From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Franc But (Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Food of the Republic of Slovenia)

Excellencies, Distinguished Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is an honour and privilege that I have this opportunity to address this important and historic gathering at the World Food Summit: five years later, all the delegates, Ministers and other guests attending this Summit, on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia. I would like to congratulate the Director-General, Mr Jacques Diouf, for the support that he and the Secretariat of FAO have given to this meeting, for your vision in drawing the attention of the world to the problems and issues we face regarding the most basic human needs, for working to implement the human rights and access to adequate food for everyone around the world.

Finally, I would like to express, in the name of the Slovenian delegation, as well as mine, our gratitude, in particular to the Government of Italy, for hosting this important event.

Madame Chair, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, each human being has a right to sufficient and healthy food. The right to food is well established in contemporary human rights law. It was included from the very beginning in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly even in 1948. It has since then been elaborated and made legally binding on stated parties to the Covenant on Economic and Social Rights, Article 11, and to the Convention of the Rights of the Child, Article 24, as well as to a number of the other and more specific provisions.

How many times were these words written down? How many times these words were declared in different meetings and conferences during these five years? The Rome Declaration adopted by the World Food Summit in 1996 convened by the International Fund for Agricultural Development declared that more than 800 million people throughout the world, and particularly in developing countries, do not have enough food to meet their basic nutrition needs and are still chronically undernourished. Seventy percent of them are women in rural areas and over the last two decades the number of these women living below the poverty line has increased by 50 percent. Somebody said: "if hunger had a face, it would be the face of a woman". Our 300 million children who are our hope, future and joy suffer famine and many of them sustain permanent physical and mental damage through malnutrition. About five million children under the age of five die of famine.

Today, five years later, it is evident that the progress towards the reduction of hunger was not efficient enough. What went wrong? Were we speaking in the wind? Our words and nice wishes for better tomorrow were not heard, not even registered. Where did we make a mistake? Why do so many people still starve or even die because of hunger and poverty and among them, so many children? This situation leads to the deploration of human rights and dignity, as well as social unrest and disturbances.

Madame Chair, Ladies and Gentlemen, this situation must be unacceptable and the whole international society must be deeply concerned about it. However, I believe that all the reasons causing poverty and hunger are known to us. It is no secret that the world situation of food security is in the countries where non-democratic regimes do not respect fundamental human rights and security of the children.

Slovenia is deeply concerned by the course of events in India and Pakistan and by the constant threat with the use of force. At the same time we are equally concerned by the development of the situation in Madagascar. Even more so, since Slovenia, which is now quite a developed country, is heading one of the humanitarian projects under the World Food Plan of Action.

We believe that it is now time to realize that wars primarily affect those that are the most vulnerable, our children, their mothers, the elderly and the sick. It is clear that wars bring only destruction and measures primarily over the civilian population.

It is our hope that the Governments of both countries, India and Pakistan, will come to a peaceful diplomatic solution for the problem at hand. That would be a true gift of the World Food Summit: five years later and to the people who work for the eradication of poverty and hunger around the world and in the countries involved.

Both hunger and poverty are not yet a problem of planetarian capacity but one of the unequal access, except for the unaccepted catastrophes when emergency food aid is required. The issue is not one of humanitarian assistance but rather of better sharing of knowledge, information, education, technology, natural resources, land, free access to the market, political tolerance and prudence.

Self-reliant development that is not the best guarantee for food security crucially depends on extending and improving educational provisions. The priority should target women and girls who make up 65 percent of the total population. This is particularly relevant to food security in view of women's role in agriculture in the developing countries. Rural women are the poor masses of the world. We must place women first.

The Slovenian Government appreciates that the Rome Declaration and the World Food Summit Plan of Action recognize that governments must take the prime responsibility for action in their own countries and that the national policies will have to put the interests of poor and starving people first.

The Government of the Republic of Slovenia therefore fully supports the principles and guidelines of the World Food Summit Plan of Action Code of Conduct of the Rights to Food proposal and international alliance against hunger, general statements made by regional representaitves, Non-governmental organizations' resolutions for the World Food Summit: five years later.

In conclusion, I am convinced, Ladies and Gentlemen, that the best way to reach our goals in peace, democracy, justice, freedom and respect for the human rights of all individuals and groups. And, of course, to teach the people how to be self-sufficient to ensure a better future for themselves.

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