Approved last fall, the agreement was signed Wednesday by FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns.
'This agreement will facilitate greater international coordination and collaboration on a broad range of agricultural issues and help to protect our agricultural systems,' said Johanns. 'I believe the benefits will be immediate by enhancing the worldwide response to highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza.'
This week in Washington, the USDA hosted a workshop to prepare 50 volunteers from more than 15 countries for rapid international deployment to combat the H5N1 bird flu. The volunteers have technical expertise in epidemiology, biosecurity, surveillance and detection.
The USDA is assisting with the coordination of a global communications workshop to be hosted next month by FAO and the World Organization for Animal Health. It will bring together communications experts from around the world to develop a strategic international communications plan focused on animal-to-animal spread of the H5N1 virus that has killed hundreds of millions of chickens, geese, and ducks in Asia, Africa and Europe. A total of 279 people have been infected, and 169 of them have died of the disease.
Under the framework agreement, USDA funds and resources, including human resources, can be mobilized to support FAO projects promoting sustainable agricultural development and the attainment of the UN Millennium Development Goals in developing countries.
USDA grants could finance FAO activities emphasizing poverty eradication through economic growth and permanent improvement of the economic and social conditions of the rural poor in developing countries.
Particular effort will be made to mobilize local human and other resources within the beneficiary countries and to ensure that development assistance is based on a dialogue with the partner countries and is in accordance with the countries’ own priorities and national poverty reduction strategies.
“Lasting solutions to hunger and poverty require effective collaboration among all development partners, as well as capacity-building and institutional development in recipient countries,” said John Ziolkowski, director of FAO’s Liaison Office for North America. “Only by working together in promoting sustainable development and targeting the needs of the poor and hungry can we hope to meet the Millennium Development and World Food Summit Goals.”