Statement by U.S. Ambassador Ertharin Cousin on the occasion of the 34th session of the IFAD Governing Council

Mr. President, Mr. Chairman, Governors, and Distinguished Guests, it is my pleasure to represent the United States at this Thirty-Fourth Session of the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) Governing Council.

The United States remains a strong and dedicated supporter of IFAD and its mission. While the international community has made some progress, unfortunately as we are all too well aware, nearly one billion people suffer from chronic hunger. As noted by other speakers, the rapid growth in world population requires an increase in global food supplies by over 50 percent over the next 20 years to meet this projected demand. This food production challenge is compounded by climate change, soil erosion, water shortages and stagnant agricultural productivity. In this context, it is critical to both increase food supplies and improve food security, particularly in the poorest communities and countries where social safety nets remain limited or are non-existent. IFAD’s role is central to this effort, with its focus on improving food security and lifting the lives of the poorest rural populations through smart, sustainable agricultural development.

The United States has made strengthening global food security a priority of our global policy through our 2009 commitments at L’Aquila and Rome and by launching our Feed the Future Initiative. This initiative embraces global partnerships and multilateral solutions. IFAD is an important partner for the effective and sustainable implementation of this effort. As noted in the IFAD 2010 Annual Report, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GASFP), a multi-donor trust fund supported by the U.S., Canada, Spain, South Korea, Australia, and the Gates Foundation and administered by the World Bank, provides, for example, financing of IFAD’s implementation of a smallholder agricultural commercialization project in Sierra Leone. This project includes innovation in small-scale irrigation to boost rice production, as well as post harvest value addition and marketing. We look forward to strong development results from the partnership between GAFSP and IFAD. We encourage others to come forward and provide financial contributions to the GAFSP.

Reflecting on IFAD-8’s first year of implementation, we take pride in the solid institutional framework now strengthening IFAD’s methods of work. This includes: a results measurement framework supported by improved results monitoring; a resource allocation system rewarding strong performers; an independent office of evaluation; an exemplary policy on information disclosure; strengthened risk management systems; a fraud and corruption policy with whistleblower protections; and a strategy for climate change. This institutional framework ensures effective implementation of the significantly higher level of loans and grants in IFAD-8 deployed to meet the needs of the rural poor.

Through the IFAD-9 replenishment consultations, we can further bolster IFAD’s effectiveness.

  • The replenishment represents an opportunity to reflect on IFAD’s strategic directions and overall business model, including how IFAD applies lessons learned from independent evaluations on gender and private sector engagement, and how IFAD adapts a systematic approach to innovation and project scaling up.
  • IFAD must keep pace with best practices and continually update its framework for results and accountability. IFAD’s Results Framework offers a strong starting point, but there is room for improvement, such as better distinguishing between outcomes measurements; now categorized as “satisfactory,” “moderately satisfactory,” and “highly satisfactory.” IFAD should also explore how the organization can employ more rigorous after project impact evaluation to enhance learning and promote better targeting of resources. For the United States, advocating IFAD for these changes is not unique but consistent with our broader drive to improve transparency and efficiencies throughout the UN system.
  • Further, as identified in the external review, improved institutional efficiency is another key challenge. The IFAD-9 replenishment consultations must support IFAD’s efforts to address fundamental weaknesses in human resources management. We applaud management’s focus on the issue of the undue escalation of General Service Salaries, which we hope will serve as a precedent for other Rome-based organizations.

Please also permit me to elaborate on two areas that the United States will encourage IFAD to include in its strategic directions – First, gender equality and women’s empowerment, and, second, information and communication technology or ICT.

Rural women comprise the majority of the world’s poor, have the lowest levels of schooling, highest rates of illiteracy, face debilitating discrimination and inequality, and represent 60 to 80% of smallholder farmers. Absent a focus on women, IFAD cannot and will not generate sustainable solutions to rural poverty. We are encouraged by IFAD’s role in the publication “Gender dimensions of agricultural and rural employment: Differentiated pathways out of poverty ; and by IFAD’s implementation of projects like the Rural Development Program for Las Verapaces in Guatemala. This program which reached out to women and men in equal number and involved women in high-value production activities, rather than non-remunerative “women’s activities.” We urge IFAD to reflect on the recommendations in the recent independent evaluation on gender and move forward with the development indicators for an evidence and results-based corporate policy on gender equity and women’s empowerment.

The internet, mobile phones and other information and communication technologies (ICT) offer enormous potential to improve rural livelihoods and increase the effectiveness of IFAD interventions. ICT implementation can potentially make a geographically wider range of markets more accessible to smallholder farmers while also enabling smallholders to engage in mobile banking and online monitoring of food prices. ICT reduces transaction costs, improves agricultural productivity and improves the standard of living in rural areas. For example, in one IFAD project in Tanzania, SMS technology is today being employed by local communicators, affectionately referred to as, “market spies” who send price information from markets back to farmers. This information helps control the behavior of “middle men” by leveling the playing field for farmers when negotiating with traders. The information also helps these same farmers build and maintain cooperative relationships, enhancing their technical capacity that will ultimately fuel and facilitate our shared goal of sustainable development.

The United States also welcomes IFAD’s Rural Poverty Report which provides important insights that will potentially enhance IFAD’s future work. Finally, the United States underscores our strong support for IFADs initiative encouraging and supporting the private sector’s role in agricultural development. Following IFAD’s upcoming conference on New Directions for Smallholder Agriculture, we look forward to a new Private Sector strategy and welcome IFAD’s leadership in public-private partnerships.

In conclusion, The United States looks forward to the important work of the IFAD-9 replenishment. Working together our efforts to strengthen IFAD can make IFAD even more effective in this important and lifesaving work of reducing food insecurity and improving the lives of the rural poor around the world.