The European Commission and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have today agreed on a strategic partnership aimed to reinforce their synergy and join efforts, in areas of common concern, towards the shared goal of reducing poverty and achieving the Millennium Development goals. In particular, specific attention will be initially given to foster close collaboration in five specific areas: (i) food security, (ii) sustainable rural development and agricultural policies, (iii) food safety and quality, (iv) natural resources management and (v) statistical cooperation and information exchange.
On signing the partnership, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Poul Nielson said: "The European Commission and the FAO are already close partners in promoting development and humanitarian relief all over the world. The Strategic partnership we have signed today will further consolidate this long and well established mutual cooperation and reinforce the quality of our collaboration in the pursuit of a common goal: alleviating rural poverty and hunger in developing countries".
Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the FAO said: "I warmly welcome this new agreement. Only by working together can we address the challenge of reducing chronic hunger and under nourishment that currently afflict more than 840 million people in the world. Partnerships such as this one are essential if we are to meet the target agreed at the World Food Summit and enshrined in the UN Millennium Development Goals."
Cooperation between the European Commission and the FAO dates back to 1991. It has so far resulted in implementation of 116 projects representing a total budget of approximately 108 million euros.
Most of the projects have provided technical assistance to developing countries in the field of food security, agriculture, forestry and fisheries. In 2003, the EC financed 21 projects for a total amount of 19 million euros.
Since the 1996 World Food Summit, the global problem of food security has been drawing increased attention. The EC has consequently increased the field operations and activities directly oriented at food security. With the new Partnership, the Commission and the FAO will further tighten their co-operation. This will involve regular policy dialogue at headquarters level and enhanced collaboration - particularly at country level. This will serve to support FAO's increasing involvement in developing countries' poverty reduction strategies, and will help to bring the country support strategies of the Commission and FAO into closer harmony.
The harmonisation of efforts should improve efficiency and play well into efforts of developing countries to assume ownership of the development process.
The selection of FAO as one of the strategic partners in the field of development underlines the EC's commitment to the MDG's of reducing poverty and hunger in developing countries and recognises the critical role that must be played by the UN's specialised agencies in achieving them.
Relations between the EU and the United Nations have developed into a diverse network of co-operation and interaction, spanning virtually the entire range of EU external relations. Total EC support to the UN family reached 505 million euros in 2003.
The UN, with its universal mandate and legitimacy, is uniquely placed to advance global solutions to our common challenges. Strengthening co-operation with the UN and with the specialized agencies is thus an important priority for the EU as a whole, as was underlined by recent Commission Communications on "Building and Effective Partnership with the UN in the field of Development and Humanitarian Affairs" (May 2001) and on the "European Union and the United Nations: The choice of multilateralism" (September 2003), and European Council Conclusions (December 2003).
The Strategic Partnership with FAO is part of this new approach with the UN agencies.