Former Primer Minister of New Zealand – James Bolger – makes an inspiring speech at the Investment Forum in Manila

James Bolger, Chairman, Advisory Council, World Agricultural Forum and former Prime Minister of New Zealand joined the Investment Forum, organized by ADB, FAO and IFAD, as the eminent speaker.

The world today is facing innumerable problems, from terrorist threats to food crisis, trade constraints and financial crisis, which altogether contribute to the worsening of poverty and hunger in many parts of the world. The great challenge is how to meet the food and nutritional needs of the 9 billion people on earth in 2050 when we are not meeting the basic needs of 6.5 billion people today.

“It is a time for new thinking as yesterday’s thinking will not solve tomorrow’s problems”

According to Mr Bolger, the Forum’s theme of “Food for All” is a difficult task. But it is possible through innovative partnerships – a partnership that would focus on addressing the needs of the 3 billion citizens that live on less than US$ 2.5 a day. The partnership should aim to move food consumption from those spending too much to those who need to consume more to achieve dignity in life. This partnership is a contrary to the approach of most economic theorists who emphasised individuals and firms acting in their self-interest rather than in the interest of the broader community. To succeed, there is a need for a new paradigm to recognize the needs of an integrated world community – a partnership between public policy and the needs of the people.

There also needs to be a vital partnership among water and land resources, science and technology, finance and people. The world’s population survives on 0.75 per cent of total water on earth. Fresh water is the most valuable resource in the planet. The United Nations forecast that over 60 per cent of the world’s population will soon be living in water challenged regions. As part of the new partnership to produce Food for All, every country and community must develop strategies to achieve the most beneficial use of water. New thinking is also required for the use of land. Every year, large areas of land are lost to food production due to desertification, saline poisoning, erosion and growing demands of urban growth. There should be more stringent requirements for the use of land and water. After all, they support life. Making minor adjustments will not feed tomorrow’s world. To have food for all will need radical re-thinking on how the world moves forward. We need to have more responsible and wiser use of land and water.

“The world will need to utilise all the responsible science available to produce the food required”

Science and technology will continue to reshape food production. Science may change the costs as we move forward. However, science should be used wisely in addressing the challenge of providing Food for All. Attention should also be given to the nutritional and medicinal values of tomorrow’s food.

Agriculture feeds the world. However, agricultural development and food production should be done with minimum environmental impact and more environmental benefits. We need to ensure that the commercial world’s development of higher producing, pest resistant and environmentally friendly plants are made available to farmers. To achieve this, a partnership is required between plant breeders who need markets, growers who need new generation seeds and governments that see this as necessary to produce more food for their people.

“The world needs to accept that no single model fits all”

Countries and societies have different cultures, levels of development, and situations that require different approaches. The present economic and trade model has started to fail the world and we can expect this to continue in the future. Priorities must change. Have we got our spending priorities right? The answer is an emphatic no. The developed world has to do more to help the developing world, at least give 7 cents for every 10 dollars.

In today’s world no single nation can hide and prosper alone. To the contrary, no matter how powerful, countries need to make every effort to gain the cooperation of other like minded nations.

Finally, Mr Bolger urged leaders to make resources and expertise available for shifting to this development paradigm and empowering the bottom poor. But action and political will are needed now. He pointed out that the issues discussed are not outside our ability to solve. They can be resolved with our current state of knowledge. And the growth of knowledge continues.