His Excellency Edward Fenech Adami (Prime Minister of the Republic of Malta)
Hunger has plagued humanity for millennia. In spite of the significant progress made in the last few decades in the areas of food production, conservation and transport, this problem is still with us, bringing untold suffering and disease in its wake.
It is imperative that concerted action is now taken by all nations, large and small, to tackle the root causes of this suffering, and to free future generations from the spectre of hunger.
Serious efforts were made five years ago at the World Food Summit, as well as at the more recent Millennium Summit, to analyse the problems associated with food supply and to set targets for their solution. The commitment made by the Member States of the United Nations, and the Food and Agriculture Organization, to halve the number of people suffering from chronic hunger, by the year 2015, are too well known to need any renewed emphasis here. It is significant, however, that this is the first time in the history of mankind that such targets have been set.
Mr Chairman, Malta is a small, densely populated island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea that suffers from a chronic shortage of rainfall. Though every effort is made by my Government to promote agriculture and fisheries, these sectors are relatively small, both in relation to the economy as a whole, as well as in absolute terms.
Nevertheless, we are determined to conserve and develop our natural resources, not only because they constitute assets irrespective of their value in monetary terms, but also because they sustain a healthy environment and a better quality of life.
Moreover, it is recognised that agricultural activities have an important role to play in conserving and improving rural areas by counterbalancing the effect of rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, as well as in providing nutritious food at reasonable prices.
My Government is currently engaged in a reorganization of the local agricultural sector. This is aimed at the gradual dismantling of protectionist measures, accompanied by the implementation of direct support schemes to farmers and herdsmen within a structured framework of agricultural development.
As a result, the local agricultural producer will be better equipped to face competition from imported produce. The consumer should also benefit from reduced prices, as well as a general improvement in the quality of local produce. This policy will call for substantial funding on the part of Government, and is also geared at incentivising private investment by farmers.
In terms of the fisheries sector, we fully support the Food and Agriculture Organization in its vital role of fisheries management, including its efforts to prevent over-exploitation of marine living resources, and to deter illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. As a traditional fishing nation, Malta plays its part in the Organization's fisheries activities, and has been cooperating closely with our Mediterranean friends and neighbours, particularly within the framework of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean.
In this context, I also wish to refer to our exclusive fishing zone, which through an ecosystem approach, is being managed as a conservation area. The area also serves as a refuge for several species within the highly exploited Central Mediterranean.
A sophisticated statistical system, installed with the assistance of the Spanish-funded FAO/COPEMED project, maintains strict control over fishing activities to ensure that fish stocks remain at current levels. I need hardly add that Malta adheres to the Code of Conduct on Responsible Fisheries, in the elaboration of which we were directly involved, and which we have recently published in the Maltese language.
As regards shared fish stocks, last November Malta acceded to the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 which has now come into force. This relates to the ... Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. Malta also hosts the UNEP's Regional Marine Pollution Control Centre. This plays an important role in the protection of the Mediterranean against pollution, within the framework of the Mediterranean Action Plan.
Mr Chairman, Food shortages are often the cause or effect of internal or international conflict. It would therefore be appropriate for the United Nations to increase its conflict prevention measures and peace promotion capacities, so as to be in a position to prevent, or at least bring to an early conclusion, the conflicts that crop up from time to time in various parts of the world. These strategies must be backed by remedial action to prevent famine in the post-conflict periods, and to help areas affected by conflict to regain their normal food production capacity.
Malta has, in the last two years, made its own small contribution, both in the area of conflict resolution as well as that of peace promotion. It has ratified the landmines convention that condemns the production, stockpiling and distribution of landmines, thereby helping countries that have emerged from conflict to return to peace more swiftly and effectively.
Two years ago, in the Millennium Summit, Malta also voluntarily moved from category C to category B as a contributor to UN Peacekeeping Operations. This has increased its contributions to these operations from US$ 100 000 in the year 2000, to an estimated US$ 600 000 in 2004. A key factor behind these decisions was the knowledge that the promotion of peace is an essential element in the fight against food shortages.
Mr Chairman, the efforts made over the last fifty years by the Food and Agriculture Organization and other international institutions, as well as by numerous non-governmental organizations, to increase food production around the world, have been successful enough to prove that the creation of a world free from hunger and food shortages is possible within the foreseeable future. While congratulating these institutions on their past success, I believe that it is now up to us to take the necessary decisions which can make this possibility a reality.
Before I close, Mr Chairman, I also wish to thank the Italian Government for hosting this Summit with exemplary efficiency.
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