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Speech by H. E. Ambassador Sha Zukang, Head of the Chinese Delegation, at High-level Segment of the Substantive Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) (2 July 2003)

Madame Chairperson,

The Chinese delegation fully supports the speech made by the Representative of Morocco on behalf of Group 77 and China.

Agriculture, which is the foundation of economic and social development, has a direct bearing on food security, economic growth and social stability. Agriculture and rural development are central to the future development of humanity and are an important indicator of social progress. The fact that rural development has been identified as the theme of the High-level Segment of the current ECOSOC Substantive Session points to the importance that United Nations attaches to agriculture and rural development.  The session is highly significant indeed.

In recent years, the United Nations has convened a series of conferences, including the Millennium Summit, World Food Summit: five years later and WSSD. Programmes and action plans for agriculture and rural development were adopted at these meetings, which were a strong boost to rural economic and social development in UN member countries. However, we cannot overlook the fact that problems hampering rural development do exist and that the international community has to work still harder if it is to obtain the Millennium Development Goals. To promote an integrated approach to rural development for poverty eradication and sustainable development is a major subject and task before the international community, including the United Nations.

Madame Chairperson,

Three quarters of the world's population in extreme poverty live in rural areas. The "three agro-issues", namely, issues of farm, farmer and farming, are obstacles for global development in general, and the most important and pressing ones for developing countries in particular. Each country -- its government needs to develop a long-term national strategy to address them.  Such strategy shall encompass increasing input, strengthening infrastructure, helping rural population raise income and living standards and eradicate poverty, and promoting an integrated agricultural growth and sustainable development. Given China's reality and practice, we think it is important to:

   1.Give top priority to agriculture and pursue sustainable agriculture and rural development as a task of strategic importance. Countries should set pragmatic and realistic strategic goals and action plans in line with their own national conditions.

   2.Rationally utilise and protect natural resources. Countries should be encouraged to follow scientific and natural laws, rationally adjust and plan their structure of agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, sideline production and fishery, advocate ecological friendly rural development, introduce and apply advanced experience and practice in ecological recovery and renewable energy and properly address such environmental problems as desertification and land erosion in the process of rural development.

   3.Rely on scientific and technological progress and take a path of sustainable agriculture and rural development. Countries should be encouraged to build on their rich experience in traditional agriculture and scientific achievements in modern agriculture and strike a balance between agricultural development and environment, and between resources utilisation and protection and realise a virtuous circle of ecological protection and economic development.

   4.Strengthen social security system in rural areas. Countries should advance rural reform and speed up the modernisation of various rural systems. We should also step up cultural, health and educational undertakings in rural areas and related training and enhance women's participation awareness, establish integrated management system for sustainable agriculture and rural development and improve out implementation capacity.

Madame Chairperson,

An integrated approach to rural development in developing countries is a complicated and systematic project. Such an approach will not work without international cooperation. The international community is duty-bound to help and support developing nations in implementing a strategy of rural and agricultural development. In this connection, special attention should be given to the following:

   1.To increase financial assistance. In recent years, the overall level of official development aid (ODA) has been declining. From 1999 to 2000, ODA to least developed countries dropped by 46%, resulting in a plunge in their agricultural investment. We appeal to developed countries to take concrete measures to implement the Monterrey Consensus, honour their ODA commitment, and increase investment and reduce debt.

   2.To promote the normal development of trade in agricultural products. The current international farm produce trade is very unbalanced. The market access barriers imposed by developed countries, such as agricultural subsidies, high customs duties and tough quarantine measures, have seriously damaged the fair competition in the international market for agricultural products, obstructed farm exports of developing countries and undermined their foundation for sustainable development in rural areas. We hope that the new round of WTO agricultural negotiations will help eliminate such trade barriers and unreasonable agricultural subsidies, improve developing countries' market access and promote a normal rural and agricultural development in developing countries.

   3.To strengthen capacity building. Developing countries suffer from a low level of agricultural science and technology and lack of professionals and expertise of agroscience. This has severely constrained their agricultural production. As a Chinese saying goes, "Teaching a person how to fish means more than offering him a fish." It is imperative that the international community take specific steps to provide developing countries with support and assistance in technology transfer and capacity building, particularly their development of infrastructure and human resources.

   4.To give play to the role of the United Nations. It is important that the United Nations mobilize its resources, use its strength and take coordinated, targeted and result-oriented actions to facilitate rural development in developing nations.

Madame Chairperson,

Like many other developing countries, China is also faced with many serious issues and challenges in its agriculture and rural development, such as a large rural population, shortage of resources, less developed infrastructure and low productivity. Since the founding of New China in 1949, the Chinese Government has always attached high importance to agriculture. In fact, it was in rural areas that China launched its nationwide reform and opening-up process, which brought about earth shaking changes in China's rural areas. Following the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992, China formulated its sustainable development strategy, which makes sustainable agriculture an integral part of its Agenda 21, and adopted Agriculture Action Plan, which sets out the overall strategy of sustainable agriculture. Under the Action Plan, the Chinese Government has steadily increased its agricultural input, improved agricultural production conditions, stepped up the improvement of agro-infrastructure and ecological environment and promoted the countrywide application of advanced agrotechnologies. Meanwhile, China has also made vigorous efforts to build and improve its rural management system, accelerate the development of towns and cities in rural areas and press ahead with the development of village and township industries. With its success in feeding 22 percent of the world's population with a mere 10 percent of the world's arable land, China has blazed a Chinese style rural modernization path suited to its national conditions, and paved the way for its sustainable development.

After taking office earlier this year, the new government of China attaches greater importance to agriculture, rural development and farmers, giving top priority to rural areas in its endeavour to build a well-off society in an all-round way. The Chinese Government is taking steps to strengthen the position of agriculture as the foundation of the economy, further develop rural economy and increase farmers' income. These three tasks are No. 1 priority on China's economic agenda. China is the largest developing country and a major agricultural nation. Its sustainable development of agriculture will be vital to global sustainable development. China has for many years developed fruitful cooperation with many countries and international organisations. But we are clearly aware that there is still a long way to go for a full realisation of sustainable agriculture and rural development in all developing countries. We will, as always, share our experience and carry on cooperation with other members of the international community and work closely with other nations in a joint effort to eradicate poverty and realise sustainable development in developing countries.

Thank you, Madame Chairperson.

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