity. IFAD's follow-up to the 1996 World Food Summit and the implementation of its plan of action, which will be presented to the Council, contains examples of activities that highlight four types of food security interventions in support of specific commitments pertinent to IFAD's mandate and the Summit's goal. The plan describes IFAD's support for inter-agency cooperation led by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for the establishment of the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System. It also shows IFAD's in-house efforts to focus on food security and gender issues, and the definition of tools for the analysis and realization of household food security. The fourth type of intervention deals with the public dissemination of experiences acquired through IFAD's field activities, including technology development and transfer.

The growing complexity of poverty issues over the past two decades has resulted in a need to cooperate with a wider range of institutions engaged in development. One of these is the non-governmental organizations-based Popular Coalition to Eradicate Hunger and Poverty, which was established upon the recommendation of the Conference on Hunger and Poverty held in Brussels in November 1995. A follow-up report on the Coalition will be submitted to the Governing Council, highlighting progress achieved in fulfilling its goals and plan of action. The Coalition has also established new knowledge networks, which exemplify simple but effective means to promote and replicate successful models for sustainable development.

The Popular Coalition's "Network on Civil Society Initiatives for Land Reform and Tenurial Security in Developing Countries" will be launched at the end of a two-day meeting of civil-society organizations on 9 February 1998. The formal launching will be addressed by Archbishop Alois Wagner of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace. The Network, which covers 23 countries from seven major subregions, will collect, assess, and disseminate information on civil-society initiatives to improve the access of poor, rural people to land and water.

Successful interventions in agricultural research and technology transfer will be highlighted in an exhibition, "From Hope to Harvests". It is expected that the opening of the exhibition will be addressed by Rome's Mayor Francesco Rutelli and Dr. Hans Herren, a renowned scientist and winner of the World Food Prize. The exhibition will illustrate technology development and transfer. Displays will highlight technologies and techniques for improved traditional crops and commodities, food processing, and biological control of agricultural pests, such as the cassava mealy bug, the desert locust and the tse-tse fly. The exhibition will also show improved traditional tools and equipment, as well as technologies used by the rural poor, which increase efficiency and productivity in areas threatened by desertification.

1997 in Review

Thirty projects, supported by loans of approximately $397.7 million and $2.8 million as part of IFAD's project component grants, were approved in 1997 to the benefit of approximately 3.3 million poor, rural families, or 16 million people. Two hundred and forty-seven Technical Assistance Grants, including 155 Project Development Fund grants, amounting to $30 million were also approved, bringing the total of IFAD field investments to $430.5 million -- a 1.2 per cent decrease from 1996, when extended loans and grants reached $435.71 million.

The Fund committed $53.8 million for six projects in sub-Saharan Africa. The IFAD provided $177.2 million was provided by IFAD for 10 projects in Asia and the Pacific region. Latin America and the Caribbean received a commitment of $84.6 million for six projects, and $82.1 million was committed in eight projects in the Near East and North Africa (a region which also covers some former socialist bloc countries in Europe and Asia).

IFAD 20 Years in Action

Between 1978 and 1997, IFAD directly benefited approximately 200 million of the world's poorest people (30 million families), committing over $5.6 billion in loans to 489 projects in 111 developing countries, under both the Regular Programme and the Special Programme for Africa. The total cost of these projects is around $17.5 billion, which includes substantial contributions by external co-financiers (approximately $5.4 billion) and governments of
recipient countries (about $6.4 billion). During the same period, the Fund extended 940 Research and Technical Assistance Grants amounting to nearly $300 million under both regular and special programmes. About one fifth of these grants were in support of 171 agricultural research programmes (worth approximately $210.9 million) while the rest supported environmental studies, project preparations, non-governmental organization programmes, training and special operations facilities.

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*The press releases of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) were formerly issued under its own symbol -- IFAD. They are now issued under this consolidated symbol for specialized agencies.
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