The Right Honourable Percival James Patterson, Prime Minister of Jamaica

The first Summit of world leaders on food security comes at a time of considerable challenge and yet one which offers great prospects of hope. The Director-General deserves our warm commendation for working relentlessly to ensure an overwhelming response to the call for a commitment at this, the highest level, in destroying the scourge of poverty and hunger which mocks our humanity. Our purpose here must be to commit ourselves to global action now in reducing the insecurity of millions of mankind suffering from chronic food shortages and malnutrition.

These deliberations and the decisions we take are indeed crucial to the future survival of all mankind. All our previous Summits have highlighted the critical inter-linkages of food sufficiency and adequate nutrition with the global environment, with population growth, the advancement of our women and every facet of national development.

We have previously recognized the essential role of forests, soil and water conservation as indispensable elements to support viable and sustainable agricultural production. On every occasion, we have solemnly pledged to banish forever from the face of this earth the unholy trilogy of hunger, disease and ignorance. Food must do more than prevent starvation. It must enable healthy human bodies. It must provide adequate nutrition to facilitate the process of learning, from the earliest days of childhood.

Food security must, therefore, be the mainspring of our final assault against these three evil monsters which have rendered illusory any prospect of enduring peace.

Man's conquest of space is about to enter a fourth decade. Technology is unfolding at an unprecedented pace and in every field. The end of the Cold War, as we have often been reminded, allows us to turn the arsenals of war into ploughshares.

What possible explanation can we therefore offer as to why, on any given day, 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition? It is unacceptable ethically, morally, economically and politically. We have the collective will to change it but only by resolute action. Genuine food security can only exist when each individual and household has the physical and economic resources to meet its dietary needs for a productive and healthy life.

It is untrue to blame food security solely as one of policy failures at the national level. True, there is enough blame to be shared by all. Yes, there is much more to be done by governments working in concert with farmers, with researchers, with agronomists, geneticists, biotechnologists, conservationists, processors and consumers. But, look around the world today. We see the consequences not only of natural disasters and their disruptive effects on food production but also, tragically, in the cost of lives.

We see that political and civil strife, born of ideological or ethnic intolerance, force large numbers of people, men, women and children, to go in search of security, not only for refuge but to find food for sustenance. In many parts of the world today the human race is fighting for survival.

The commitments we have adopted here in Rome will be but highly charged rhetoric unless translated into meaningful and achievable actions. The Plan of Action lays proper foundations for each of us building on our national programmes to arrive at the common objective of global food security.

Such a Plan of Action cannot be confined to governments only. Its very success is predicated on collective action by all the social partners in civil society whose active participation is vital in harnessing the talents and resources at community levels.

Small island developing countries like Jamaica, which face the threat of land loss and erosion, due to climate change and rising sea level, have their own peculiar requirements for sustainable development. We have a particular interest in safeguarding our genetic resources and the rich bio-diversity with which nature has endowed us. These are areas in which international cooperation can assist in safeguarding the range of agricultural resources to meet our needs.

Jamaica urges the early ratification of the agreement relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. This will help in developing a responsible and sustainable utilization and conservation of fisheries resources.

National capacity-building efforts, principally in net food-importing developing countries, must be supported. The commitments we have entered through the World Trade Organization should be translated from good intentions to bankable proposals. At the First Ministerial Conference of the WTO, next month, our trading partners will be called upon to honour the commitments made.

Our Plan of Action accepts that world food insecurity is of concern to all members of the international community. In recognition of this, we must now fashion the appropriate follow-up mechanisms which will combine national, regional and international action with functional cooperation between governments, other social partners and civil society.

It is doubtful that the traditional inter-agency coordination of the United Nations system, pursued in a bureaucratic fashion will imbue the required energy, the sense of urgency and requisite resources to rise to the challenge. Business as usual will not be sufficient. Where necessary, we must reform the workings of the international system, "root and branch".

Those countries which, by virtue of the resources at their disposal and their special and privileged position in the United Nations, such as the Security Council and in the multilateral financial institutions, have analogous obligations.

It would be an abdication of responsibility and a resounding failure of will, simply to identify the measures and appropriate action without the affluent and powerful undertaking to do more.

Food insecurity could easily worsen in the coming years as population growth and changing consumption patterns serve to increase demand. If we entrench the unequal distribution of food between the rich and the poor, either at the national or at the international level, declarations of respect for human rights, human dignity, for core labour standards, for peace and security, will be but hollow and meaningless.

This august gathering should not indulge in empty rituals. The situation is perilous and requires our instant action.

Jamaica has long regarded agriculture as a pivotal area for growth and development. We are stretching our resources to the limit in order to enhance efficiencies and boost present levels of production.

To achieve genuine food security for the Caribbean, we will seek with our CARICOM partners to satisfy the dietary needs of our own people and to provide for a burgeoning tourist industry as well.

This requires that we use to best advantage the total land resources of the region and that we all advance our research capabilities. To those ends, we will welcome external assistance. Jamaica, therefore, expects that new and additional resources will be allocated for research and development in food production in developing countries.

We call upon the international community to support the transfer of appropriate technology to the countries of the developing world, to bring about a rapid reversal of the impact of hunger and poverty on the millions of undernourished people who now inhabit the globe.

The problem of food security and the elimination of poverty are intrinsically linked. To break that vicious circle is the single most daunting dilemma currently facing the international community.

Ours is the responsibility and the opportunity to make the breakthrough for all generations that will follow. Let us seize the moment here and now by bold and far-reaching decisions which are followed by concrete action, with that sense of urgency which the situation demands.

We must win the struggle for survival and allow humanity to thrive. The entire world looks to us - we dare not fail them.

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