HAVANA, 24 April 2002 -- The
Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization(FAO), Dr. Jacques Diouf, today launched an urgent
appeal to countries participating in the 27th Regional
Conference to redouble their efforts in the fight against
hunger. He noted that at present 815 million people worldwide
suffer from chronic malnutrition, and 54 million of them live in
Latin America and the Caribbean.
address to the opening ceremony of the 27th Regional Conference,
the FAO Director-General said that unless there are substantial
improvements in reducing hunger and malnutrition, it will be
impossible to make appreciable gains in other areas of the fight
against poverty, such as health and education. On this matter,
he said that the number of people in the Region who live in
poverty totalled some 211 million.
recalling that the FAO Conference was taking place in a global
context of great economic, social and political change, Dr.
Diouf said that agriculture has a strategic importance for the
social and economic life of Latin American and Caribbean
countries. However, he cautioned that in the last ten years,
growth in the agricultural sector has been weak and erratic,
reaching 2.7% in 2000, in comparison with 4.2% in 1999.
The Director-General underlined four FAO
priorities for action in Latin America and the Caribbean. The
first is food security, which comprises three principal
dimensions: improving food production, guaranteeing everyone
equal access to food and ensuring stability in access to food.
To this end, FAO has reinforced its Special Programme for Food
Security (PESA) by which it provides support not only to
countries with a lack of food and low incomes, but also to
others which have reached an intermediate stage of development
The second priority concerns international
trade and seeks to help the countries in the Region to take
better advantage of the opportunities arising from the Agreement
on Agriculture of the Uruguay Round when, for the first time,
basic agricultural products were included in multilateral trade
negotiations. Dr. Diouf said that FAO was helping the countries
in the Region to strengthen their negotiating capacity.
The third priority concerned the
sustainable management of natural resources, because rapid
environmental degradation is destroying many future
opportunities. On this matter, the Director-General said that
FAO was giving technical assistance to promote agricultural
conservation techniques for families of small-scale producers,
and is assisting in the creation of planning units for the use
and management of natural resources in small water basins.
As for the fourth priority - rural
development - FAO has been offering technical assistance aimed
at institutional reform, with projects involving public
expenditure, reform of local government and productive
alliances, all of which contribute to improving the living
conditions of rural people.
Director-General concluded his speech by saying that the
participation of heads of State and government from all the
countries in the Region at the upcoming "World Food
Summit: five years later" was a great opportunity for
them to express - at the highest political level - the
viewpoints of one of the most important agricultural regions on
the planet; thus contributing to the success of the Summit and,
as a consequence, to the reduction of hunger in the