From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Thabo M. Mbeki (President of the Republic of South Africa)

your Majesties,
your Excellencies,
Heads of States and Governments,
His Excellency Kofi Annan,
His Excellency Jacques Diouf,
Ministers and Distinguished Delegates,

This important meeting in Rome is a declaration of hope to the peoples of the world that the leadership on our common universe is committed to eradicate poverty, to achieve food security and promote sustainable development as we advance to a fully inclusive and equitable global economic system.

The experience of the past five years indicates that there has been some progress, albeit slow, towards the achievement of the vision contained in the Rome Declaration on World Food Security. The current situation is that we are reducing the number of hungry people by six million against a target of 22 million per annum, as mentioned by the Director-General. The key shortfall is the decline of investments in agriculture and rural development, relating both to domestic and foreign resources.

Furthermore, civil strife, conflicts, migration, natural disasters and unfair trade practices and an unfavourable economic climate have resulted, particularly in Africa, being faced with a real threat of famine. If we are to achieve the targets set in the 1996 Plan of Action and confirmed in the Millennium Declaration, we have to recommit ourselves both individually and collectively to the full implementation of the programmes agreed in 1996, to eradicate poverty and hunger.

In our country level assessments it was clear that in cases where there was strife and other problems, institutions for implementation could not be established. Where peace prevailed time was needed to adopt the necessary policies, the programmes and institutions, as well as to attend to such matters as gathering the necessary baseline information for purposes of effective planning of implementation and monitoring. This has given us the necessary foundation for us to move forward faster during the period ahead of us.

As a continent, we have established a framework through the new partnership for Africa's development, NEPAD, within which the World Food Summit Plan of Action will be implemented. NEPAD identifies agriculture as a priority sector. In this regard, we want to ensure that we extend the area under sustainable land management and reliable water control systems; to improve rural agriculture and market access; to increase levels of investment in agricultural research; and increase food supply while reducing hunger.

Complementary to this, we urge that all issues blocking our access into the markets of the developed world have to be addressed. Speedy movement on this matter would yield early dividends with regard to achievement of the goal of sustainable food security. Of great importance, we must all commit to a partnership of mutual accountability between the North and tbe South to effect the necessary changes as represented, for instance, by NEPAD. The premise of this partnership must be an unambiguous commitment to solving problems together, in a spirit of joint responsibility among Governments and between Governments and the private sector and civil society.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Director-General of the FAO and his colleagues for working so well in partnership with the NEPAD institutions, providing technical support to help elaborate the Programme of Action with regard to African agriculture.

The mission that has brought us here today started in earnest at the 1996 World Food Summit where we stated that: "We reaffirm the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people to half the present level, no later than 2015."

In the Millennium Declaration in 2000, we stated that: "We are committed to making the right to development a reality for everyone and to freeing the entire human race from want." We are convinced that the world has the capital, it has the technology and the human skills to achieve the critically important goals we set ourselves both in the Rome and the Millennium Declarations. What is called for is bold leadership, informed by the noble principle of human solidarity.

We cannot go back on the gains of the Doha Development Round. Rather, we should break the impasse caused by differences about what needs to be done to attain food security. We have to realize fair trade, new resource mobilization, and ensure that the objective to defeat underdevelopment and poverty permeates our intervention strategies. What we agree here must strengthen the Johannesburg Declaration and Plan of Action of the World Summit for Sustainable Development. The Johannesburg Summit should affirm the centrality of agriculture and food security, to the objective of sustainable development in a meaningful way.

I trust that all of us will pay the necessary attention to this matter in the interest of the thousands of millions in the world who are hungry. We therefore look forward to welcoming you in Johannesburg in August and September this year.

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