(The Annual Meeting is over - information is provided for reference)
On Renewing Commitment to International Agriculture and Rural Development
This past year we have witnessed a series of significant events that are linked in one way or another to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in September, 2001. These events continue to have a profound impact on our lives and the lives of others around the globe. Our nation has focused its attention on fighting terrorism, both at home and abroad. In many ways, this effort is becoming another world war, replacing the Cold War that reigned for four decades after World War II - and it may well eclipse the global trade paradigm that came into vogue after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
This new war against terrorism has profound implications for how we approach international agriculture and rural development in the future. Over the past month we have witnessed the exercise of U.S. military force in Iraq. The toppling of the Saddam regime should send a powerful message to national leaders who support terrorist activities around the world, namely that they too are vulnerable. However, it is equally evident that military might is necessary, but not sufficient to ensure long-term and stable peace. In Iraq, strategic post-war issues may be a greater challenge than those faced in fighting the war.
It is also apparent that military might alone will not ultimately eliminate terrorism. To do so will require that we rededicate ourselves to providing opportunities and resources to enable millions of currently disenfranchised people to better their human condition. While we may have destroyed the ruling elite in Iraq, the underprivileged masses persist, and it will be necessary to attend to their needs if we are to address terrorism and secure long-term and stable peace. We must help to create jobs that represent opportunities for people to satisfy their basic needs and those of their families. Most of the world's underprivileged rural populations are actively engaged in primary production activities. These people require adequate attention and the provision of opportunities and access to sufficient resources to secure gainful income.
During the current war on terrorism, factors influencing agricultural and rural development will be substantially more complex than they were during the Cold War period. Today it is possible to obtain instant information about what is occurring in other regions of the world, and aspirations, frustrations and attitudes are greatly impacted by perceived levels of intra-societal and inter-societal inequity. Our first priority in Iraq will be to provide humanitarian relief to those directly impacted by the war. However, it will be imperative that we attend to the physical and institutional infrastructures that will buttress further economic growth and social development in rural areas.
The military war in Iraq will be won before we begin our June, 2003 meeting. However, the battles to promote sustainable development and individual livelihoods in Iraq will have just begun. How these challenges will be approached in a nation with a melange of cultures and religions will require considerable insight. The need to continue to give priority to other less developed regions in the both the southern and northern hemispheres will also be necessary, and development assistance to those nations will be shaped at least in part by what is currently occurring in the Middle East. Our deliberations must be premised on the fact that in Iraq, as in other nations, development will require investments in enabling public infrastructure and institutions that represent access to greater incomes and more satisfactory living conditions.
Please join us at our Annual Meeting, which will take place June 1-3 in Washington, D.C. This Meeting will focus on strategies and resources to meet the challenges of agricultural and rural development and to assess their impacts ‚ in the Middle East and in other regions. We need to incorporate the best thinking of all of us. Please join us in our deliberation of these issues.
David O. Hansen
AIARD President (2002-2003)