From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjio (President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria)

Mr Chairman, let me first of all congratulate you and the five other Vice-Chairmen on your election to direct the affairs of this very important Summit.

Mr Chairman, the World Food Summit of 1996 challenged the global community to cut in half by the year 2015, the number of undernourished people worldwide (800 million), of whom 250 million are severely malnourished children. This goal was reiterated in the United Nations Millennium Declaration in September 2000. This goal was to be achieved by reducing the number of undernourished people by at least 20 million every year between 1996 and 2015. However, the trend of the decline in the number of the undernourished (an average of 8 million each year) as observed by FAO is grossly inadequate to meet in 1996 World Food Summit target.

Mr Chairman, my special commendation also goes to the Director-General, Dr Jacques Diouf, for convening the Summit to review at the highest political level, the progress achieved in the implementation of the 1996 World Food Summit Plan of Action, as well as the mobilization of the required resources to further enhance the attainment of the Summit goals.

Mr Chairman, the issue of food security and poverty eradication are of particular importance to us in the developing nations, because they are necessary conditions for the creation of a stable socio-political environment for sustainable economic development. For the period of 1996-1998, FAO estimated that out of the 826 million undernourished people in the world, 792 million were in the developing nations, while 34 million were from the developed nations. In a world that is recording unprecedented growth in wealth, it is a sad commentary on the history of mankind that we have not been able to sufficiently address the problems of food security and poverty so as to ensure that every human being has access to enough food to live a normal, healthy and productive life.

Mr Chairman, food security for Nigerians is core concern for our Administration. In the Last three years we have steadily worked to create an enabling political, social and economic environment. necessary for sustainable economic development in general, and for addressing the twin problems of food insecurity and poverty in particular. We have formulated specific policies, and programmes such as the anti-corruption crusade, the National Poverty Eradication Programme and the National Special Programme for Food Security to address the problem of poverty and food insecurity from various socio-political perspectives.

Mr Chairman, the constraints encountered in achieving the goals of the 1996 World Food Summit by Nigeria include the high incidence of farming and post-harvest food losses due to pests and diseases, environmental degradation, debt burden and problems associated with globalization, particularly the issue of unfavourable terms of trade with the developed nations.

The international community must look for ways and means of addressing these problems so as to assist, in particular, developing countries in dealing with the problems of food security. Increased collaborative efforts and capacity building in the areas of agricultural research and extension, biotechnology, pests and disease control and disposal of expired agrochemical, environmental conservation, among others, will assist developing countries to increase their agricultural production and productivity. Also, the international community needs to address the debt burden being experienced by most developing countries through debt reduction so that they can have resources for the implementation of development programmes aimed at addressing food security and poverty.

Mr Chairman, against the background of dwindling Official Development Assistance (ODA), it is important for this Summit to address the issue of mobilizing resources for the promotion of increased agricultural production, particularly in Low Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDCS). In this connection, my delegation would like to support the proposal by the FAO Director-General, for the establishment of an FAO Trust Fund to mobilize resources to address the problem of food security and poverty in the Low Income Food Deficit Countries.

Leaders of developing nations have, as special responsibility to demonstrate in clearest possible terms the political will to tackle head on the twin scourges of poverty and food insecurity. In this regard, I am pleased to note that poverty eradication is a primary objective of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) which has been stressed by those who spoken before me, and as may be know to many in this audience is the current African initiative to address the multitude of socio-economic problems of the continent, including hunger and malnutrition. We African leaders believe NEPAD to be an excellent basis for the industrialized world to enter into genuine partnership with Africa, based on shared interests and shared commitments.

Mr Chairman, five years ago, the international community put hunger on the spotlight and came to the conclusion that endemic poverty is a serious threat to world peace. The International community accepted the challenge to banish food insecurity around the globe. What we now know is that the action has hardly matched the wishes, desires and expectation from the first World Food Summit.

The beginning of a new millennium offers another opportunity to put things right. This Summit has an obligation to humankind, to come up with solutions that will finally begin to yield positive results in the war against hunger. The time to start is now, and the only option is the defeat of hunger. We cannot afford to fail. We must muster both the political will and the commitment.

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