His Excellency Lamberto Dini, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Italy

Italy embraces the commitments which are outlined in the Plan of Action now before the attention of this Summit, sharing the analysis of problems and retaining as quite appropriate the ways indicated for the solution thereof. Italy, for its part, draws from that Plan a renewed stimulus for its traditional commitment in the fight against poverty, and in pursuing the objective of the sustainable development of all peoples in a context of democracy and good government and respect for human rights.

FAO and Italy pursue common objectives in the struggle against poverty and against malnutrition. To the commitment of FAO, my country participates in a relevant, substantial way, in what FAO does. In addition to its contribution equivalent to US$ 20 million a year, Italy assures voluntary contributions of around US$ 12 million. Moreover, FAO, as a technical executing agency, annually carries out projects that we propose for another US$ 12 million. Cooperation between Italy and FAO develops and unfolds within the framework of mechanisms that actively involve, on a peer status, those which are the beneficiary countries.

With respect to the specific sector of food security, I would like to highlight and underline the fact that Italy was the first country to take part in the special programme of FAO for the low- income food-deficit countries. In this regard, financing of approximately US$24 million is foreseen in this first phase. I can now assure you that, taking into consideration the monitoring of the results achieved, Italy will be prepared to assume further commitments with respect to other priorities that, within the context of that Special Programme, shall be presented to it for consideration.

Participation in this specific programme goes hand-in-hand with what the Italian Government is doing and plans to continue doing on a bilateral basis in the area of food security. The problem of food security, so serious in many parts of the world, is particularly dramatic on the African continent. Italy expresses great gratitude for the special project for Africa promoted by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and I would like to confirm today this appreciation and the firm conviction that the solution to the problems of Africa and the support to its development must remain the top priorities of the international community.

Poverty is a primary source of instability - it undermines peace, it compromises the protection of fundamental human rights. We all have in the forefront of our minds the dramatic situation created in the Great Lakes region. Here in this forum, I would like to reiterate Italy's commitment to favour the fielding of concrete activities and measures that will protect all refugees and lead to the re-establishment of a situation of peace and respect for human rights for all countries of the region.

Sixty-five percent of our contribution to FAO is destined to activities deployed in Africa. Italy contributes to the activities of the African Development Bank, is the main donor of IGADD, assures an important support to CILSS, and is engaged substantially in the cooperation with SADC countries. Italy plans to further intensify its cooperation in collaboration with the countries in the African continent, encouraging and sustaining programmes of development for those economies that have already identified the main lines for their development, contributing, as I said, to the rehabilitation in areas that have just come out of periods of hard work and labour. In this regard, the joint programme that Italy and Angola have decided to launch, with the integrated cooperation of FAO, WFP and IFAD, constitutes, as we see it, an initiative and an endeavour of high importance both political and economic. This joint effort is the first concrete and significant example of that type of cooperation which is at the very core of current reflection under way to consider a revision of the social and economic system of the United Nations.

Italy gives full support to this reflection, well aware of its essential urgent nature in order to ensure to the United Nations, on the eve of this third millennium, the guarantee of efficient functioning and working. I would also like to highlight how, on the Italian side, we have actively encouraged and promoted initiatives parallel to this Summit which broaden and expand the already important significance of this world event. In this regard, I would like to draw your attention to the lofty political significance of the Parliamentarian's Day, which today is bringing together in the main hall of the Italian Senate, more than 300 Members of Parliament from all over the world. Together they will be able to make a contribution of their experience to the discussion this Summit shall raise on those themes which first and foremost concern the responsibility of those elected by the people. Our invitation has also been accepted by universities and the world of scholarship and research, as is borne witness to by the conferences and seminars that have been organized over the last few months, in Madras, in Caracas those organized by IPALMO with the Universities of Milan and Rome, the Conference of Florence which was organized by the Agronomic Institute abroad. During these very same days, there is a meeting in Rome of the Forum of the Non-Governmental Organizations which, as we know, through their moral commitment and their operational skills and competence within civil society, occupy a traditionally privileged position in tackling and coping with the problems of economic and social development.

These subjects will be further deepened into in the course of roundtables that FAO plans to organize on the margins of the Summit's work. All these initiatives are, as I see it, a very important premise for the commitment which we expect from all civil society.

Italy has participated with the utmost and resolute conviction in the major conferences that the United Nations has organized over the last five years. For the globality of the subject now before it, this Summit is a crowning of the efforts deployed in the course of these years of reflection. The tasks outlined in the Plan of Action which we are called upon to endorse and improve are closely connected with the conclusions of the preceding United Nations conferences, that is, respect for human rights; the enhancement and development of the role of women, particularly women who work in the rural environment; protection of the environment and of demographic equilibrium.

Hence, it is with conviction and with the full awareness of the responsibilities implied therein, that I would like to draw my brief statement to a close by reiterating the commitment that all of the forces which contribute to economic, political and social life in my country are prepared to assure our active commitment, so that in the future - and we hope in the not too distant future - we will no longer have to be so ashamed of such high numbers of disinherited persons, and the expectations which are the fundamental rights of a human person will be responded to.

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