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European Commission

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Speech by President Barroso at the acceptance of the FAO "Jacques Diouf Award" for food security

FAO "Jacques Diouf Award" for food security/Rome

15 June 2013

It is an honour for me to accept the first Jacques Diouf Award on behalf of the European Commission.

This award marks the great success of the EU Food Facility, launched in 2008 in response to what was the worst world food crisis in recent years.

I accept this award with feelings of both humbleness and pride, and I do so on behalf of the EU and its 27 Member States.

When we spearheaded the Food Facility, that need was particularly acute. Between late 2007 and early 2008, global food prices had spiked dramatically, reaching their highest level in 30 years. Staple foods such as rice, wheat, and maize were especially affected.

An additional 100 million people in developing countries were plunged into hunger, bringing the total number of people without access to sufficient food on a daily basis to over one billion.

High and excessively volatile food prices meant that the most vulnerable people could no longer buy food. This led to social and political instability with food riots in a number of developing countries.

I am proud that the Commission, with strong support from the European Parliament and Member States, was quick to respond. During the G8 Summit in July 2008, we announced our intention to launch a EUR 1 billion Facility to respond to the crisis and by 16 December 2008, the Food Facility was born.

Between 2009 and 2011 the Food Facility successfully bridged the period between emergency aid and medium-to-long term development assistance in 50 countries. It was designed to boost local production, while strengthening governance, and to mitigate the effects of volatile food prices on populations.

The Food Facility was successful because:

it was set up quickly!

it had a broad scope and thus had an impact!

and it was responsive and efficiently managed.

The EU and its partners delivered on their promises, resulting in swift, efficient and high-impact programmes.

The speed with which the Food Facility was implemented was achieved thanks largely to the excellent cooperation we have enjoyed with all organisations, agencies and governments involved, all of whom share in this award.

I would like in particular to thank the three UN Rome-based agencies for their commitment. Between them they have implemented more than one third of the Food Facility budget. To the World Food Programme (WFP), The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), I extend my sincere thanks and appreciation.

The Rome-based agencies and the EU are longstanding partners, committed to fight hunger and under-nutrition in the world. The Food Facility represented an opportunity to put into action this joint commitment. It is crucial that we address the problem of food and nutrition insecurity collectively, in line with our respective core strengths and the 2011 Statement of Intent.

I would like to especially single out FAO, which implemented, successfully, the biggest share of the Food Facility. FAO has shown that it is not only a key body in terms of policy development – it can also manage large and complex aid programmes. Together, the EU and the FAO have the potential and the means to shape future policy on agriculture and food and nutrition security and it is vitally important that the EU can play a full and effective role in FAO.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Commission's many partners and to praise the excellent work of Commission colleagues, both in the field and in Brussels. By working efficiently together, we have had a significant impact on the ground in terms of improved food security and resilience.

While the Food Facility largely reached its objectives, we know that there is still work to do. Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa confront food crises caused by poverty, climate hazards, high and volatile food prices, pressure on natural resources, rapid demographic growth, fragile governance, and political instability.

The Sahel and the Horn of Africa are particularly vulnerable and we need to strive constantly to respond in an integrated way.

Fostering the resilience of the people who are most at risk, communities, and partner countries is essential to our response. We need to equip countries with the means to prepare for future shocks, preventing the worst aspects of crises, but responding quickly when crises occur. Taking stock from the lessons of the Food Facility, building long-term resilience implies tackling the root causes of vulnerability, promoting more sustainable and productive forms of agriculture and improving nutritional outcomes.

This is exactly the approach the EU is taking – it is reflected in our development strategy “An agenda for change” of 2011, and our recent Communications on resilience and nutrition, and it forms the basis for the multiannual programming framework for 2014-2020 which is currently underway. It is also the approach taken for the Sahel, through the AGIR initiative, and the Horn of Africa, through SHARE initiative, where the EU plays a major role.

I am therefore happy to recall that only last week the Commission announced that between 2014 and 2020 we would spend €3.5 billion on improving nutrition in some of the world's poorest countries.

€400 million will be spent on boosting nutrition through specific nutrition programmes in the health sector. Through these funds we hope to go along way towards our target of reducing by 7 million the number of stunted children under 5 by 2025.

The remaining €3.1billion will be invested in making sure programmes in other areas such as agriculture, education, water and social protection do more to reduce under nutrition.

It is therefore only logical to announce that our intention is to use the prize of this award to top up funding for EU projects on food resilience and nutrition thereby ensuring that we can further help those most in need.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The EU Food Facility was the first major financial response to the 2008 food crisis and helped to strengthen international coordination in the UN and the G8. I am heartened to see that food and nutrition security remains high on the international agenda.

Next week I will attend the G8 Summit in Lough Erne and I will underline once again the need to make malnutrition history. This must be one of the main focuses of international development agenda.

Therefore this prize is as much a recognition for the EU’s efforts in tackling food and nutrition insecurity as well as, most importantly, an encouragement to pursue our commitment against poverty and food insecurity. Let me assure you, ladies and gentlemen, that it will remain a core objective of my action as President of the European Commission and a central tenet of our future cooperation policy.

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