From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Noureddin MONA (Minister for Agriculture and Agrarian Reform of the Syrian Arab Republic) (Original language Arabic)

Your Excellency, President of the Summit, Your Majesties, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen. I have the pleasure to represent the Syrian Arab Republic at this important World Food Summit: five years later. The whole world is looking forward to its positive results. I also have the pleasure to express my congratulations to Mr Berlusconi for having been elected the President of our Conference, and to his Honourable Deputies. We are sure that through his wisdom and knowledge, we will succeed in reaching the worthy goals we all aspire to and those we all gathered here to reach.

It is also my pleasure to speak here in Rome, the historic city chosen by the world to be the Headquarters of the Organization dealing with the most important issue for humanity, the provision of food. I should not also forget to express my thanks to His Excellency, Dr Jacques Diouf, the Director-General of FAO, pointing to his distinguished efforts for the sake of humanity since he came to office, especially his efforts in holding the World Food Summit in 1996 and in holding this Summit today.

Ladies and gentlemen, man on the globe today has today witnessed an unprecedented scientific revolution. Nevertheless, this progress has not prevented the existence of hundreds of millions of human beings living in bad, deteriorating economic conditions where they cannot meet their nutritional needs. In addition to this, many places and regions of the world still suffer from natural disasters, unemployment and displacement. Many countries suffer from debts and underdevelopment, while many other countries benefit from economic prosperity. These economic contradictions are not proper.

We all recognize the right for all human beings to live, and this right to live is closely linked to the right to food. In order to deal with the deteriorating nutritional situation, in 1996, all countries of the world called for co-operation in order to halve the number of the undernourished by 2015. All the representatives of the countries of the world reiterated this fact. However, the Organization issued many warnings that we had not respected what we had committed ourselves to do and that, if this trend continued, the situation would be worse than what it was in 1996.

We have gathered in this place today to correct the situation. It is our hope, as well as that of humanity, that we work towards an international charter of solidarity to put a decisive end to famine throughout the world. Only thus can we find a way out of this tragic situation. In order to reach this goal, we need to adopt a new pattern of Cupertino to help the poorer countries in an effective and objective manner, to help them overcome their economic and social difficulties.

It is important to point out the consequences of the occupation of other people's lands, the aggression on other people's rights and the negative impact on the production of food, as in the case of the occupied Territories, where trees are being cut, agricultural lands are being destroyed and all these practices are going against the resolutions of the World Food Summit in 1996 and all of the activities of international organisations dealing with increasing the production of food.

Ladies and gentlemen, the experience of our country throughout the last few decades in dealing with economic and social difficulties enabled us to achieve notable progress. Democracy has been strengthened in my country as a result of the requirements of the new era, the improvement of sanitary and cultural conditions, and the propagation of education; enabling all people to attain a high educational level. Therefore, both poverty and infant mortality rates decreased, the number of families having access to their proper homes increased and, the rural illiteracy rate decreased from 34 percent in 1990 to 17 percent in 2000. The infant mortality rate decreased from 33 per thousand to 24 per thousand, and the number of households having access to drinking water increased from 77 percent to 89 percent for the same period.

Thus, we are convinced that this path of integrated development on both economic and social levels will yield positive results to help us overcome many difficulties. Our production and development would become sustainable if we managed to face the environmental challenges of drought since 75 percent of our agricultural production is rainfed. Moreover, unless the Golan Heights are returned and there is a regression to the 4 June 1967 boundaries so often called for international resolutions, we will not be able to reach sustainable production levels. This is a very fertile land with excellent water resources, but its population is still displaced.

Ladies and gentlemen, the world today is in need of international solidarity. The rich countries should assume their duties and responsibilities, a special duty in this regard, by allowing developing countries to utilize their economic and technological capacities.

Finally, we hope to reach a new effective mechanism to combat poverty and hunger and to reach the goals we have all committed ourselves to accomplish.

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