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Monday, January 23, 2006 

A Vision For the Future
International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development

Approximately three quarters of the world’s poor live in rural areas and depend on access to land and other natural resources for their livelihoods. For most of them, insecure access to land is closely linked to poverty. Since FAO’s founding 60 years ago, the Organization has been working to improve and secure access to land for the rural poor.

In June 2005, the FAO Committee on Agriculture unanimously approved the proposal for FAO to convene an International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development in 2006 (ICARRD) as a critical element of FAO’s programme to fulfil its international commitments and the Millennium Development Goals. The road from the 1979 World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD) to the 2006 International ICARRD will build on the consensus processes ongoing during the last ten years, particularly the World Food Summit (WFS), the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) and the Millennium Development Goals Summit. ICARRD will be an opportunity to bring back the agenda of agrarian reform and rural development.

ICARRD aims to assist in mobilizing national governments and the international community to support ongoing agrarian reform and rural development processes, and in securing tenure rights and access to land and other natural resources by the poor. The objectives of ICARRD are:

i. Promote understanding, learning and constructive dialogue to address agrarian reform, sustainable rural development, and rural poverty issues through the creation of a lasting platform for monitoring and evaluation as well as exchange of experience on best policies and practices and progress on agrarian reform and rural development;

ii. Share experiences, foster recognition, improve commitment, and concrete actions by the international community, governments, producer organizations, civil society organizations, and others to enhance international cooperation and promote more equitable, transparent and accountable access to land and natural resources and their effective use to foster sustainable livelihoods, especially for the poor.

ICARRD will be held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, at the invitation of the Government of Brazil. Porto Alegre is known worldwide as the host of the World Social Forum, and FAO welcomes the fact that ICARRD will be hosted in a city that exemplifies the benefits of people’s participation. The choice of location goes hand in hand with FAO’s approach to the Conference’s preparation, which emphasizes participation by NGOs, CSOs, farmers’ organizations, universities, and international organizations.

FAO recognizes the important experiences that CSOs bring to the discussions on agrarian reform and rural development, and in this light, a session of ICARRD will be dedicated to dialogue between governments, international organizations and CSOs.

In addition, many organizations are involved in the preparation of Case Studies and National Thematic Dialogue Sessions leading up to the conference, which involve local organizations and national governments with the aim of stimulating dialogue on best practices on agrarian reform and rural development. It is also envisaged that portions of ICARRD will be broadcast via internet and radio.

Furthermore, Issue Papers will be prepared and discussed through a participatory process of consultations, including electronic conferences on each of ICARRD’s five Indicative Themes:

* Policies and practices for securing and improving access to land by the poor and promoting agrarian reform to alleviate poverty and hunger.

* Building capacity to improve access to land, water, agricultural inputs and agrarian services to promote sustainable natural resources management and rural development.

* New opportunities to strengthen rural producers and communities facilitating people’s choices in rural development.

* Agrarian reform, social justice and sustainable development.

* Food sovereignty and access to resources.

In addition to these activities and in order to involve as wide an audience as possible, the ICARRD Secretariat has recently initiated an e-Conference on several conference themes (if you wish to participate please visit www.icarrd.org/en/econference.html). The e-Conference will enable practitioners, experts, researchers, policy makers, programme implementers and programme beneficiaries to exchange ideas and will provide concrete cases, examples and experiences on the emerging issues that will be discussed and debated in the national level processes leading up to and during ICARRD itself. The themes for discussion will reflect the indicative themes above.

These themes cover the broad scope of topics and areas that are expected to be discussed during the national processes leading up to and during the ICARRD itself. The e-Conference participants' inputs will contribute to the planned outcomes of the Conference, which are:

* The creation of a Lasting Platform on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development that will promote a new way of thinking and working – based on a meaningful social dialogue – and that will guide a new vision and basis for action for agrarian reform and rural development
* The creation of an International Observatory on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development that will periodically monitor and report progress, achievements and setbacks
* The necessary commitment by various partners in contributing to the achievement of agrarian reform and rural development in the form of implementing "partnership initiatives"

During the e-Conference participants will be encouraged to submit background information and relevant documents presenting particularly relevant experiences and lessons learned about agrarian reform and rural development. These documents will also be included in the ICARRD Call-for-Proposals that was launched by ICARRD Secretariat (please see www.icarrd.org/en/proposals). Papers, documents and proposals received and generated from the Call-for-Proposals will be organized and clustered according to themes, and will be posted on the ICARRD website after a review by the Technical Panel of ICARRD.

For more information please visit: http://www.icarrd.org/

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