His Excellency Michal KováF, President of the Slovak Republic

It is for me an honour to be here to address this distinguished audience. This representative event organized by FAO is the proof of a common interest in contributing to the solution of the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the world and to providing food security to all.

On behalf of the citizens of the Slovak Republic, allow me to congratulate and at the same time to thank, the Director-General of FAO for his initiative in convening the World Food Summit with the aim of implementing the ancient wish of mankind to create a world where hunger and poverty would be unknown. On behalf of myself and the Delegation of the Slovak Republic, I extend my gratitude to the Italian Government for its generous hospitality.

From the very beginning, Slovakia has supported the proposal of the Director-General to organize such an important meeting with the objective of finding a humane approach to the elimination of hunger. The fact that these aims can also have realistic dimensions, has been illustrated by the results of FAO, as in the last 25 years, the world has seen a decrease in hunger, food production has been markedly increased, and a higher quality of nutrition for people has been achieved. Despite these results, there is still alot of human suffering and penury in the world caused by hunger, and each part of the world has its own specific problems requiring adequate solutions and, most of all, specific concepts and decisions of their own. It is still our obligation before entering the third millennium to give a clear answer to the world as to how to ensure a generally acknowledged right to food for the present and future generations.

The World Food Summit offers a unique opportunity to join efforts to achieve these goals. Following-up on the results of the World Social Development Summit in Copenhagen; the Fourth Conference on Women in Beijing; the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo; the International Conference on Nutrition in Rome; and the Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janiero.

If we strive to create a world without hunger and malnutrition, we have to demonstrate sufficient will and unity in using all accessible scientific knowledge of the world to achieve food security. Foodstuffs are a too vital commodity for their production to be managed only by the laws of the market economy. In this sensitive field, which is probably the most ancient biological weapon in the struggle of man against man, we have to prove once and for all, that we are humans and we still have hearts.

We will come and support the Rome Declaration and ensuing Plan of Action towards universal food security. These are complex and highly strategic documents expressing goals, constructive intentions and approaches with a rational vision. Their implementation will require solidarity, responsibility, flexible and effective cooperation. We consider the principal goal of the Rome Declaration to reduce by 2015 the number of people suffering from malnutrition by half, a responsible goal which is realistic for present and future generations.

Primarily, we support these objectives stressing the need to create conditions in the most afflicted countries, so that they can produce foodstuffs of their own. The consistent implementation of the right to food has, however, a wider impact. Hungry people are not able to freely develop their mental and physical potential. Hunger results not only in the weakening of the individual but produces anger, aggression and leads to conflicts. To fight against hunger and poverty is, to a great extent to implement a policy of peace. Within this context, the World Food Summit is a logical culmination of the efforts of previous Summits of the international community.

Our country, by far, does not belong among those which could be qualified as endangered with regard to the nutritional intake of its population. The Rome Declaration and the Plan of Action are relevant for us, as far as they cover a secure diet of quality and health. Our food security has been endangered, either by the extensive changes in economic life of our society or by the transformation of agriculture. During this period, food prices have increased, the purchasing power of the population has been reduced, society has undergone a differentiation process resulting in the appearance of groups of nutritionally-vulnerable people.

The modification of the economic system has brought about problems in food distribution, as well as a different accessibility to foodstuffs by the country's inhabitants. However, the daily energy intake per inhabitant has not been changed and it is still 25 percent higher than the recommended level. Perhaps we are an example proving that a temporary decline in economic living conditions of the population need not lead to hunger provided that purposeful economic policies are pursued. Immediately following the establishment of an independent Slovak Republic, we have concentrated upon the systematic and purposeful provision of food security for our population. This was based upon the principle that healthy citizens are inherent to the dynamic development of a democratic society.

In July 1993, an agricultural development policy was approved, nutrition being an integral part of this. This document was followed by the introduction of the National Health Programme. In 1995, the National Council of the Slovak Republic passed the Food Act. In the same year, the document on food security was drafted. These policy documents formed independent parts of the Slovak Elementary Code. The increasing security in food products is implemented through a programme of monitoring contaminants in the food chain.

At present, a great deal of attention is being paid to issues concerned with the quality of the population's diet. In addition to its scientific and information activities, Slovak food research concentrates upon the promotion of nutrition awareness among the population, as well as upon issues of economic food strategy. The problem of the population's nourishment is being tackled by price strategy and the restructuring of agricultural production, as well as through self-sufficiency.

Food projects aim at reducing the intake of foodstuffs containing high levels of cholesterol, sucrose, salt, alcohol as well as contaminants. On the other hand, to enhance the quality of nutrition means to increase the content of Vitamin C and digestible fibre. Effective national food programmes require also the development of programmes for specific diets, such as hypo-allergenic diets, low- Calorie diets as well as functional diets for specific groups of persons and also for the nourishment of children.

The Slovak Republic is ready to provide its expertise to assist in solving the above mentioned problems regarding quality nutrition for mankind. We want to support the ambitious goals of the Rome Declaration and the Plan of Action towards universal food security.

In 1996, the Slovak Republic joined in providing food assistance through the World Food Programme. We plan to increase our help to afflicted countries in accordance with the concept of voluntary contributions. We offer our experts for field projects of the FAO and other international organizations of the United Nations, as well as NGOs. High food values could be saved by animal health protection in developing countries.

Our veterinary institutes and universities have succeeded in providing a high standard of expertise to developing countries. We are ready to help by providing various kinds of expert capacities in sanitation and the establishment of forests, in environmental protection, and in food safety monitoring. One of the basic reasons for poverty and hunger is a low level of education. Investment in developing youth, especially in the field of agricultural education, can yield many effective returns. Agricultural university education was the instrument that multiplied food production in Slovakia and eliminated the phenomenon of hunger.

Our agricultural universities are capable of helping in this direction to countries with insufficient food production. At the same time, we suggest consistent application of functional agreements between FAO and member countries on employing experts from countries with transforming economies and developing countries.

Increased food production in quantities which, would ensure their availability to each individual, would certainly require great efforts for the maintenance of a sound and healthy environment. However, the World Food Summit with its Rome Declaration is a hope for the people of the whole planet.

Let us do our best to make this hope come true by concrete, convincing and effective results.

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