BARBADOS - BARBADE
The Right Honourable Owen Seymour Arthur, Prime Minister of Barbados
It is for me a great privilege and honour to be afforded the opportunity to address such a distinguished gathering here today.
I wish to convey greetings from my Government and from the people of Barbados to this historic World Food Summit. When the idea of the World Food Summit was conceived over three years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine that it could have resulted in such a splendid gathering of world leaders, government officials and other representatives. I therefore wish to congratulate the Director-General for his foresight and hard work in making this Summit possible at such an early stage in his tenure of office.
As we meet here today, the world food situation is a cause for much concern. It is a brutal reality that over 800 million people throughout the world, and especially in developing countries, do not have enough food to meet their basic nutritional needs. Further, 192 million children under the age of five suffer from acute or chronic protein and energy deficiency. In addition, at least 26 countries are facing acute food shortages and are in need of emergency food assistance. All this, tragically, is taking place at a time when both bilateral and multilateral assistance to agriculture in developing countries is declining. Available information shows that between 1980 and 1990, agriculture's share of Total Development Assistance fell from 20 percent to 14 percent. Such a development clearly is most unfortunate and in need of urgent correction. And this situation is made especially tragic by the fact that there is more than enough food available to meet the nutritional requirements of the world's population.
The prevalence of hunger and malnutrition on such a mass scale and in the face of such material abundance is surely the most disgraceful and intolerable inequality of scourge in all of mankind's development. It is simply intolerable that the same mankind which is so capable of fantastic feats of scientific and technological progress has at the same time portrayed such an appalling lack of accomplishment in dealing with man's most basic need. And it is entirely disgraceful that this situation persists and is portended to worsen despite the fact that it is easily within the capacity of the international community to find the means to deal with it.
The twenty-first century must not be a century of malnutrition. The convening of the World Food Summit is therefore a historic necessity. It provides a wonderful opportunity for the international community not only to renew its commitment to fighting the scourge of hunger and malnutrition, but also to put the necessary programme of action in place to make this one of mankind's most innovative initiatives in the closing years of the twentieth century.
I am reminded that some 22 years ago many of our countries, including my own, committed themselves to the goal of eradicating hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition "within a decade" when they met at the World Food Conference which was held in this very city, Rome. Since then, many countries have given vent to their commitment to fight the scourge of hunger and malnutrition as well as to facilitate the improvement of the quality of life of all mankind at a number of regional international fora. Here I would mention the 1979 World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural development, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the International Conference on Nutrition, the United Nations Global Conference on Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States and the Caribbean Community Special Conference on Agriculture. The list goes on. But so much more needs to be done. And unless we act, the commitments given and the Agreements reached at these fora will remain just words while the anguish and suffering caused by the lack or shortage of food will continue.
Barbados is satisfied that much more can and will be done to improve world food security and generally to reduce the incidence of hunger and malnutrition throughout the world, provided that there is the political will to do so. We also recognize that many developing countries do not have the resources to meet the nutritional requirements of their population from domestic production alone. They therefore have to rely on foreign sources to complement their own domestic production, either through trade or through aid flows. Many, if not all the food-deficit countries, have embarked on programmes to stimulate domestic food production. Unfortunately, in too many instances, the implementation of such programmes is being constrained by the difficulty in mobilizing funding, especially on reasonable terms. Unless the international community, especially funding agencies, are prepared to reverse the downward trend in the flow of technical assistance and financial assistance to developing countries, it is likely that there will be little progress in the fight to strengthen and improve world food security.
Again, those countries which have to rely on trade to meet the nutritional requirements of their population need to be able to earn the foreign exchange with which to pay for such imports. Consequently, it is imperative that trading arrangements remain fair. Further, it is important that these arrangements show an understanding of the peculiar needs of developing countries, particularly small island and land-locked developing countries. On this matter, I would wish to make mention of the special trading arrangements which have emerged as a consequence of the historical links between Europe on the one hand and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries on the other hand. I speak specifically of the arrangements for the marketing of sugar, bananas and rum.
Notwithstanding the Final Act of the Uruguay Round of Trade Negotiations, unless developing countries are able to maintain such special trading arrangements, their capacity to earn foreign exchange, provide employment for their people and, indeed to feed themselves adequately, could be seriously jeopardized. It is therefore crucial that the reform of the world's trading system should be guided not only by the need to enhance global efficiency and productivity, but to bring a new, wholesome human face to bear on global development. Given the seriousness of the world food situation, and in light of the difficulties which have been encountered at the global level in redressing the problem of hunger and malnutrition, Barbados is pleased to lend its support not only to the Rome Declaration on World Food Security but also to the Plan of Action of this World Food Summit.
We believe that the eradication of hunger in all countries and the reduction in the number of undernourished people to half its present level by the year 2015 is a minimum and an achievable objective; but achievable only if there is, among the international community, the required will and commitment. If countries are to strengthen their food security then they must be in a position to develop their agricultural sector to the fullest. In order to do this they will need to promote new investment in the sector. Farmers would need to be trained and assisted in applying more efficient production techniques. All this would require additional inflows of financial assistance. Against this background, therefore, there is need for those countries which are in a position to do so to ensure that the target level of 0.7 percent of Gross National Product set for Official Development Assistance is realised.
The challenge ahead is a great one. I believe that by pooling our resources, by promoting cooperation not only on a North-South basis but also on a South-South basis, we can meet the challenges which lie ahead. As we look to the twenty-first century let us intensify our efforts to make the world a better place. Let us strengthen our resolve to improve the quality of life of all mankind. Let us commit ourselves to the attainment of the aims and objectives of the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action.
We have boldly brought a plan of action on world food security into existence. Let us now boldly put it into action.