OPEN LETTER: May 31, 2023

Dear Foreign Minister Penny Wong; International Minister for International Development Pat Conroy; Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry Murray Watt; Shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham; Shadow International Development Minister Michael McCormack; and Shadow Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud.

The world is facing a food and nutrition crisis that rivals the most severe hunger emergencies of the past. Last year, food prices reached levels we haven’t seen since the 1970s, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization's Food Price Index.

Our world is in a state of polycrisis, grappling with the intertwined consequences of climate change, global conflicts, rising energy prices and living costs, and the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, we've lost almost a decade of progress made towards achieving UN Global Goal 2 for Zero Hunger as the number of hungry and undernourished people worldwide continues to rise.

To achieve this goal, we know that we must increase crop production and improve access to markets for the world's more than 500 million smallholder farmers. Australian farmers have a long history of innovative farming practices, skillfully navigating a range of climate challenges including drought, floods, and soil degradation.

Australian and Pacific Islander farmers understand better than most how common sense farming solutions can be amplified through smarter farming practices and key infrastructure investments. In light of Australia’s expertise and success navigating this challenge, we urge you to give serious and timely consideration for Australia to re-join the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to help economically and socially empower smallholder farmers in developing countries.

IFAD is the United Nations agency and international financial institution exclusively dedicated to rural economies, fighting both hunger and poverty. With Australia’s unique technical expertise in tropical and dryland farming, fisheries, biosecurity, and quarantine, we can add significant value to IFAD's operations and strategic directions. Australia’s experience in surviving drought and other adverse weather events can serve as a model to other nations on how to protect and sustain their farmers and agricultural industries during severe weather.

However, Australia’s absence from IFAD results in this expertise not being accessible to many of the farmers on the front lines of climate. One compelling reason for Australia to re-join IFAD on the front lines is its impressive track record of aid effectiveness. IFAD President Alvaro Lario recently stated that through IFAD’s financing strategies, every US dollar it receives translates into $6 of on-the-ground investment in smallholder farmers. Moreover, IFAD's evaluation function is ranked the highest among multilateral development banks, according to the highly influential Quality of Official Development Assistance Report (QuODA).

By rejoining IFAD, Australia can maximize the impact of its development assistance and contribute to the global effort to achieve food security and poverty reduction in the developing world. Re-joining IFAD would also allow Australia to further invest in food security and human capital development in the Asia Pacific region, where IFAD has an active presence. This would not only strengthen intra-regional cooperation and economic prosperity but also build regional resilience against climate disasters.

Data shows that for every dollar invested in resilience, at least $10 is saved in humanitarian aid down the line. The fund has already scaled up its work in 14 countries in the Pacific, making it an ideal opportunity for Australia to further connect with its Pacific neighbors and support their food security as well as their ability to build resilience against climate induced disasters.

The Help Fight Famine campaign, a group of Australian foreign assistance NGOs, has called on the government to invest AUD$200 million annually in a global food security strategy and increase humanitarian emergency funding to AUD$300 million. These investments would not only help alleviate hunger and poverty in vulnerable regions, but also strengthen Australia's position as a leader in international development. Moreover, as a full member of IFAD, Australian experts and organizations will be well placed to contribute to IFAD’s agenda and build synergistic partnerships with Australian-funded programs in the Asia Pacific region.

Time is running out for smallholder farmers who depend on IFAD's support. As IFAD launches its 13th replenishment campaign, we cannot afford to delay. That's why we urgently call on the Australian government to commit this year to rejoining IFAD and investing in the future of agriculture in developing countries. Every moment counts, and every dollar pledged can make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.

Thank you for your support and consideration. We hope you will share your feedback and explore this urgently needed work with us.

In solidarity,

  • Michael Sheldrick, Chief Policy Officer and Co-founder of Global Citizen
  • Hon. Melissa Parke, Former Australian Minister for International Development
  • John Denton, Secretary General of International Chamber of Commerce
  • Tim Costello, Former CEO of World Vision Australia & Executive Director of Micah Australia
  • H.E. Anote Tong, Former President of Kiribati
  • Marc Purcell Chief Executive Officer, Australian Council for International Development
  • Paul Newnham, Executive Director SDG2 Advocacy Hub
  • Dr. Anika Molesworth, Climate Wise Agriculture
  • Kylie Woodham, Magners Farm
  • Glenn Denning, Professor of Practice, Columbia University
  • Raghbendra Jha, Emeritus Professor of Economics Australian National University
  • Professor John Langmore AM Chair, Board of the Initiative for Peacebuilding University of Melbourne
  • Dr. Dino Patti Djalal, Founder & Chairman Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia
  • Kyle Stice, Executive Director Pacific Island Farmers Organisation Network
  • (Hon) Warwick Smith, AO Former Australian Minister and Head of Australia China Business Council


Defeat Poverty

It’s Time for Australia to Rejoin IFAD, and This Open Letter Tells Us Why