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18 February 2010

Statement by Ambassador Cousin at IFAD’s 33rd Session of the Governing Council, February 18, 2010

ROME – Mr. President, Madam Chair, Governors, and Distinguished Guests, it is my pleasure to represent the United States at the 33rd Session of IFAD’s Governing Council.

Because of its special mission to provide food security in the world’s poorest and most challenging environments, the U.S. has been a strong and steadfast supporter of IFAD since its inception thirty years ago. We will continue to look to IFAD to deliver effective solutions in harnessing the potential of agriculture to lift rural people out of poverty.

The renewed- and long overdue- global attention on agriculture has put IFAD in the spotlight…which we welcome. Under the capable management of President Nwanze, IFAD continues to become a more dynamic and effective organization-- most recently by modernizing operating methods and organizational structures, and by committing to implement a crucial human resources reform. We congratulate you President Nwanze for your energy and vision.

Looking ahead, IFAD faces significant challenges. Many millions, especially women and children, remain hungry or vulnerable to shocks—such as volatile commodity prices, or climate change, or natural disasters, such as the devastating earthquake in Haiti. IFAD has already taken steps to address the crisis, and I want to thank President Nwanze for his decision to quickly dispatch an assessment team to Haiti, in coordination with other assistance agencies.

On Friday, the United States and Brazil joined Haiti in hosting a meeting to discuss how best to respond to Haiti’s urgent and medium and long-term food security needs. I am pleased to report that there was a strong outpouring of support from the international community. Countries and organizations agreed on the need to work together on a Haitian –led plan for an agriculture-led restoration of the economy. IFAD, with its tradition and focus…working with small farmers, especially women farmers, is ideally suited to lending support to this effort in Haiti.

In addition, I want to take this opportunity to call on my fellow governors to work with us to relieve Haiti’s debt at IFAD. Yesterday, during the Haiti side event IFAD’s leadership very clearly explained their financial requirements and the options available to relieve Haiti’s debt at IFAD. Our government has pledged to work with our partners around the world to relieve the debts owed by Haiti to international institutions and to ensure grant financing to support Haiti’s reconstruction and recovery. In particular the U.S. government intends to seek a commitment with other donors for the relief of Haiti’s debt not only to IFAD, but also to the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and the International Development Association (IDA) in a manner that provides direct and immediate grant support to Haiti.

More broadly, the U.S. government is committed to increasing its support for worldwide efforts to address this issue of food security. I believe all of us in this room will agree it is a moral imperative, involving a complex set of issues—economic, environmental, and others—that will require a global community response.

In addition the U.S. has committed to spend at least $3.5 billion over the next three years to support agricultural development and in response to yesterday’s comments by Mr. Clancy I’d like to take this moment to note that the U.S. does in fact fulfill its pledges and the evidence of our intent to fulfill the 3.5 billion dollar commitment is clearly evident in the President’s 2010 budget and 2011 budget request. My government will also be guided by the five principles, agreed upon in L’Aquila by the G8 and others and last November in Rome by the entire UN membership: ensuring that countries are at the center of their own planning and implementation efforts; developing a comprehensive response; improving coordination with the many stakeholders involved in the effort; leveraging the benefits of multilateral institutions, and making a long-term commitment.

One way we intend to fulfill our commitment is through the Global Agricultural Food Security Program, a multi-donor trust fund that will be administered by the World Bank and implemented by international financial institutions, including IFAD. The fund, which is being designed around the five principles, will provide a new and flexible source of financing to support country-led agricultural development plans. We believe that working together in a coordinated manner, leveraging the considerable resources of the global institutions we will have the reach and resources to magnify the impact we can have on our collective goal – reducing the number of food insecure people in the world. The United States will make a significant contribution to the fund, and we encourage others to as well.
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