Spaniard Alvaro Lario elected new IFAD president

 ROME -- The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has appointed its Spanish top finance executive, Alvaro Lario, to be its next president, choosing a champion of private sector investments to lead the UN agency into battle against a global food security crisis triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, climate change and the economic shock of COVID-19. Lario's election, after he notched up more votes Thursday than for rival candidates from Kenya, Kuwait and India, was a success for European Union donors to the UN agency against heavy lobbying by bric countries for the other contenders.

 Senor Lario, IFAD’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and an Associate Vice-President for financial operations since 2018, pledged to double IFAD’s impact on rural poor communities by 2030. 

 “We have the institutions to tackle poverty, we have the know-how to reduce inequality, what we need is to mobilise resources and join forces,” he told delegates from 177 member states attending the election held at IFAD’s Rome-based headquarters. IFAD did not immediately disclose how many votes Lario and the other candidates received. The election for the Spaniard came despite efforts by Gilbert Houngbo, the current Togolese president, to garner support for Kenya's candidate so that IFAD remained an African fiefdom.

 “We know that ODA (Official Development Assistance) and ODA of agriculture will not be enough," Lario said.

 "Due to the war in Ukraine small-scale producers globally are suffering the current disruptions of food systems. This is one additional shock on top of the climate disasters and unequal recovery from COVID-19, and poor communities are disproportionally affected,” he added.

 Lario committed to scale-up investments in climate resilience and climate-smart agriculture. “Climate-smart agriculture and climate adaptation will become increasingly important to break the cycle of poverty, inequality, conflict and forced migration. IFAD needs to act urgently and partner with climate liked-minded institutions to support small scale producers and poor rural communities adapt to climate shocks,” said Lario.

  ario also stressed that “it will not be possible to reach the SDGs without harnessing the power of women and the energy of the youth.” He promised to prioritize programmes that put women at the centre.

 As IFAD CFO, Lario has led IFAD’s charge to mobilize private sector engagement in its battle against hunger and poverty, and on behalf of the world’s poorest rural communities.

 “As IFAD President, I will ensure that IFAD connects the huge amount of global savings from impact investors and pension funds to tackle poverty in rural poor communities. We need to make sure that we use our AA+ credit rating to mobilize more funds. This is a unique competitive advantage in the UN system,” said Lario.

 Under his stewardship, IFAD became the first United Nations Fund and the only UN body and specialized agency other than the World Bank Group to enter the capital markets and obtain a credit rating, enabling the Fund to expand resources mobilization efforts to the private sector. Lario has 20 years of experience in the private sector, academia and international financial institutions, including developing local capital markets and investments in emerging markets at the International Financial Corporation of the World Bank group.

 Lario will take up the IFAD helm amid mounting challenges in agriculture and notably for smallholders who are both key to global food security and extremely vulnerable to shocks. Rising global food, energy and fertilizer prices linked to the war in Ukraine now threaten to trigger a global food crisis and push millions more rural people into hunger and poverty.

 IFAD’s role in building resilience among small-scale farmers who produce a third of the world’s food have made it a leader in the drive for global food security. Recently the Fund launched its Crisis Response Initiative to ensure that small-scale farmers can meet their immediate needs for fertilisers, seeds and technology and ensure the next harvests in 22 priority countries affected by commodity price hikes.