From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Werner Wutscher (Secretary General, Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Austria)

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegations, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I have the honour to submit the greetings of Minister Molterer, the Austrian Federal Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Environment and Water Management, and to present his address to this distinguished forum.

First of all, I would like to congratulate you, Mr President, upon your election to this responsible function. But, I would also like to submit my gratitude to the Government and people of Italy for hosting this very important Summit and organizing this meeting.

Ladies and gentlemen, fighting hunger is a moral obligation. Since 1974, for nearly 30 years the international community has given priority to the mitigation of hunger and poverty. Goals have been set to generate income and alleviate poverty, increase school enrolment, achieve gender equality, reduce child and maternal mortality, provide access to health services and to adopt national strategies for sustainable development.

With respect to food insecurity, six years ago we met in Rome at the World Food Summit to identify ourselves with the Rome Declaration and committed ourselves to halving the number of hungry people by the year 2015. According to FAO, current data indicate that the number of undernourished in the world is falling at an average rate of only six million each year, far below the rate of 22 million per year needed to reach the 1996 World Food Summit target.

In giving a new impetus to the commitments taken at the 1996 World Food Summit Declaration and the Plan of Action, we do strongly support the reconfirmation expressed in the Declaration from this Summit. With reference to genetic resources, we welcome the International Treaty on Phytogenetic Resources since it contributes to sustainable development from an integrated approach.

The process of reducing poverty and hunger has to be accelerated. I think that the focal point should remain the implementation of the commitments agreed upon at the World Food Summit in 1996. But, this Summit may provide a unique opportunity to go one step further and focus our attention on the most efficient policies to reduce poverty and food insecurity. We should target those people who face the most devastating consequences of poverty and food insecurity: people living in rural areas. It has been estimated that three-quarters of the world's poor live in rural areas and, according to projection, a majority of the poor will continue to be in rural areas.

Poverty is mostly a rural phenomenon. Rural development and food security strategies should therefore be at the centre of country strategies to reduce poverty and hunger. Countries affected by poverty and hunger need national and regional strategies that do not entirely concentrate on financial concerns, but combine political and legal reform, taking account of the specific needs in rural areas.

Poverty is frequently caused by an unequal access to resources, mostly land, capital and education, or by the lack of productive occupation. As a result, it prevents people from producing the required food from available resources. Therefore, agriculture as a key sector of the economy in poor regions has to be strengthened by appropriate policies. And, if I do speak of agriculture, I mean the European model of agriculture which consists of the principles of multi-functionality and sustainability.

Investment for agriculture has to be facilitated, and governments should identify assistance to farmers in their countries as one of the highest priorities of their policies. Apart from the need to focus on the increase of incomes and food production under certain conditions, there are various elements to be introduced into rural development strategies, including non-agricultural activities and general conditions regarding markets, trade, infrastructure and education.

Therefore, in particular, the results of Agenda 21, the Millennium Summit, the Doha Ministerial Conference on World Trade, the Monterrey Summit on Finance Development, as well as the forthcoming Conference on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, should contribute to the success of the World Food Summit and build a new partnership between developing and developed countries to address one of the greatest challenges of the new century.

This new partnership should focus on the following keystones and basics:

Firstly, this new partnership should use a holistic approach. We do need an integrated approach, and if you look at the top priorities which were pointed out by Secretary-General, Kofi Annan for Johannesburg – water, renewable energy, health and agriculture – we should put it together to find a good solution.

Secondly, we need clear timetables and targets. Only if there are binding obligations and working programmes, can we solve the problem.

Thirdly, and lastly, this new partnership should be based on the principles of good governance. We need a clear legal framework to fulfil the requirements to fight hunger. Only if we integrate the principles of sustainability in all sectors of our life, could we challenge this problem in the next Century.

Thank you very much.

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