Introduction from the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Ross Garnaut

The past year has been both challenging and highly productive for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). The crisis for the poor continued as food prices remained high and the financial crunch and recession impacted the second half of 2008. Demands for policy advice increased. IFPRI was able to respond quickly with sound, evidence-based research and to enhance its role as the world’s leading research institute on agriculture, food, and nutrition policy.

The need for IFPRI’s work remains stronger than ever. Reducing and managing risk is just one of the many areas in which the Institute is playing a growing role. It is therefore appropriate that in this year’s annual report essay, IFPRI’s Director General Joachim von Braun discusses the rising vulnerabilities of the poor and proposes global and national actions for managing food-security risks.

One of the emerging risks for the poor—human-induced climate change—has moved up on the global agenda. As the 2009 Copenhagen Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is approaching, it is important that agriculture be included in the negotiations. It is of central importance to both the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. IFPRI has scaled up its research on climate change and has led the sharing of insights on desired negotiating outcomes.

After seven-and-a-half productive years, IFPRI’s director general, Joachim von Braun, has decided to leave IFPRI and return to German academic life at the end of 2009. The Board would have liked him to stay longer, but wishes him well as he pursues our shared interests in different ways. The Institute has greatly benefited from his outstanding leadership. He has made large and widely appreciated contributions to the global discussion of food and agricultural policy. The Search Committee to identify a new director general is making progress.

This year, we also bid farewell to several Board members: Mohamed Ait-Kadi, Achi Atsain, Nachiket Mor, Suttilak Smitasiri, and Laurence Tubiana. We thank them for their support and guidance. I extend my personal thanks for the immense support that I received from Mohamed, Achi, and Suttilak on the Executive Committee. Our five retiring trustees have been replaced by global leaders in the field of food and agricultural policy, namely, Fawzi Al-Sultan, Csaba Csáki, Mohamad Ikhsan, Kabba Thomas Joiner, and Amrita Patel.

One big challenge has been the current reform of the CGIAR system. The reform is necessary in order to deal with weaknesses in certain parts of the CGIAR system. However, not all change is productive reform, and IFPRI has been working to minimize the negative and expand the positive aspects of the changes under discussion. The reformed CGIAR will be guided by a new vision and three strategic objectives: Food for People, Environment for People, and Policies for People. IFPRI is working to ensure that the reforms will strengthen the CGIAR by establishing an evidence-based, results-oriented strategic framework, while also enhancing accountability and increasing efficiency. A strong and independent IFPRI will remain an asset to such a CGIAR.

Ross Garnaut