President of IFAD,
Chairman of the 39th session of the Governing Council,
Honourable Ministers and Governors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I welcome with great pleasure the opportunity to stand before you on the occasion of the 39th session of the International Fund for Agricultural Development's Governing Council. IFAD is an important point of convergence for the United Nations branch in Rome supporting sustainable agriculture, food and nutrition security.
First and foremost, I would like to thank IFAD, and particularly President Nwanze, for their ongoing and intense commitment to improving living conditions in rural areas, where almost half of the global population lives, and where the majority of people currently living in conditions of poverty are found.
With the "2030 Agenda", adopted last September, the international community set itself ambitious goals, starting from the elimination of extreme poverty and hunger over a 15-year period.
I have just had the opportunity of discussing this topic - as well as the equally dramatic topic of migration - with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, during our recent meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York.
Such goals have implications for politics, the economy and, above all, for civilization. The stakes are very high: hunger and poverty are insidiously at the root of conflict, instability, crises and veritable humanitarian disasters. Indeed, they often constitute the first link in this chain, and the one that needs to be broken first.
The right to food and water are part of the broader right to life, and they uphold the idea of "human security", as I underlined when I took part in the opening ceremony of the 39th FAO Conference.
Some recent and significant results of international collaboration - and I refer here to the agenda for sustainable development, the Addis Ababa agenda for financing development, and the Paris Conference on climate change - bravely traced a new path towards raising awareness on the need to find shared solutions in order to tackle truly global problems.
Poverty, malnutrition and pollution are not limited exclusively to certain areas. Rather, they affect all countries, albeit to a different extent. It is necessary to transform this awareness into tangible engagement. Each and every one of us, without exception, is answerable to these weighty and pressing responsibilities.
The refugee crisis that is affecting the Middle East and North Africa in particular, adding to the natural disasters and climate issues they already face, worsens the nutritional predicament of swathes of the world's population, due to the abandonment of all agricultural practices in conflict zones.
The distressing events of these times - of which the exodus of tens of thousands of Syrians towards Turkey and Europe is just the latest dramatic example - confirm the urgent need to act together to uproot the causes of a momentous phenomenon involving millions of people.
Our consciences have been shaken, and they call us to renew our efforts to show solidarity. Saving human lives and reaching out to those fleeing war and extreme poverty is a moral duty, it is the duty of any society that claims to be free, democratic and truly respect human rights.
It is a commitment that Italy proudly upholds and respects every day, saving thousands of men, women and children fleeing from the horror of persecution and violence, as well as the tyranny of hunger and abject poverty.
Humanitarian intervention alone, however, is not enough.
The tragedies I have just referred to highlight the urgent need for a single, coordinated and effective policy at European level.
On the one hand, it is necessary to intelligently govern the migration phenomenon while, on the other, immediate corresponding support is needed for sustainable, fair and inclusive development, in order to offer the hope of a better future to whole populations and, consequently, to the planet.
The European Union, with Italy leading the way, will play its part. But the leadership of developing countries also has a key role to play.
Governance and accountability at local level are essential in order to foster long-lasting economic and social growth.
In the spirit of the new "2030 Agenda", the traditional concept of development aid must be replaced by a partnership with communities receiving aid, as a true investment that respects the specificity of each community and brings mutual benefits through a relationship among equals.
Agriculture has a fundamental role in this context. It contributes to all Sustainable Development Goals: providing the means to feed families, support existing social structures, preserve land and biodiversity, combat climate change, create jobs and prosperity, contribute to stable and just societies, and uproot the causes leading an increasing number of people to emigrate.
It is possible to transform those rural areas from places of poverty and resignation into lands of work and hope, making them engines for development that allow people to live their lives with dignity and future prospects for themselves and their children.
World Food Day was celebrated at the Milan EXPO this year. On this occasion I had the opportunity to emphasize that, in order to end hunger and poverty, it is necessary to reduce inequality, boost employment and female empowerment, guarantee peace and sustainable growth, invest in economic and cultural cooperation among nations and continents.
None of these are separate chapters: they are all pages of the same book, that of inclusion.
Alongside the essential intervention to develop agriculture, we also need appropriate social protection measures, especially when it comes to supporting small-scale farmers and their families. Particular attention must also be paid to women. Society and the economy depend on women's daily contribution, both in highly industrialised countries and in predominantly rural economies.
Despite this, all too often their contribution is disregarded, they remain marginalisaed, they struggle to access education, healthcare services, credit, land ownership and, at times, fundamental rights.
The assertion of equality is not only an ethical imperative. It is also a tangible tool to promote development and allow millions of families to escape poverty and build a secure and dignified future.
The work and increasingly coordinated, integrated support offered by the United Nations organisations in Rome are essential in order to meet these goals. They are also essential in order to strengthen the effectiveness of the entire UN development system, and to achieve the more integrated and "horizontal" vision that the new Agenda promotes and aspires to.
Governments will continue to play a key role in this renewed support structure, but this cannot and must not sideline the increasingly valuable support offered by businesses, credit providers, science, research and the third sector, as well as the many sectors involved in cooperation work.
Agriculture lends itself more, and better, than other sectors to effective and fruitful forms of public-private partnership which appeal to social responsibility and address a public that is increasingly informed and aware of its own choices.
In order for small-scale family farming to emerge from a logic of subsistence and offer an effective way out of poverty, it is essential to help its produce access national and international markets, by also creating appropriate production and value chains.
To this end, the model of Italian cooperatives - which will be illustrated in a dedicated event taking place alongside this Session - can be a source of information and an example. I am certain that the sixth global meeting of the Farmers' Forum, which preceeded the 39th Council session, was also useful and productive.
It is important to raise awareness regarding small-scale farmers. They need financial resources in order to promote traditional agriculture and transform it into agricultural excellence.
An awareness of these aspects is fundamental in order to combat hunger and poverty in many countries. I am therefore grateful to President Nwanze for having enthusiastically supported Minister Padoan's idea of organising a biennial forum on "Finance for food", in collaboration with the Economy and Finance Ministry and International Financial Institutions.
The motto chosen for the Milan Universal Exhibition: "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life", clearly expressed the goal that the international community must pursue in order to move closer to achieving sustainable development goals.
EXPO 2015 was a universal forum for food security and sustainable agricultural development, and contributed to raising public awareness on the importance of these issues. It provided innovative ideas for a cohesive global policy on food and agriculture, as shown by the "Milan Charter", a true expression of global citizenship, thanks to the one and a half million citizens who subscribed to it. I am grateful to the United Nations Rome organisations for their significant collaboration.
The imperative remains the same: working together to provide united and farsighted answers to truly global challenges.
Italy, as host country, is ready to play its part in a project that must bring together all interested parties. Each and every one of us - citizens included, through their own lifestyle choices - must make their contribution.
With this in mind, we cannot but look to the role played - and the example set - by international institutions already significantly involved in such work.
IFAD, which hosts us today, is among these, and I hope we will all continue to strongly support its work and its mandate.
The chain of hunger, poverty and escape from deprivation is a strong one, but it can and must be broken.
This is the historic task that befalls our world, for the benefit of future generations, and especially the "Zero Hunger Generation" that is about to be born and whose hopes and expectations we cannot dash.
Thank you for your attention, and all the best in your work.