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DEVELOPING COUNTRIES MUST BE GIVEN GREATER OPPORTUNITIES TO PARTICIPATE IN INTERNATIONAL TRADE, WARNS FAO DIRECTOR-GENERAL JACQUES DIOUF - Regional Conference for Africa Prepares for World Food Summit: five years later, Rome, 10-13 June 2002

FAO Press Release 02/11


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FAO Regional Conferences 2002


Cairo, 7 February 2002 - Globalization and liberalization of trade for agricultural products, movement of capital and transfer of technology must enhance the living conditions of people in both the developed and the developing countries, warned UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jacques Diouf.

Speaking to African Agriculture Ministers gathered at the 22nd FAO Regional Conference for Africa (4 - 8 February 2002), Dr. Diouf said: "For agriculture in particular, it is essential that the new negotiations under the World Trade Organization (WTO) should provide the developing countries with greater opportunities to participate in international trade.

Underscoring the need to hold the World Food Summit: five years later, scheduled for 10 to 13 June 2002, in Rome, Dr. Diouf said: "The world still has some 815 million people suffering from chronic malnutrition including 777 million in the developing countries, 27 million in the countries in transition and 11 million in the industrialized countries.

"The improvement recorded in some countries as parts of the developing world, notably in East Asia, is thus neutralized by the worsening situation in other regions, especially sub-Saharan Africa and Central America and the Caribbean," Dr. Diouf added.

The FAO Director-General told the Regional Conference for Africa that this is "the only region in the developing world where per capita food supply has fallen for the last four years, exposing vast sectors of the population to food insecurity and malnutrition." He said, "Africa has some 200 million people affected by malnutrition. This is largely due to the limited possibilities of food production for domestic consumption and to poor organization of distribution networks and markets," Dr. Diouf said.

He warned that the HIV/AIDS epidemic also "constitutes a real threat to agricultural development and food security in Africa. Of the 36 million people infected worldwide, sub-Saharan Africa is the region hardest hit with an affected population of 24.5 million."

Dr. Diouf called for increased investment in Africa aimed at rural infrastructure, including small-scale irrigation and the harnessing of rainwater, rehabilitation and conservation of soils, storage and processing facilities, rural roads and markets. "An estimated $37 billion are needed for water control and land improvement infrastructure alone," he warned.

The FAO Director-General called the participation of the African Heads of State and Government at the upcoming World Food Summit: five years later, "essential for its success. I am confident that they will attend in force as the did in 1996."

FAO has established a Trust Fund for Food Security and Food Safety, to which FAO member countries and development partners may make voluntary contributions. "The success to date, with 20% of the initial sum of $500 million dollars for the Trust Fund already secured, would be even greater if further pledges could be made before the June Summit," he said.

The FAO Director-General also announced FAO's commitment to continue to support the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) on agricultural issues. NEPAD was set up in July 2001 at the OAU Summit in Lusaka. The initiative attaches great importance to food security and African agriculture. FAO provided the NEPAD Secretariat with an expert to help define the main agricultural issues.


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