From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Jan Fencl (Minister for Agriculture of the Czech Republic) (Original language Czech)

Ladies and Gentlemen, By way of introduction, I would like to express my sincere thanks to Dr Jacques Diouf, the FAO Director-General, for organizing this important Summit meeting as follow-up to the World Food Summit of 1996 and its Plan of Action. At the same time, I would like to join with the heartfelt and sincere words of those who have spoken before me in emphasizing our deep thanks to the Government of Italy for its kind hospitality.

A period of five and a half years has elapsed since the World Food Summit was convened. This is long enough for us to be able to monitor the current trend of efforts within the active struggle against hunger and thus share some of the conclusions arising from this within a broad international forum. In this respect, of this I dare to express certain concerns related to the hitherto slow progress achieved in the reduction of the number of undernourished in the world. As long as we wish to successfully fulfil our common commitment of 1996, and I steadfastly believe we do, it is quite clear that there is a lot of work ahead of us.

The way in which we should achieve this has already been set. The primary and the most important objective is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. There is no doubt that the alleviation of hunger and the closely connected continuous increase of food security are amongst the most fundamental preconditions for sustainable poverty reduction. The basic responsibility rests with national governments; however, key roles are also played by "good governance", observance of law or respect for human rights. National economies could be efficiently supported by involving as many developing countries as possible in the global economy and world trade. The Czech Republic considers the objectives of the World Food Summit to be an integral part of the world development strategy. At the same time, we reaffirm the importance of the role of FAO in this process, which should be that of mediator and coordinator of mutual cooperation between developing and developed countries.

Neither FAO nor any other stakeholder should be isolated in the struggle against hunger and poverty. It is necessary to win permanent assistance from governments and other international organizations, financial institutions and non-governmental organizations. In this context we support the concept of a global alliance against hunger that was mentioned for the first time at the Thirtieth Session of the FAO Conference in 1999 and was revived on the occasion of the recent Twenty-second FAO Regional Conference for Europe in Cyprus.

Now let me briefly outline the situation in the Czech Republic. Food safety is a top priority and, thanks to the high standards of our inspectional authorities we can recommend our food products to all consumers. At present we are in the process of fully harmonizing legislation to achieve compatibility with the relevant legislation of the European Union. With regard to health and nutrition, we consider the development of the state of health of inhabitants in the Czech Republic to be somewhat of a problem. Despite some improvements in the course of the last decade, it is far from being optimal. The traditional eating habits of the population give rise to various factors which may have adverse effects on health. To improve the effect of food on the development of the nutritional health of the population, it is necessary to achieve changes in the consumption and composition of food. It is especially desirable to regulate the high energy intakes of foodstuff and the high proportions of fat and sugar in diet.

Although extreme poverty occurs only and solely marginally in the country, there are concepts within the state strategy to combat poverty in the Czech Republic. This is based on citizens' personal responsibility for their own situation and on support for social, economic and work activities of each and every individual. The alleviation of insufficient incomes and reduction of the inequality of resources of incomes and other resources through social transfers always represent secondary and auxiliary mechanisms. The set of tools used in combatting poverty in the Czech Republic is a combination of traditional, fairly general means of social protection and specific mechanisms constituting a social safety net. These include a system of minimum income items, that is the minimum wage, the minimum pension as the only source of income and the subsistence minimum as the minimum guaranteed income.

Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Czech Republic unambiguously supports the adoption of the Resolution for the World Food Summit: five years later in the form submitted. In conclusion, I would like to point out that we continuously implement the commitments pledged at the World Food Summit in 1996 and at the same time we have been actively contributing to global food security to the extent and with the intensity consistent with our share in the world population and the scope our economy.

Thank you for your attention.

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