Vienna, 15 October 2004 - At their Millennium Summit in 2000, the member states of the United Nations set themselves eight Millennium Development Goals for the fight against worldwide poverty and hunger with the aim of achieving a significant improvement in the global situation by 2015. Austria supports these goals.
"Halving the number of people living in extreme poverty and hunger is Goal Number 1 - and at the same time our topmost priority", says Minister for Foreign Affairs Benita Ferrero-Waldner. "In order to come closer to achieving this goal, enormous joint efforts are required on the part of the industrialised states and the developing countries. We can only win the fight against poverty and hunger by working together." As Ferrero-Waldner points out, an additional EUR 30 million for Development Cooperation and the CEEC Assistance Programme have already been made available in the budget of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs for the current year 2004. By 2006 Austria will increase her spending on development cooperation to 0.33% of gross national income (GNI), thus contributing even more intensive efforts to the fight against poverty.
The Foreign Minister sees the Millennium Development Goals as an important yardstick as well as a necessary motivation. "Since the United Nations Millennium Declaration there has already been a clear increase in worldwide awareness of the billions of people in need and the global will to fight poverty. With an information initiative on the First Millennium Development Goal under the motto "Safeguarding the Food Supply" - to be launched on 17 October, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty - the Austrian Development Cooperation aims to continue drawing public attention to the global problem of hunger and poverty", Ferrero-Waldner explains.
Hunger is doubtless the worst aspect of poverty, and the causes of hunger are manifold: a lack of income, a lack of land and resources to grow food, environmental disasters, violence and population displacement. Low productivity and the destruction of natural resources result in meagre harvests - but at the same time the population, and thus the need for food, is growing.
"The key to halving the number of people affected by hunger and poverty lies in the rural areas", emphasises Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner. "Only by helping to conserve natural resources as the basis for life can we improve people's living conditions. The aim is to stabilise the food situation by supporting the populations in rural areas. 70 percent of people affected by poverty worldwide live in rural areas, where infrastructure, healthcare and economic opportunities are significantly worse than in the urban centres. Investments are primarily being targeted at improving the situation of numerous small farming families, thus enabling them to boost their harvest yields".
The Austrian Development Cooperation is implementing an array of activities for this purpose: environmental protection measures are halting soil dehydration and erosion in Burkina Faso and Cape Verde, cattle breeding programmes are raising milk and meat yields in Ethiopia, and improved milk processing is generating additional income for small farmers in Tanzania. "At the same time, the ADC is also focusing on a parallel approach here in Austria, including the promotion of the Fair Trade initiative, for instance. The latter assures farmers in developing countries fixed purchasing quotas at fair prices and guarantees consumers that their food was produced in an environmentally friendly manner and without the use of child labour. By supporting this initiative, every single individual can make their own personal contribution towards creating a fairer world," said the Foreign Minister.
Further information is available at www.aussenministerium.at/oeza.