George Conway, UNDP Country Director a.i, launch of the African Human Development Report

22 May 2012

 

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Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Cooperatives, Betty Achan Ogwaro,

Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, Ms. Lise Grande,

Dr. Billy Berto Madison, Professor of Social and Economic Studies at the University of Juba,

Members of the Government,

Members of the Academic Community,

Representatives of the international development community,

Good morning and welcome. 

On behalf of the United Nations Development Programme, I would like to thank all of you for being here this morning for the South Sudan launch of the first Human Development Report for Africa.  This report, entitled "Towards a Food Secure Future" was launched globally last week in Nairobi by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Kenya and the UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. 

UNDP has published Human Development Reports since 1990.  These reports have measured and tracked, over the past 20 years, progress in Human Development at national, regional and global levels, to assess whether people are healthier, are better educated, have greater income, and ultimately live with greater dignity.

These global, regional and national Human Development reports are also, however, an opportunity to assess the key challenges facing the developing world.  In this case, it is notable that the very first regional Human Development Report for Africa is focussing on food security, as a primary and fundamental challenge to human development for the region as a whole.

Food security is defined as ‘the condition when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life’.  As this report highlights, between 2006 and 2008, more than one in four Africans, close to 218 million people, were undernourished, and facing a precarious food security situation.  In South Sudan, it is estimated that approximately 4.7 million South Sudanese will be food insecure this year.

Food security is critical to sustainable human development.  A child cannot learn, a mother cannot recover from illness, and an ex-combatant cannot focus on a new trade, if they are wondering where their next meal will come from.  A nation cannot meaningfully address its key development challenges, if its population is suffering from hunger. 

Moreover, the lasting effects of food insecurity and malnourishment, which are particularly devastating for children, can trap generations in a cycle of poverty and under-development.  This creates a vicious cycle, as food insecurity now can impact on poor health, less ability to learn, reduced worker productivity, and as a result, on future growth and development.

However, there is clear hope for positive change.  While the picture of food insecurity painted by this Report is complex, it does argue that Africa can build a food secure future.  The report highlights a series of recommendations and policy measures, which we will discuss today, which can improve food security and nutrition, accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, and advance sustainable human development.  So too for South Sudan.  While the statistics may seem scary, South Sudan has significant potential, with abundant land, rich soil, water, and a ready labour force.  

We at UNDP are committed to helping the Republic of South Sudan realize a food secure future.  Aligned with the Government’s South Sudan Development Plan, the new UN Development Assistance Framework (or UNDAF) for South Sudan prioritizes food security as a chief goal of the UN system as a whole in South Sudan.  Working in partnership with our sister agencies in the UN Country Team, including FAO and WFP, UNDP will support Government in integrating the issues of agricultural productivity and food security into the national development debate. 

In conclusion, I would like to thank our esteemed panellists for agreeing to take part in today's discussion.  UNDP’s Human Development Reports aim to stimulate debate and action on critical human development issues, and I hope today's discussion will help us to better understand the challenges of food insecurity, and possible solutions, both in South Sudan and the region.

Before proceeding with the statements from our panellists, I would like to introduce a brief video that will set the stage for the discussion today. 

Thank you very much.