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Food and Agriculture Organization Council

represented by Boris Barth

On the first working day of FAO Council, the delegations negotiated over the setting of the agenda. There were many different combinations of the three possible topics at stake:

  1. The Impact of Bioenergy on Food Security;
  2. International and Regional Strategies to Address High Food Prices; and
  3. The Impact of Water Scarcity on Social and Economic Development

However, the delegations managed to agree fifteen minutes before the closure of the first day’s meeting on an agenda. The first one to be treated was: ‘The Impact of Water Scarcity on Social and Economic Development’ was elected the topic on which FAO Council should work the next three days. On the second day, the negotiations began. The Australian Delegation experienced a few difficulties, which it had to overcome. Since it is a continent of its own, it does not fit into the country alliances best known by the other delegations such as the European Union or the G8. Also, the countries within the Asia-Pacific region were at first more likely to establish working relations between the developing countries and countries in transition in this region. Australia obviously does not fit into the description of a developing country, and in the beginning, the other delegations were reluctant to fully include Australia into their work.

During the speeches held the second day, the delegations addressed the topic of water scarcity from a variety of points of view: Some stressed the implication of water shortages for the rural development, others focussed on the necessity to take actions on local and regional levels to fight the scarcity and to create awareness for the fact that water is such a precious good. Some put forward their interest in the improvement of wise water use within the agricultural industry, and some focussed on plants for bioenergy which can grow with nearly no water. All these approaches could easily be shared by Australia.

On the third day of work, the Australian Delegation finally created working relations with a variety of countries, among them Zambia, Morocco, India and Bangladesh. Although the first ones are not necessarily very close partners of Australia in reality, it was very interesting to hear the experiences in water management and the ideas for future actions from all these other delegations. For example, the territory of Zambia combines about 70 per cent of the water in the Sub-Saharan region of which some are transboundary waters. Therefore, Zambia obviously is very much interested in clean water, both for the health of its population and the whole population in the region. This is common interest and major target of both countries. Finally, we started drafting a report focussing on the implications of climate change on water. For some reason, other delegations recommended to divide up the work according to thematic sections (for example Funding or Climate Change) and to point out their implications for and relations with water. Through this approach, a variety of topics linked to climate change such as rising sea levels, the imbalance of atmospheric pollutants and the fight against acid rain in particular, the loss of biodiversity were covered. The Australian Delegation has been able to introduce some of its positions and policies into this draft report segment. The monitoring system between Pacific Island Countries and Australia is referred to in the report. Also, Australia’s Water for the Future Plan, the national plan to combat water scarcity and improve water management, is a key point of reference in the document. The mentioning of the necessity to include local and especially indigenous knowledge in the report was put forward by the Australian Delegation. Last but not least, the Mekong River Commission as a well working example of transboundary water management is an example from the Asia Pacific region and was introduced into the report by Australia. All in all, the draft report segment Australia worked on was acclaimed by more than a third of the Member countries of FAO Council which sent delegates to the conference.

Eventually, all of the report segments were voted on, none of them were acclaimed unanimously. Some experienced slight changes and adjustments, but the substance of the overall very satisfying outcome of three days of work was passed within FAO. The Australian Delegation is very satisfied with the fact that its positions and points of view mark this report at several points.