His Excellency Jari Koskinen (Minister for Agriculture and Forestry of the Republic of Finland)
I want to begin by confirming Finland's commitment towards 1996 World Food Summit Plan of Action.
The World Food Summit:five years later marks one step forward to achieve the Millennium Development Goals agreed upon in the Millennium Summit in 2000 and reconfirmed in many important conferences that followed: from Doha towards Johannesburg. The real challenge ahead of us now is to maintain the momentum reached in these events and implement the commitments made. The success of the forthcoming WSSD Conference is critically important.
At the Millennium Summit we made commitments towards the world's future development. The first goal, to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, is the most important one. There is no doubt that alleviating hunger is a prerequisite for sustainable reduction in poverty.
The responsibility for reaching the Millennium development goals, including food security, mainly rests with national governments. It is also the primary duty of every government to set concrete national targets to reduce the number of the hungry. A nationally owned strategy for poverty reduction and improvement in production and access to food are key instruments against poverty. As hunger in most cases is a rural phenomenon, the poverty reduction strategies should give priority to development of rural economic activities and food security strategies.
It is not possible to solve problems of rural areas through agriculture alone. Agriculture, however, is a self-evident part of rural development. Investments in agriculture must be combined with education, research and training. Finland believes that real ownership is based on local solutions and empowerment of communities. The participatory approach and strengthening of local government is crucial in order to ensure the sustainability of rural development. Sustainable management of forests and use of forestry products go hand in hand with agriculture in most countries. Sustainable use and management of fisheries and genetic resources are of the utmost importance in improving food security.
Mr Chairman, another important aspect of food security is gender equality. Women have a central role in agriculture. However, women's contribution could be far greater if they had equal access to essential resources and services, such as land, credit and education.
The national reports on the progress made in the implementation of the World Food Summit Plan of Action show that only 32 developing countries have succeeded in reducing the number of the undernourished. In many countries where this has not been possible, the preconditions for reducing hunger and poverty such as sustained economic growth, good governance and political stability, have not been met.
Other serious constraints are the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, natural disasters and outbreaks of major animal and plant diseases, which have taken their deadly toll and destroyed agricultural land as well as productive - and protective - forests in vast areas.
We have to face these problems, and we must not give up fighting them. FAO, together with its development partners of the UN family and the NGOs, has to intensify its efforts in order to make agriculture regain its central role in rural development and in the fight against hunger and poverty.
In connection with international trade, the LDC countries should receive particular attention. All countries should be encouraged to provide duty-free and quota-free access for products originating from LDCs, as envisaged in the Programme of Action for the LDCs adopted in Brussels in May 2001. For many developing countries market access for agricultural products, in particular, is of great importance.
Food safety should be closely linked to the concept of food security. Food safety is a fundamental concern, not only for the developed world, but for all countries. Food-borne infections and food poisonings are serious public health problems, especially for children and old people in the developing countries.
The first Global Forum on Food Safety Regulators, held in Marrakech last January, underlined the structural weaknesses in the control of agriculture and food products in many developing countries. It is of primary importance to intensify technical assistance and capacity building in the developing countries to enable them to meet food safety standards for both national and international markets. The work under the Codex Alimentarius, IPPC and OIE should be encouraged, and FAO has to intensify its cooperation with these organizations.
What it takes now is to act on commitments that we have made. The political will is there and the means have been identified. We have only got 13 years to achieve the expected results.
Thank you, Mr Chairman.
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