From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency John Malone (Secretary General, Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development of Ireland)

Mr Chairman, Distinguished Delegates, I am pleased to be here at the World Food Summit: five years later, as a representative of the Irish Government.

I would, in particular, want to compliment the Italian Government and FAO for the excellent arrangements.

As we meet here today, the achievement of food security for all continues to be one of the major challenges facing the world. The 1996 World Food Summit set a goal of halving the number of undernourished people in the world by 2015.

Progress to date has been slow. There are still 777 million chronically undernourished people in the developing world. The State of Food Security in the World 2001 report shows that while the current annual rate of reduction in the number of hungry people is 6 million, an annual reduction of 22 million is required, if we are to achieve the 1996 World Food Summit target.

These statistics paint an alarming picture. More needs to be done to reduce hunger and poverty. Clearly we must focus what can be done about this, and redouble our efforts on behalf of the malnourished and starving people of the world. Through this Summit we must all affirm our resolve that this appalling situation will not be permitted to continue.

Ireland, through it's role as Presidency of the European Union in 1996, was deeply involved in the negotiations on the Rome Declaration and the Plan of Action of the World Food Summit. Ireland is dedicated to the implementation of the commitments of the Plan of Action.

As shown in our National Reports on the follow-up to the World Food Summit Plan of Action, the domestic and the development cooperation policies of the Irish Government are consistent with, and contribute to, the implementation of the Plan of Action. A committee chaired by my Department and including other relevant government departments and Non-governmental representatives is involved in monitoring the implementation of the plan.

We know that the prime source of food insecurity is poverty. Progress towards the eradication of poverty is essential if access to food is to be improved for all people, and especially for the poor and members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups and minorities.

On the domestic front, Ireland has, since 1997, had a National Anti-Poverty Strategy which is specifically targeted at reducing poverty levels further and monitoring progress in that regard. Action on social exclusion is also one of the central pillars of our national partnership process in which the Government, Trade Unions, employers and other social partners agree a national pay, tax and policy framework.

The Irish official aid programme, Ireland Aid, is now twenty years old. It has grown steadily over the years from modest beginnings to its current size. In September 2000, the Government decided that Ireland will reach the UN target of 0.7 percent for expenditure on ODA by 2007. This target has been reaffirmed in the most recent programme for government. An interim target of 0.45 percent of GNP was set for 2002 and has been achieved by the allocation of €456 million in development aid this year.

By 2007, Ireland's expenditure on ODA will be over €1 billion. This dramatic and unprecedented increase in ODA places Ireland at the forefront of international efforts to reduce poverty and inequality and to respond to humanitarian disasters in developing countries. We recognize that our recent economic success now provides us with an opportunity to reach out to the poorest people on the earth with increased support and we gladly grasp this opportunity.

In addition to bilateral aid programmes with developing countries. Ireland Aid cooperates closely with other donor countries, in order to avoid duplication of effort, learn from best practices and maximise effectiveness. Donors acknowledge that host country ownership of aid-financed interventions is essential, if sustainable benefits are to be generated. The inter-connected concepts of partnership, ownership and sustainability in development assistance programmes are core principles underpinning Irish aid programmes. Ireland Aid's Country Programmes are built on partnership at local, regional and national level.

Ireland Aid recognizes the importance of ensuring food security. It is committed to providing timely and targeted responses to food shortages and also, where appropriate, to programmes which attempt to address simultaneously future food security needs.

Although a wide range of factors influence food security, the link between food security and food production is more direct in sub-Saharan Africa than in many other parts of the world, as most families still have access to some land. In these countries, agriculture makes an essential contribution to economic growth, is the main source of subsistence and income for the rural poor and helps ensure food security. Ireland Aid has supported a range of activities in the agriculture sector in a number of sub-Saharan countries.

The agriculture sector generally is receiving increased attention within the Ireland Aid programme. Agriculture is, essentially, a private sector activity. While the extent of the role, which Governments should play in the sector, is open to debate, they play a key role in determining the policy environment of agriculture.

Sustainable food security has many components. Ireland recognizes the trade, as well as the non-trade, concerns of developing countries. It supports trade capacity building, in particular through the provision of funding to the Advisory Centre on WTO law. At the WTO Ministerial in Doha last November, Ministers underlined the importance of helping developing countries to build their trade capacity. Ireland Aid has tripled its trade capacity building budget over the last few years, and will provide €1.5 million in trade capacity building assistance this year to help meet the needs of developing countries.

The development policies of Ireland Aid are consistent with and contribute to the achievement of the goals of the World Food Summit. Ireland is pleased to actively participate in and support the work of the UN, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

In conclusion, Mr Chairman I would like to repeat the support of the Irish government for the work of FAO.

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