Pope Francis set the tone for the 42nd session IFAD’s annual Governing Council by saying that hunger can be made a part of the world’s past, but only if all institutions and people work together, and only if these efforts are owned locally and driven by those who are suffering most, as architects of their own development.
“We have to see to it that each person, each community can utilize their own capacities to live a full life with dignity,” Pope Francis said, adding that IFAD’s contribution is essential for “eradication of poverty, the fight against hunger and the promotion of food sovereignty.”
In his opening remarks during the first day of the annual meeting, IFAD's President Gilbert F. Houngbo said that while IFAD's mission “remains a guiding light in a rapidly changing world,” there must be adjustment if we are to meet the needs of the most marginalized people. "Innovation remains essential for IFAD to continue to invest in rural people and their communities, and to do its part to end poverty and hunger," he added.
Citing the strong collaboration between IFAD and its host country, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that “our common goal must be to strive and contribute to the development of a mature and sustainable African entrepreneurship, and to support young people and women,” noting that women “have always been the fulcrum of the rural economy," as well as “custodians of the earth and the first responsible for the care of new generations.”
“On our continent the inequalities are deep, if we talk about opportunities they are not the same for those who are born male or female ... to be born in the capital or to be born in a rural area,” said Danilo Medina Sánchez, President of the Dominican Republic, who reaffirmed his commitment to closing the inequality gap and continuing to build “hope” in rural areas.
After performing a work by Johann Sebastian Bach, world-renowned violinist and UN Messenger of Peace, Midori, called on Pope Francis and other world leaders in attendance at the Governing Council meeting to believe in the transformative power of women and girls in underserved remote communities.
“I am inviting you to come together and stand on the right side of history by investing more in young rural people, and the communities where they live,” award-winning choreographer, dancer and actress Sherrie Silver said just after being announced as the UN specialized agency’s Advocate for Rural Youth.
“It is with great delight that we welcome Sherrie Silver as our new Advocate for Rural Youth,” said Charlotte Salford, Associate Vice-President of External Relations and Governance Department at IFAD. “Dance and music are great unifiers. They help young people to express themselves and unite groups of people across cultures and countries.”
In her presentation about the recently launched EAT-Lancet Commission report, Gunhild Stordalen, Executive Chair of the EAT Foundation, spoke about a need for innovation in partnerships.
“Everyone needs to be invited to the table,” Stordalen said. “We need new ways to ensure rural people are included and empowered, and allow them to share their knowledge and to take part in new business opportunities such as giving them access to finance and capital as well as to fair markets. I am happy to see how IFAD is taking the lead to address this agenda and bringing forward solutions to make this happen.”
Leaders of the 4th Global Forum of the Indigenous Peoples' Forum, who gathered at IFAD headquarters for two days leading up to this year's Governing Council, are photographed in a private meeting with Pope Francis.
Italian celebrity chef Carlo Cracco, in support of IFAD's Recipes for Change campaign, tells IFAD's governors about his experience visiting IFAD projects in Cambodia and Morocco where he saw an IFAD-supported project in action, working with farmers to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
IFAD, along with the European Union, the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), the Government of Luxembourg and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), launched the Agri-Business Capital (ABC) Fund to help rural entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector access the finance they need to grow their businesses and create jobs for poor rural people, in particular young people.
The aim of the ABC Fund is to generate private sector investment in rural small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), farmers' organizations and smallholder farmers' groups which often find it hard to access finance from traditional institutions who view them as too risky.