From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Datuk Mohd Effendi Bin Norwawi (Minister for Agriculture and Cooperatives of Malaysia)

Thank you Madame Chairperson, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates.

Many of us have come a long way. We have set aside precious time to be here. This is only worthwhile if this Summit succeeds, which must be the hope of every delegate here.

I was here last year, and this year I hear the same ring and tone of speeches. I hear the despair. Now, are we really going to do something about this? What puzzles me most is everybody who has spoken has said the very same thing - we want to eliminate hunger - we want to deal with this problem. So what is holding us back? Why are we not progressing as we should?

Eight hundred million people are living in hunger every day. Twenty-four thousand people are dying every day, and we are here debating on semantics, words and phrasing. Now we need another two years to talk some more about this Declaration. How can we feel good about this? Words, more words, more promises, more Declarations is not what the eight hundred million people need. They want to see real action. It's up to us here and it's within our powers here, to make things happen. I cannot see how any nation can turn its back on this basic human rights issue. I cannot see why anyone would not give this FAO Food Security Programme the highest priority and support.

So where is the problem? Is it about how we cannot mobilize the Fund needed? I don't think so. The figure of US$ 24 billion dollars quoted by FAO needed for this programme represents only 0.1 percent of the GDP of OECD countries. If OECD countries can subsidize US$ 300 billion a year for agriculture, is it unreasonable to suggest that some of these monies, instead be channelled to the eradication of hunger? How can this be? So is it then a question of political will and commitment?

The remarks by all EU leaders have been very strong and vocal in support of the programme. Encouraging remarks by the Hon. United States Secretary of Agriculture yesterday irrevocably stated her nation's "deep and continuing commitment to the goals of the 1996 World Food Summit".

So, where is the gap? We must identify this and somehow work it out. We respect the donor countries rightly want to impose conditions, but those conditions should not be unduly prohibitive and should only be related to ensuring that the Fund reach the intended target groups.

Similarly, the onus is on the recipient countries to ensure that the Fund is used diligently, only for the designated purposes, and managed transparently and efficiently. Surely a satisfactory mechanism can be worked out, acceptable to both donor and recipient countries in the mobalization of the Fund. Also, the onus is on recipient countries to ensure they create a stable social and political environment conducive to the successful implementation of the programme.

I'm not saying anything new. We knew all this, but why can't we do it? Let's find a way. Lets do it for the eight hundred million hungry people who are counting on us.

For a start we can show a spirit by supporting the FAO Trust Fund initiative. If there are any misgivings about this Fund, let's thrash it out. Let's give the Partnership Training Programme a chance. Let's be more generous and open-hearted in our deliberations. Why can't we work harder to agree to a common course of action that will be satisfactory to both the donor and recipient countries? Why can't we trust each other more?

Surely this cause deserves our highest and special attention where we set aside all our political, economic, religious and national differences for once, for this most basic of human rights. Let's do this purely for humanity. Here is a great opportunity for universal solidarity. Malaysia is a small country but we are ready to be called upon to contribute in any way within our means to make this programme a success.

Let's give these eight hundred million people real hope this time. Lets all go home from this Summit feeling good that this time it's going to be the real thing. It's going to be more than just words. It's going to really happen. Then all of us can leave this Summit with a clear conscience, and five years later the speeches we hear in the hall will change from those of despair to those of hope and renewed optimism.

Thank you.

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