From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Georgios Drys (Minister for Agriculture of the Hellenic Republic)

Allow me, first of all, to express my congratulations to you and to the other members of the bureau for your election.

Let me also convey to all of you the best wishes of Prime Minister, Mr Costas Simitis. It was impossible for him, contrary to his wishes, to be present and participate in this Summit due to his other commitments.

Mr Chairman, the World Food Summit convened in Rome in November 1996 provided the forum for debate on one of the most important issues facing world leaders in the new millennium, the eradication of hunger.

The principle objective of the World Food Summit in 1996 was to address the causes of food insecurity and to express our commitment that we shall find appropriate and effective methods for ensuring that "every man, woman and child has the right to be free from hunger and malnutrition in order to develop their physical and mental faculties".

The World Food Summit: five years later is taking place today in the context of an underlying sensitive balance, coinciding with the commencement of new multilateral agricultural negotiations before the World Trade Organization.

According to recent assessments of OECD, the global economy seems to be recovering after a long recession. Nevertheless the situation as a whole is still critical, since the risk of a new economic crisis remains.

However, despite the limited economic recovery, the unemployment rate is still high in a number of countries, especially in Europe.

Unemployment is directly related to poverty, social exclusion and the increase of income divergences. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the new millennium, 830 million people in the developing world are still suffering from chronic starvation and malnutrition. Moreover, it was recently reported that over a short period, 236 million people died of hunger. This is the most obvious correlation between food and health.

The Director-General, Mr Diouf, repeatedly quoted the figures mentioned above and they do not represent abstract numbers, nor are they mere statistics. They represent human beings, they represent children like our own and we have at least a moral obligation to try to do more, to try to do our best by taking further action to implement the World Food Summit Plan of Action.

Mr Chairman, we are pleased to inform you that Greece, as a member state of the European Union, and in accordance with commitments 3, 4, 6 and 7, adopted by the World Food Summit in 1996, pioneered the adoption of the concept "everything but arms" and played a major role.

During the previous years, Greece submitted national reports on the implementation of the World Food Summit Plan of Action. In those reports, Greece gave an account of the follow-up to the commitments of the Rome Declaration.

On the domestic level, Greece pursues a number of policies and practices concerning sustainable food, agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development in high and low potential areas. These policies are essential to adequate and reliable food supplies at household, national, regional and global levels and combat droughts and desertification, considering the multifunctional character of agriculture.

On the international level, Greece has entered into partnerships with developing countries and hence supported many development interventions, creating an atmosphere of hope and active opportunities for the enhancement of the livelihoods of the people.

During the last few years, Greece has supported rural development projects for strengthening food security in the form of food and technical assistance on bilateral basis in twelve partner countries.

Additionally, it granted scholarships to students financed by MAIX (Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania) who originated from various developing countries.

In view of the above considerations, we feel that up to now we have fulfilled our commitments according to our capacity in a positive and constructive way and in the spirit of the World Food Summit.

However, presently we are in the process of considering the implementation of further plans of action integrated into a national development framework established for the period 2001-2006. We hold the view that our efforts should be continuous and intensive in order to overcome and eliminate poverty.

In conclusion, Mr Chairman, I would like to point out that FAO must continue to be an international forum with specific and substantive competencies and initiatives, which will enable the Organization to play the leading role it deserves in the struggle to eradicate hunger and malnutrition from our planet.

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