From the podium

From the podium


His Excellency Roger Clarke (Minister for Agriculture of Jamaica)

I deem it a profound honour to lead my country's delegation to this most important forum, the World Food Summit: five years later. My country, Jamaica, participated fully in the World Food Summit in 1996 because of our deep commitment to reducing food insecurity in Jamaica, as well as our desire to see a sharp reduction in the malnourished persons of the world. Today, our commitment remains undiminished, and we have accorded the highest priority to implementing the 1996 Rome Declaration and Plan of Action.

Madame Chair, the World Food Summit was convened to harness global commitment to the reduction and ultimate elimination of hunger and malnutrition in the world. At the time of the Summit, FAO estimated that approximately 800 million persons were chronically-undernourished. It is therefore most disappointing that five years later, it is estimated that the world situation has not changed much, with approximately 792 million persons in 98 developing countries still not getting enough food to lead normal health and active lives. Indeed, there are other authoritative sources which suggest that figures might have actually increased.

I am pleased to report, however, that the situation in my own country, Jamaica, is much more positive, with the estimated rate of undernourished persons standing at eight percent. The reduction in the level of undernourished persons in Jamaica is supported by a number of important indicators. These include the significant reduction in the level of poverty in the society; the consistent reduction in the level of inflation in the economy; the increase in mean per capita consumption, the increase in per capita daily energy supplies (DES) and the continued reduction of malnutrition in children under five years. FAO has also provided information which shows that the depth of hunger among the undernourished persons in Jamaica can be regarded as moderate, meaning that most undernourished persons probably get enough of the starchy staple foods, but lack a variety of other foods that make up a nutritious diet.

In addition to policies to reduce the level of poverty and to ensure that the most vulnerable groups are protected through safety net programmes, my Government has also focused on the drive to increase production and productivity of food crops, animal production, fisheries expansion, forestry development and conservation. This we are undertaking through the development and implementation of projects which target production, as well as the support services which must underpin growth development such as irrigation expansion, agricultural research infrastructure and other support institutions with special emphasis on agricultural health and food safety. We are aiming to increase the supply of food in a more efficient manner, so that a greater number of the population can have access to safe and nutritious food.

While we are encouraged by the results so far, Madame Chair, we are very aware that there is no room for complacency. The fact that one in every five people in the developing world is chronically-undernourished is a constant reminder to us that we need to redouble our efforts not only in Jamaica but also throughout the developing world.

This Summit should therefore be seen as an opportunity to again press for a major commitment from world leaders to forge ahead with renewed will to reduce the number of hungry people in the world. As FAO points out, we must be reminded again that "Hunger is a profound impediment to the advancement of individuals and societies and that without appropriate intervention, under-nutrition and the death and disease it causes are repeated with each generation". We must also seek to find more effective and sustainable methods to reduce hunger. In this regard, we agree with FAO that a synergy must be created between direct action against hunger and measures to enhance sustainable livelihoods for the poor through the stimulation of agriculture and the rural sector.

We must understand, at the global level, that the progress of the world is dependent not only on the extent to which poverty and hunger can be reduced in individual countries but also in all countries. In this respect, we wish to point out that trade liberalization both benefits and challenges the realization of the right to food. It is therefore necessary that policies which distort world trading relationships and cause an uneven playing field be discontinued and commitments, made at fora such as the WTO, be adhered to. While it is logical to expect, Madame Chair, that a freer market should level the playing field between developed and developing nations, in the medium to long run, until that is achieved, national and international policies will need to ensure that gains are shared equitably and that vulnerable populations are protected.

In closing, Madame Chair, the Jamaican delegation wishes to reiterate its commitment to the reduction and ultimate eradication of hunger globally. We call upon the leaders present at this Summit to recommit themselves to effectively work together to address the special needs of Africa, the least developed countries and Small Island Developing States through appropriate technical assistance and through the mobilization of adequate development funds. We believe that FAO has a major role to play in assisting countries to implement the provisions of the World Food Summit Plan of Action, and we therefore welcome the adoption of FAO's Strategic Framework.

Madame Chair, we cannot return to this forum in five years’ time to report limited success. If mankind is to survive, a quantum leap has to be made, as time is not on our side. So, finally, Madame Chair, let us move vigorously from the Declaration to action to ensure that we spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, and that we recommit ourselves to that task.

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