From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Stjepan Mesić (President of the Republic of Croatia)

It gives me particular pleasure to see that so many of us have gathered here at the Summit devoted to food. For the problem of food is a problem concerning all humankind, concerning our very future.

The many statesmen who have gathered here in Rome demonstrate that the awareness of the universal character of the food problem is becoming increasingly enhanced. However, the fact that not all of us – literally all – are present here shows that such awareness has not yet become omnipresent.

We have met in order to demonstrate the existence of political will in dealing with the food problem in a more forceful, more determined way, along with the willingness of those capable of doing it to allocate part of what they have, in order to help those that have not.

I shall not present any figures about the disastrous consequences of the shortage of unavailability of food. We know such data well. It is high time to do something on the basis of what we know. I am not saying that we are doing nothing. I cannot deny that certain positive moves have been made over the past five years. But if I ask myself whether we can or maybe satisfied with that, the only answer I can give is: not at all. It is certainly not enough to be aware of the fact that people are starving to death every day, week, month and year. It is not enough either to be aware that the lack of food deprives the right to life to hundreds of thousands of children who have barely crossed the threshold of life, and that every few seconds, now as I am addressing you, a human being is dying of hunger somewhere on our planet.

It is not enough – I have said – because we are still at words.

The time of words has passed. It is high time for deeds.

We must demonstrate both determination and readiness to break the chain of death which has shackled the poorest and the most underdeveloped part of the world. It is the developed countries and, to the objectively possible extent, the developing countries too that are responsible for initiating and implementing a long-term action focused on eliminating the causes of hunger.

In other words, I plead, along the lines of the United Nations Millennium Declaration, as well as of the conclusions of some earlier conferences, for a concerted effort focused on investments, in underdeveloped countries, into infrastructure and the development of agriculture, into food production.

Let me reiterate what I said at the Monterrey conference on financing for development: let us make development a global process.

Let me add another point. We cannot and must not concentrate only on increasing the food output. We must at the same time focus on the protection and preservation of nature,as well as on developing the awareness about the need to redistribute the expenditure of national wealth, and to change substantially the budget and budget expenditure philosophy of the developed countries.

The former is necessary because merciless pollution and even destruction of the environment, which we are still unable to curb, threaten to destroy both the sources of food and the environment for its production. The latter is unavoidable if we want to have sufficient financial resources for serious investments into development, which also implies the resolution of the food problem.

Both are possible, but only by meeting two key prerequisites. First, the developed and the rich ought to understand that they must help the poor because this also serves their own interests. Second, having understood the first point, they must decide to help the underdeveloped, and not merely to the extent adequate to reduce slightly the death rate and to ensure at least a slight movement of the rate of growth from the negative into the positive sphere. Massive help is required in order to activate the development of the underdeveloped in all areas, help that will not be merely humanitarian and charitable.

In this context, I shall just refer to the need to reduce the astronomic cost of armament without any additional explanations because it really requires none. Does anyone need any convincing that, after the American-Russian agreement on the termination of the Cold War and on the reduction of nuclear missiles, the squandering of millions and billions of dollars on weapons becomes meaningless? Or should one draw attention to the absurdly gruesome calculations about the possible number of fatal causalities in a nuclear war which might break out between two states, both in the developing country group – with all its consequences?

I am also using this rostrum in order to state that any question can be resolved by negotiations and compromise only if both sides show the will for such a solution.

Therefore, peace is the basic prerequisite for development, and only development can start resolving the problem of hunger in the world, that is, the problem of food.

Political will is required in order to build peace, and in order to allocate funds from one's own budget in order to finance the development of others. Let me stress: we have gathered here in order to demonstrate the existence of such will. Therefore, let our message from Rome be the following: let us stop death by starvation, let us open up the prospect of life to those to whom it has been denied just because they lack even the minimum quantity of food required to keep them alive. Let us initiate - by deeds and not only by words – a global action against hunger and for development and peace without which, let me repeat, there is no development.

The most developed countries must understand that their interests are already threatened today, although their citizens are not seemingly in jeopardy as yet. Seemingly, I have said, because global terrorism, born also in an environment of complete deprivation of rights, implying the denial of the right to life as well, such terrorism jeopardizes everyone equally.

I am convinced that you share my wish to make this meeting a rostrum from which we shall say NO to the world in which people are dying of starvation but also YES to development. After the meeting we must demonstrate that we have understood the binding character of its conclusions, as well as of the conclusions of previous meetings which dealt with essentially the same problem.

The world in which we live is getting smaller and smaller. The number of people increases ever day. The problem of food becomes more and more pressing. Time is running out.

The Republic of Croatia is prepared to take s responsible part in all actions focused on resolving the problem of food, and the problem of hunger. We consider it our obligation to our own future but also to the future of the world in which we live.

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