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The 1980s was a 'lost decade' for development in...

By CHARLES RIDLEY

ROME -- The 1980s was a 'lost decade' for development in many underdeveloped countries, particularly in Latin America and Africa, the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization said Wednesday.

In a year-end report issued by FAO's Rome headquarters, Director General Edouard Saouma of Lebanon also said that as the world enters the 1990s, in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa 'famine looms again in sharp contrast with the festive spirit of Christmas and the New Year.'

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'It is clear that the 1980s was a lost decade for development in many poor countries,' Saouma said. 'Some areas, particularly in Latin America and Africa, fell behind.

'Malnutrition worsened in the 1980s and is likely to remain a key problem in the 1990s,' he said. 'More than 500 million people are undernourished today, the majority in Asia but with a rapidly growing number in sub-Saharan Africa.'

To meet the problem, FAO andthe World Health Organization (WHO) have agreed to co-sponsor an International Conference on Nutrition to be held in Rome in 1993.

'We cannot afford to lose another decade,' Saouma said. 'World population is increasing by some 80 million a year. By 2000, there will be more than 6 billion people to feed, with 90 percent of the increase in the developing world, already crushed by external debt and protectionism.'

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The veteran FAO chief expressed the hope that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or GATT, will come up with 'substantial and progressive reductions in subsidies and protection that distort world agricultural markets in favor of the developed world.'

Saouma said he foresaw an increased role for FAO in Eastern Europe, where agricultural problems in the countries that have thrown out communism 'open up a whole field of technical assistance activities and new requests to FAO.'

In references to Western pledges of aid to Eastern Europe he warned, 'Such assistance to the Second World must not be provided at the expense of the developing countries of the Third World.'

In FAO, Third World countries are in a large majority and in November the organization's 25th biennial conference approved a budget of $569 million for the two-year period 1990-91, up from $493 million for the preceding two years.

This was despite a financial crisis due largely to the failure of donor countries -- notably the United States, which pays 25 percent of the FAO budget -- to come through fully with financial pledges.

Saouma said unpaid contributions for 1989 total $80 million and arrears from preceding years almost $94.8 million, adding up to $174.8 million in unpaid pledges.

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