|Japan to support poorest countries despite collapse of WTO talks
New York: 27 July 2006: Japan will continue to honour its commitment to assist the world’s poorest countries gain greater access to international markets, despite the suspension of global trade talks in Geneva earlier this week, according to a senior Japanese official.
“Regardless of stalled Doha Round talks, Japan will continue to push ahead with its package of programmes to support the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). We have made a commitment and it is important to follow this up,” said Kaoru Ishikawa, Director-General of Japan’s Foreign Affairs Economics Bureau during a symposium held in New York on Wednesday.
Organized by the UN Office for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), the symposium focused on ways Japan could expand its assistance to agricultural development in LDCs. The meeting was part of preparations for the mid-term review of a 10-year anti-poverty plan - referred to as the Brussels Programme of Action for LDCs – scheduled for 18-19 September 2006.
Mr. Ishikawa added that any international support to development in LDCs should recognize the importance of local ownership, highlighting several innovative measures undertaken by African farmers to increase agricultural production. Of particular concern to Japan was the plight of African female farmers, many of whom remain excluded from assistance programmes.
The Permanent Representative of the Republic of Mozambique, Mr. Filipe Chidumo echoed concerns raised by participants that not enough was being done to ensure the full participation of the poorest in the agricultural sector, especially women. Mr. Chidumo also remarked that farmers in LDCs were unable to exploit the abundance of natural resources because of the lack of essential rural infrastructure and technology. “It would be worthwhile if the Japanese could look into providing additional support so that farmers have the necessary tools to continue their work. Without infrastructure and ICT, there is little room for improvement,” he said.
Speakers also raised concerns over perennial food insecurity in LDCs, highlighting successive droughts in several countries.
Ms. Florence Chenoweth, Director of the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) drew attention to the need for sustainable methods of irrigation. “Water remains a key concern for farmers in LDCs. Very often too little attention is paid to securing sustainable methods of irrigation and for that reason agricultural production is erratic. It is important that we turn our attention to ways to prevent food shortages,” she said.
UN Under Secretary-General Anwarul K. Chowdhury reminded participants that more than 75 percent of the population in LDCs live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihood. He emphasized that agricultural development was a cornerstone of the Brussels Programme of Action and implored LDCs and development partners to increase spending in this sector.