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Kapuscinski Development Lecture

16.01.2013 Address by Mr Georgios Markopouliotis, Head of the European Commission Representation in Cyprus on Wednesday, 16 January 2013, 18:30 at the Home for Cooperation, Nicosia.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour and a great pleasure for me to be here today for the “Kapuscinski Development Lecture”. This is an especially timely event; for the last half of the past year Cyprus, holding and very successfully steering the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union, had been leading the EU work on development and sustainable development, proving its deep commitment to these issues.

“Kapuscinski development lectures” is a joint initiative of the European Commission and the United Nation Development Programme. Since 2009, 43 high-level lectures with top global thinkers debating on development have taken place around the EU. They honour Ryszard Kapuscinski, the talented Polish journalist and writer and they are organized in partnership with EU universities and development NGOs. Our partner for today's lecture is the "Cyprus Islandwide NGO Development Platform" (CYINDEP).

At international institutions and at the European level, we sometimes tend to focus on big politics and declarations. These are important elements of policy-making; however, they should not substitute the ground work experience. This is the aim of the Kapuscinski development lectures: to learn from others' experience and improve the effectiveness of our development policies and activities.

Debates on development issues such as the Kapuscinski lectures are vital in the current times of crisis. The European Union is a major player in the development arena. In 2010, it provided €53.8 billion for development purposes, more than 50% of global aid .The award of the Nobel Peace Prize last October acknowledged its efforts and confirmed it has a role to play in the fight to meet the Millennium Development Goals in Africa.

The EU is aware that African Sub-Saharan population is expected to rise from 875 million in 2011 to nearly 2 billion by 2050, and agricultural production in this region will have to  at least double to meet the demand.

Efforts to increase food production will be even more challenging due to the combined effects of climate change, energy scarcity and resource degradation. Most of the increase needed will have to come from an intensification of production, since there is limited scope for expanding the arable lands.

Industrial agriculture has indeed been a success story for the last century. It was a key tool in raising food production in vast regions of the world. However, there are many negative effects associated with it. Land degradation, salinization of irrigated areas, over-extraction of groundwater, pest resistance and erosion of biodiversity are only some of the consequences of a model of production which, in the last years, has also started to show a relative stagnation in yield gains.

On top of that, the rising prices of fossil fuels are expected to result to higher agricultural production costs and food prices. All these elements point to the need for a shift in paradigm.

The policy framework for the EU response to these challenges is the Agenda for Change, a communication presented on October 2011. Sustainable agriculture practices are a building block of this policy initiative. These include safeguarding of ecosystem services, giving priority to locally-developed practices, focusing on smallholder agriculture and rural livelihoods, supporting the formation of producer groups and enhancing government efforts to facilitate responsible private investment. The EU will continue working on strengthening nutritional standards, food security governance and reducing food price volatility at international level.

I am sure that today's lecture will provide invaluable input to this debate. I am also informed that the Kapuscinski development lecture is available live for online audience around the world. This is an important step in opening-up and enlarging the platform for discussing global development policy.

I would now like to give the floor to our partner from UNDP Action for Cooperation and Trust in Cyprus, Christopher Louise. I wish you a fruitful debate.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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