Mr. Nwanze was passionate on Sunday morning. And it was contagious. The setting was the World Economic Forum taking place on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan. The panel was on "Closing the Food Gap" and the five panelists were from agro-industry (Swiss, Austrian and Danish-Kuwaiti), banking (Azerbaijan) and ...the enabling-of-the-poor sector. The format allowed for initial statements that set the tone as well as the key issues, immediately followed by two challengers (Oxfam and banking sector respectively). Finally, the audience had time to comment and ask questions--principally covering public vs. private sector growth, the importance of research and the need to be realistic about the politics of protectionism.
The President was particularly forceful in stressing a message of alarm --in the face of complacency -- if we don't stay engaged in addressing the lessons learned from the food price crisis and in demonstrating the link between food security and national security. But he also had passionate messages of hope in specifically addressing the means of turning the phenomenon of an increasing demand for land for commercial farming into a potential instrument of development in the developing countries with underutilized resources for agricultural production.
I was there to witness a usually quite reserved audience enthusiastically applaud at two of the occasions where these message were delivered...I have to confess to the President...I did not applaud: I had promised Roxi I'd take detailed notes and couldn't drop the pen.
By the end of the 90-minute panel presentation my "to do list" would roughly read as follows (I did mention that the enthusiasm was contagious):
- work with FAO and others on an international code of conduct for the large-scale international acquisition of agricultural land
- help develop an IFAD position paper on genetically modified organisms and assisting the rural poor
- use operational data to demonstrate and document the positive impact of IFAD support in conflict and post-conflict situations on livelihoods, as well as conflicts themselves
- see how we can have a regular participation with WEF partners to provoke debates over key issues that involve rural poverty and participation of the private and NGO sectors
- work with partners on further elucidating IFAD's field evidence with respect to "the business case for investing in small farms".
Five follow-up actions -- this should be enough for the next few months.
At the conclusion of the session, the President gave another three quick media interviews and off we went to the airport, and then to Riyadh.
To conclude: this was an excellent event where IFAD demonstrated its ability to shape the debate on poverty, as well as the one on food security and the sustainable use of natural resources. Also, the networks at WEF will undoubtedly allow us to discover and establish new partnerships.