From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Mehmed Dikme (Minister for Agriculture and Forestry of the Republic of Bulgaria) (Original language Bulgarian)

Honourable Chairman, Director-General of FAO, Ladies and Gentlemen. First of all I would like to congratulate the Chairman of this august forum, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, as well as the Vice-chairpersons on their election to guide the work of the World Food Summit: five years later, organized at the initiative of the Honourable Director-General of FAO, Dr Jacques Diouf. I would like to thank also the Government of the Italian Republic for the hospitality and the excellent organization for our stay in the eternal city of Rome. My appointment, by the Bulgarian Government, as Head of our delegation is a great honour and responsibility for me.

More than five years have passed since the World Food Summit in November 1996, a period long enough to allow us to make a review of the achieved progress of the different countries in their efforts to fight hunger.

We ascertain with concern that the rate of diminution of the number of the starving and undernourished people worldwide is lower than the ambitious goals which were set by the heads of the delegations, in correspondence with the Rome Declaration of 1996 on worldwide food security and the Plan of Action for achievement of universal food security.

Bulgaria also faces its own difficulties in the years of transition of the national economy to a market system. During the past ten years, essential problems emerged in the social sphere such as: decrease of the incomes of the population; growth of the number of people who are in need of social protection; and increase of the number of unemployed. All these problems are linked to the purchasing potential of the population, the access to adequate food and the level of living standards in the country.

The level of unemployment has been at a worryingly high level in the past few years. In the year 2000, as a result of structure reforms, the number of unemployed fell by more than a million, compared to 1989. Unemployment among the young population is relatively high – the unemployed young people up to 29 years of age represent 29.6 percent of the total unemployed. In the years 2001-2002, progress was achieved as a result of the measures undertaken by the Government, including amendments to the law for the protection of unemployment and the law for assurance of employment. Implementation of the reforms in the social security sphere is underway, for which state support is needed until 2007. The priorities of the programme of the Government continue to be: increase of the employment rate; reform of social services; implementation of a new incomes policy; and conducting a constructive social dialogue.

The sector of Agriculture and Forestry is of strategic importance for our country. That sector accounts for 25 percent of the employed population and 17 percent of the GDP and, for that reason, the Bulgarian Government pays special attention to it. The main priorities of the Government in this sector are given in the following directions: effective management of land and forest resources and development of market structures; raising the competitiveness of the agriculture and food-processing sector and formation of the necessary conditions for export-oriented agriculture; preparation for the introduction of the requirements of the European Union internal market, the elements of the common agricultural policy and compliance with international agreements; sustainable rural development by improvement of the living and working conditions of those employed in the field of agriculture and forestry and of the rural population; and natural and sustainable management of forest resources, fauna intended for hunting and natural protected areas.

Rural development is of vital importance as provided for in the National Agriculture and Rural Development Plan, approved by the European Commission and drawn up by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry on the grounds of social and economic sector analysis. The National Plan, covering the period 2000-2006, envisages the achievement of two main objectives: improvement of agricultural production efficiency and promotion of a competitive food-processing sector by better market and technological infrastructure and strategic investment policies, ultimately aimed at reaching European Union standards; and sustainable rural development consistent with the best environmental practices by introducing alternative employment, diversification of economic activity and establishment of the necessary infrastructure. This, in turn, will improve the living conditions and standards of rural communities, generate fairer income and open up employment opportunities.

Focusing our efforts on improvement of food security in Bulgaria, I would like to firmly declare that the Bulgarian Government not only expresses its support for the achievement of the objectives of the World Food Summit, but is also ready to actively participate in concrete activities for achieving food security worldwide. For that purpose, it is essential that governments unite their efforts to work together with those governmental and non-governmental organizations that have given proof of their useful participation in the process of the elaboration of individual methodological concepts, projects and programmes in this field. We are confident that FAO will continue to be the organization that contributes most to fight hunger, and our mutual cooperation should be even more active in this respect.

We appreciate highly the measures undertaken by FAO, at national and regional levels and worldwide, for solving the problems of the food supply through the implementation of programmes and projects and the establishment of Special Funds for the achievement of the goals of the World Food Summit. At the Fight against Hunger Conference held in May 2002 in Berlin, and organized with the kind assistance of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Consumer Protection of the Federal Republic of Germany, a voluntary International Code of Conduct on the fight against hunger was discussed. The elaboration and implementation of this International Code, outlining the main directions for policy action, is a step forward showing the concern of governments and organizations in their joint efforts to provide food to all people. Welcoming this initiative, the Bulgarian Government is ready to take part in similar events for the purpose of achieving our common goal in the shortest possible term.

In conclusion, I would like to express my belief that such a highly important forum as the World Food Summit: five years later will contribute to a great extent to the achievement of our common goal – the continuation of the fight against hunger, until we reach universal food security.

Thank you for your attention.

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