Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

WTO helping only rich nation farm producers, Sri Lanka tells world food summit

Sri Lanka, 10 Jun 2002 -- Rome – Rich nations are using the World Trade Organization (WTO) to promote a one-way global agricultural trade that is keeping developing nation farm produce out of their markets, the President of Sri Lanka Chandrika Kumaratunga told world leaders today who are meeting here to reaffirm a five-year-old pledge to fight hunger.
Speaking on the opening day of the 10 to 13 June World Food Summit: five years later (WFS: fyl) convened by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), she backed the call of FAO chief Jacques Diouf in his statement earlier that part of the “billions of dollars” used to subsidise farmers in the developed world be “diverted to assist food production and income generation in poor countries”.
“They (developed countries) also practise various systems of protection which block markets in developed countries for produce from poor countries, while keeping all markets open in the opposite direction through the mechanisms of the World Trade Organization and others,” the Sri Lankan president said.

“One wonders whether the free market is supposed to work only one way. This concern is further strengthened by the knowledge that Structural Adjustment Policies proposed by international financial institutions gave little importance to food security,” she added.

Countries from the Asia-Pacific region are among the 180 nations attending the 10 to 13 June 2002 summit. Heads of State and Government from 15 Asia-Pacific countries are present.

With two-thirds of the about 780 million hungry people in developing nations, the region has a crucial role in ensuring the success of the WFS goal of reducing global hunger levels by half by the year 2015. The delegations from the region arrived in Rome barely a month after a ministerial meeting in Kathmandu, Nepal where Asia-Pacific countries endorsed the WFS: fyl goal of reaffirming political commitment to reduce hunger in the region.

The 13 to 17 May 2002 Kathmandu meeting of Asia-Pacific agriculture ministers agreed on the need for "more effective policies and strategies, and increased dedication in implementing programmes to accelerate the progress of agricultural development and ensuring food security for all".

[…] According to FAO’s most recent food insecurity estimates, while Asia and the Pacific has moved faster in tackling hunger than other parts of the developing world, it is still far short of the rate needed to achieve the WFS target, particularly in South Asia.

[…] Agriculture development strategies should also pay special attention to the needs of rural women who make up more than 40 percent of the agriculture labour force in the region.

Developing countries in Asia and the Pacific need assistance to prepare for world trade liberalization. The Fourth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) held in Doha, Qatar in 2001 has raised hopes of a fair deal for developing countries in the emerging global agricultural trade regime.

A serious threat to regional food security arises from the multitude of recurring natural disasters. Persisting civil strife in some parts of the region also took their toll on food security with large chunks of agricultural land uncultivated due to the presence of land mines.

Non-governmental and civil society organizations (NGOs/CSOs) have an increasingly important role in moblizing community action and advocacy for agricultural and rural development, sustainable resource use and empowerment of disadvantaged social groups. FAO encourages the forging of closer community-government partnership in pursuit of food security.

RAP 02/22

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