From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Lars Sponheim (Minister for Agriculture of the Kingdom of Norway)

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen. A newborn baby represents hope – she represents the future. Her mother will do everything in her power to protect and care for her. Still, in some parts of the world, there is a one-in-four risk that the baby will not live to see her fifth birthday.

In a world of abundant global food supplies we cannot tolerate that people die from starvation. We cannot tolerate that people contract diseases due to lack of nutritious food. We cannot tolerate that people do not realize their full potential due to malnutrition.

Governments have a great responsibility to do everything possible to ensure that people have physical and economic access to enough safe, nutritious food. The international community must facilitate and support the efforts of governments in their struggle against poverty and malnutrition. We must work in partnership with the UN system and all relevant international organizations. Our goal at this Summit must be to accelerate the pace of change.

We know that fighting hunger is a question of fighting poverty: 1.2 billion people are living on less than a dollar a day. We also know that hunger and malnutrition lead to poverty. Without adequate food people cannot be productive in schools or jobs. Without money they cannot buy food. Poverty is thus at the core of hunger and malnutrition.

Women play a special role in food security and in agricultural production. Any strategy for improving food security will, therefore, have to take women's needs as a point of departure, and this includes securing women's rights to land and property.

We also know that the HIV/AIDS epidemic has a significant negative impact on agricultural production and food security.

We cannot underestimate the importance of having reached agreement at the global level on the fundamental goals of development cooperation: first and foremost that poverty reduction and, ultimately, poverty eradication is acknowledged to be the overarching goal by the whole development community. The agreement on the Millennium Development Goals also reinforces the commitments made at the World Food Summit in 1996 and further underlines the strong link between poverty and hunger. We must all cooperate to coordinate our efforts in the context of national poverty reduction strategies.

I believe that one important strategy for achieving food security and improving the livelihoods of the rural poor is to take a rights-based approach. My delegation notes with much satisfaction that the Declaration from this Summit provides for the establishment of an intergovernmental working group on the right to food. The working group shall formulate a set of voluntary guidelines to support states in realizing the right to food.

I regret, however, that it was not possible to get consensus on the concept of a "Code of Conduct" considering the more concise normative implications of this concept. Nonetheless, I hope that the Summit Declaration will set in motion a process which will lead to a valuable instrument. My hope is that it will have the same function as a "Code of Conduct" on the right to adequate food, and in fact lead to such a code in the future. Food security for all should in every case be at the core of national poverty reduction strategies.

We live in a time of accelerating urbanization, and yet the majority of the world's poor still live in rural areas. The rural poor are highly dependent on a farm economy for their livelihoods. Far too little is invested in rural development.

FAO analyses indicate that we may see a greater shortage of food and other commodities 10 to 15 years from now. To meet this challenge, there may be a need to increase food production in both high and low potential areas. At the national level, food security may best be achieved through a combination of domestic production, stable access to world markets and stockholding. In many developing countries increasing domestic production remains a priority.

The share of international development assistance allocated for agricultural development has been declining for many years. This trend must be reversed. We, for our part, are in the process of developing a strategy for increasing Norway's development assistance in this field.

I recognize the importance of research in agricultural development. New technologies emerge as the result of research. Biotechnology, as one of these new technologies, should however be developed and used in a safe manner, respecting biosafety and the precautionary principle.

Strengthening the agricultural sector is seen as one of the available means of advancing business development in the south. My Government will assess its agricultural policy with a view to further opening our markets to products from developing countries. We wish to ensure tht the least developed countries, in particular, secure a share in the growth of world trade. As of 1 July this year, Norway will be providing duty – and quota – free market access to all products from the least developed countries.

Before closing, allow me to appeal to all parties present to sign and ratify the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources as soon as possible. In this context, we would also like to emphasize the significance of Farmers' Rights. Norway has signed the Treaty during the Summit and will prepare ratification within a short period of time.

We are gathered here because we have failed to live up to the commitments that we made five years ago. Together, we have the power to change this. We have the power to let the mothers of newborn children sleep easier, with fewer worries. We have the power to make the world a more food-secure place.

The task is daunting. But it can be done. It must be done. Our children will not forgive us if we do not succeed.

Thank you.

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