From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Pitak Intrawityanunt (Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand)

Madam Chairperson,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The right to food is a basic human right. Yet, it is an absolute atrocity that over 800 million of the world's citizens continue to live under the threat of starvation. Figures show little improvement in our fight against hunger. The small advances that have been made are mainly on a regional basis. Our 'united coalition' has shown little progress.

It is obvious that we must recommit ourselves, in policy and action, to the fight against hunger. Working together is the only way to achieve our goal of cutting world hunger in half by the year 2015. The war on hunger cannot be waged by the developing world alone. Developed nations must also do their part, not so much by food aid, which is only a stopgap measure, but by allowing impoverished countries to trade their way out of deprivation and hunger. As always, accessibility, availability and affordability remain the key elements in achieving global food security.

Six years after the Rome Declaration, both food-importing and exporting countries continue to use food as a political tool. Food activists have noted that the world produces enough food to feed every man, woman and child. Sadly, in too many parts of the world, poverty and politics often prevent adequate access to food. That is why economic growth alone will not reduce hunger. The socio-economic and political barriers to food security must first be dismantled. We must work harder to narrow the gap between the overfed rich and the underfed poor. At the same time, conflict resolution and peace building must remain an integral part of the fight against hunger.

Food insecurity is not the fault of man alone. Forces of nature often play a part in determining the availability of food. Erratic weather and fragile ecosystems have led to agricultural failure on more than one occasion. We, the global coalition, must work in harmony with our environment to ensure that we can continue to produce enough food to feed the world's population.

Biotechnology has the potential to help meet the needs of an expanding and increasingly urbanized population. Advances in agricultural biotechnology can significantly increase the yield and nutritional value of food. Therefore, I would like to request the Food and Agriculture Organization to assist developing countries with regard to agricultural biotechnology.

We also need better ways to cope with the environmental disasters that impact on food security. FAO's assistance in measures such as early warning systems, preparedness and disaster management training can help cushion the impact upon the world's most vulnerable people.

As a net food exporter, Thailand's strategy has tended to focus on the poverty dimension of food security. My Government has introduced programmes aimed at raising rural incomes, and strengthening the capacity of agrarian communities, which would contribute to food security, both directly and indirectly. But domestic policy can only go so far in helping the poor and hungry. A supportive international economic environment is vital if our efforts to "teach them to fish" are to be sustainable.

The disturbing fact is that economic policies in developed countries effectively prevent poor countries from trading their way out of poverty. Perversely, some of the staunchest advocates of free trade impose tariff rates on developing country exports that are on average four to five times higher than tariffs on developed countries’ exports. Moreover, billions of dollars in farm subsidies by some of the richest countries keep small-scale farmers in the developing world mired in abject poverty, while distorting world market food prices and subverting the affordability of food in their own countries.

In a world so closely interconnected, it should be obvious that hunger cannot be tackled without addressing its political and economic contexts, at both domestic and international levels. Most importantly, if we are to create a climate conducive to food security, we must tear down the trade barriers, tariff and non-tariff, that perpetuate poverty. The imposition of arbitrary standards on food exports from developing countries must not be a tool for protectionism. Free and fair trade must be more than noble sentiments that crumble in the face of powerful vested interests.

Countries can come up with the right policies, but without sincerity, commitment, political will and, most importantly, action by our united coalition, and by each and everyone of us, we will fall short of our target. Every moment we delay, thousands of our fellow human beings join those already starving.

It is time for action. Let us delay not a moment longer.

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