His Excellency Lakshman Prasad Mehta (Minister of State for Agriculture of the Kingdom of Nepal)
It is indeed a matter of pleasure and privilege for me to address this important Summit. Allow me at the outset to congratulate the Director-General of FAO for the excellent preparation. On behalf of His Majesty's Government of Nepal, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Government and people of Italy for the hospitality extended to me and my delegation.
Madam Chairperson, the world community has for a long time recognized "freedom from hunger and malnutrition" as the "inalienable right" of every human being and affirmed the need to work collectively to ensure this freedom to everyone, everywhere. And yet, we are compelled to bear with the evidence that there are nearly 800 million hungry people in the world even today.
It is our dismay that the resources set aside to address hunger have been falling, contrary to our expectations. At a time when we need to speed up progress in attaining global food security, and to redouble our resource commitments for that matter, it is in the interests of all of us that we increase substantially the resources set aside for addressing food insecurity everywhere.
Nepal has been fighting terrorism for the last six years. With the 11 September terrorist attacks in the USA, a strong alliance against terrorism has emerged at the global level. Nepal has strongly supported this alliance. At the same time, we want the world community to forge a strong global alliance against hunger and food insecurity and come forward with a strong plan of action.
Madam Chairperson, we recognize that in order to achieve the targets of the World Food Summit 1996, there is an emergent need to accord greater emphasis to the technical and distributional dimensions of food security among regions, nations and population groups. It is common knowledge that developing and least developed countries are most vulnerable to food insecurity and many other associated vices that threaten international security. We take this opportunity to urge the international community to ensure that the ODA commitments to LDCs be met urgently and meaningfully.
Likewise, the assistance committed towards the capacity enhancement of developing countries to benefit from the genuinely free and fair global trading system needs priority attention from the developed partners. An equally important consideration would be to enhance the preferential and early access of developing countries to evolving new agricultural technologies. At the same time, developing countries must also be assisted in developing their own research capabilities so as to help them efficiently use and conserve their genetic resource, biodiversity and indigenous agricultural products and preferences.
Madam Chairperson, Nepal was in process of preparation of the ninth Five-Year Plan when the World Food Summit was held in 1996. Our commitments to the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action are amply reflected in this Plan which has been in implementation since 1997. A 20-year Agriculture Perspective Plan (APP), adopted as the core of the national action plan for food security and poverty alleviation, has been guiding our development priorities. The APP has been adopted as the main strategy for achieving a broad-based economic growth required to achieve poverty reduction and a sustained economic growth.
Significant strides have been made in recent years, especially on the policy and institutional front, towards increasing food production and improving food access, integrated in the goal of poverty reduction. The reform initiatives have provided more space and opportunities for civil societies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to take part in development.
Nepal has recently initiated several institutional reforms towards enhancing the access of marginal groups to productive resources. The challenge that now faces us is how to build their capacity to maximize the economic benefits from emerging opportunities. These are identified as areas of future support from the international community. Recently, the Government amended the Land Reform Act, with significant downward revision of ceilings on land. Likewise, the Government has abolished the century-old practice of Kamaiya (a system of bonded labour). They are set free and are being provided with plots of land together with financial assistance and skill training.
The Government is now preparing to implement the tenth Five-Year Plan from the next fiscal year. Poverty alleviation through sustainable, rapid and broad-based economic growth with targeted programmes of safety nets and social mobilization, will be the main development strategy for the next five years. Agriculture-led growth will continue to be at the core of food security strategies through effective implementation of APP. Economic liberalization, decentralization and improved governance will, likewise, continue to be our top priority for the overall economic development, including reducing poverty and improving food security in Nepal.
We have proposed to commence the implementation of the tenth Five-Year Plan with the declaration of the Agriculture Decade.
With the enhanced level of international support, His Majesty's Government of Nepal expects to bring about more rapid and meaningful improvements in the food security situation in the country in the next five years.
Madam Chairperson, The Agriculture Ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) met in Kathmandu in May this year and arrived at a common position on the problems of food insecurity and nutrition. I urge this Summit, on behalf of Nepal as the chair of SAARC, to take into account, and reflect on, the concerns and recommendations of the resolution.
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