African Union Commissioner Sacko, Director of FAO, presidents, Minister Martina and G7 ministers, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you Dr. da Silva for the invitation to celebrate today and make this statement. Migration from rural areas is a fact all over the world, in every country and continent. There are often global similarities between the factors driving a rural person to migrate to an urban area.

 

In many cases, it is a lack of opportunity in their home region – whether that be in terms of employment, lifestyle, or connectivity to the wider world. Sometimes, it is fleeing conflict or poverty. So this means that we must work more and more together to build new responses and solutions to new situations and challenges.

 

Agriculture is more and more being acknowledged as playing a key role in dealing with root causes of migration. The EU-African Union Valetta Summit of 2015 gave new policy impetus to agriculture in these regions.

 

They are often fleeing poverty, hunger or conflict. And this requires us as policymakers to develop a very different set of policy responses.

 

Building policy and investment structures to bolster food security and enhance rural development must be at the heart of our plan.

 

The lack of decent employment opportunities seems to be at the core of the decision to migrate.

 

Most migrants – and they are overwhelmingly young, aged between 15 and 35 - move to places where they expect to find better jobs.

 

Therefore migration is clearly a response to the gap in incomes between regions and countries.

 

For example, most migrants from West and East Africa first move within their own countries, mostly from rural areas to bigger urban areas. In general they move one or more times before migrating across national borders. 

 

We have heard the statistics in relation to global population growth, particularly in Africa. Behind those figures are human beings who wish for a better life. These demographic and migratory trends are likely to persist, until the root causes of migration are addressed, by all of us. The unveiling of the sculpture of the little migrant boy by Pope Francis today will be a constant reminder to take action together.

 

This is a global challenge and I welcome the explicit statement made today by Pope Francis to offer the full participation of the Catholic Church to help meet this challenge.

 

Excellencies, the lack of opportunities in countries of origin has an impact on all aspects of rural communities.

 

And youth moving out of rural areas threatens not only the capacity of the agri-food sector to sustain the rural economy, but also urban communities themselves.

 

We all agree that the linkages between migration, food insecurity and rural development are often complex.

 

First, we need to continue fighting hunger, and here, the EU stands ready to play its part.

 

Tackling food security - both within the EU and globally - remains a fundamental objective of multiple European policies, including my own area of responsibility, the Common agricultural policy (CAP).

 

Within the EU, we invest in viable food production, sustainable management of natural resources and a balanced territorial development

 

Globally, we promote multilateralism, and we continue to advocate for open, rules based and fair trade.

 

The EU remains, by far, the world largest importer of agricultural products from Least Developed Countries – with 3.4 billion Euros worth of agri-food imports in 2016.

 

Furthermore, over the past 25 years, the EU agricultural policy has undergone several reforms which have removed its trade and market distorting features and the EU would wish to do more in other aspects of policy that will build on the multilateral agreement in Nairobi in 2015.

 

Our agricultural policy is and will continue to be coherent with EU development initiatives and I will continue to advocate for this policy direction in our EU CAP Reform post 2020. Greater synergy and a more integrated policy approach is required to achieve better results on food security and nutrition, climate action, protection of natural resources, biodiversity, the dissemination of nanotech to all farmers and rules-based fair trade.

 

Food security is at the centre of EU support programmes in developing countries.

 

From 2014 until 2020, the EU budget - European citizens' money - has allocated more than €8.5 billion for Food Security and Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture in 62 partner countries, of which 36 are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

 

We need to work with our partner countries on policy cooperation and exchange of good practice.

 

For example, in Europe, we have put in place a Rural Development policy which contributes to territorial cohesion and the balanced development of rural areas.

 

A number of measures such as basic services, including high speed access to internet; village renewal; and farm and business development contribute to this goal, with local development strategies providing an important bottom-up approach through local communities.

 

These measures help to create jobs but also alleviate rural poverty and help to integrate migrants into local societies.

 

We have a long experience of rural development, and we are happy to share this knowledge with our global partners.

 

It could be used to develop employment opportunities and revenue-generating activities in regions affected by migration. 

 

Pilot projects for training young farmers - with the involvement of European farmers' organisations, as well as EU-Africa Union exchange schemes - are avenues worth exploring further.

 

And cooperation on agricultural research and innovation must be deepened.

 

We are ready to work with our partner countries on policy cooperation and the exchange of good practice.

 

Of course, we still need more than aid and trade to make progress.

 

That is why, over the last two years, we have made continued efforts to promote responsible agri-food investment in Africa, investments which avoid land grabbing, pay a decent return to farmers and recognise their central role in the food value chain.

 

We are working together with our African Union partners to create an enabling strong regulatory environment for the private sector to invest and contribute to food security, and bring growth and jobs both in Europe and in Africa.

 

The agri-food sector is strategic for achieving food security in Africa, but also for its capacity to provide jobs and growth in rural areas, thus tackling one of the root causes of irregular migration.

 

Farmers must become better organised than today to improve their position the food value chain.

 

That is why a part of the European External Investment Plan, which will be on the next EU-African Union Summit next month, is dedicated to the development of agricultural and fisheries value chains, thereby contributing to food security in Sub-Saharan Africa.

 

These are just some of the measures that the EU and is member states are implementing to change the future of migration. I look forward to working closely with our African Union partners, the Rome based organisations and all governments, to meet the future of zero hunger by 2030. Thank you for the invitation to this 37th World Food Day celebration.