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Minister Sargent Calls for Immediate Reform of UN Body

Mr. Trevor Sargent T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food today called for the immediate reform of the UN's agriculture wing as part of a global effort to deal with the scourge of hunger. Minister Sargent was addressing the Special Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in Rome. Agriculture Ministers and High Level officials from across the globe are meeting in Rome to adopt the Immediate Action Plan for reform of the FAO, which is based on the recommendations of an independent external evaluation. This evaluation was based on an open, transparent and participatory process and its recommendations can support real and lasting change. These recommendations will take approx three years to implement commencing in 2009.

Minister Sargent stated: "It is vital that the implementation of the Immediate Action Plan proceeds speedily and successfully. Reform of FAO will improve the effectiveness of this organisation. A reinvigorated FAO will be ready to play its role in the current crisis of hunger and food shortages."

Minister Sargent also referred to the recently launched Irish Hunger Task Force Report. He referred to the three priorities of the Report and in particular to increasing agricultural productivity in Africa. He stated that " Ireland is conscious of the need for greater coherence in the international efforts to fight hunger and is supportive of moves to address this shortcoming through reform of the FAO".

Noting that Ireland's Overseas Development Aid in 2008 was almost €900 million, which was 0.54% of gross national income and is on target to reach the UN recommended level of 0.7% by 2012, Minister Sargent stated "that a central part of the international response has to be support for sustainable agricultural production in Africa, and other food deficit regions. The central role of agriculture is now recognised by all now and the previous history of under-investment in agriculture must be reversed and quickly. Ireland views agricultural production and nutrition as major priorities for development aid programmes. Although rising food prices have caused hardship for some, they can offer the possibility of income generation for farmers, if individual country's agricultural sectors are able to respond".

Note for Editors

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations was founded in 1945 with a mandate to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, to improve agricultural productivity, and to better the conditions of rural populations. Since its inception, FAO has worked to alleviate poverty and hunger by promoting agricultural development, improved nutrition and the pursuit of food security. FAO is one of the largest specialised agencies in the United Nations system and the lead agency for agriculture, forestry, fisheries and rural development. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF) pay an annual subscription to support the work of FAO, which amounted to €1.5 million in 2008. In addition to the annual subscription DAFF also provides additional extra budgetary funding to support particular FAO activities.

Date Released: 20 November 2008