From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Romano Prodi (President of the European Commission) (Original language Italian)

At the Millennium Summit we gave a solemn pledge to free humankind from the scourges of famine and extreme poverty. Here today we reassert our firm commitment and our determination to achieve that objective. I want you to know that nothing can or should sway us from that goal.

That is why the European Union has prepared a comprehensive strategy hinging on trade, public aid, research, and cooperation with the countries concerned.

The message we hear from the leaders of the developing countries is "Give us market access".

We too are convinced of the importance of trade.

I am proud to say that the European Union is by far the largest importer of agricultural products from developing countries. Each year, on our own we import more than the combined total of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. We have also taken unprecedented measures under the "Everything but Arms" initiative. It provides unrestricted, duty-free access to the EU market for all products, including agricultural commodities, from the Least Developed Countries.

We played a decisive part in launching the Doha Development Agenda and we are committed to negotiating it constructively for the sake of sustainable world economic growth.

We are also in favour of opening up agricultural markets still further on a mutually agreed basis and of reducing measures that distort trade in agricultural products. In this connection, like many countries in the world, we are deeply concerned about the recent change in US farm policy. The Farm Bill is an example of the sort of measures that we all want to see less of.

For our part, the direction of EU agricultural policy is clear: reductions in trade-distorting support and greater focus on food safety and quality, rural development and environmental services for society at large.

Mr Chairman,

President Aznar has just mentioned the commitment we gave at Monterrey. By the end of 2006 we intend raising EU official development aid to an overall rate of 0.39% of GDP This brings us closer to 0.7%, which is still our ultimate target.

At Monterrey we drew the international community's attention to the situation in Africa--the forgotten continent racked by so many conflicts and yet so near to us.

I want to reaffirm my support for the new initiative of Africa's most respected and courageous leaders. They deserve our full backing. And as the President of the World Bank has said, a substantial percentage of the new public development aid pledged at Monterrey will go towards solving the immense difficulties afflicting Africa today.

The European Commission handles aid programmes worth roughly 7.5 billion a year. Of that sum, 1.2 billion is earmarked for food security, food aid, early-warning systems and rehabilitation. Another 1.5 billion goes into broader development programmes that contribute to food security, such as rural development, agriculture, management of natural and water resources, capacity building, and economic and social infrastructure.

To maximise impact, over the last few years we have concentrated our food security operations in the 34 most vulnerable countries. Time does not allow me to go into detail, but I am encouraged by results achieved in countries such as Ethiopia, Mozambique, Bangladesh, Bolivia and Haiti.

All these efforts are necessary to prevent hunger. But when prevention fails, emergency action is needed. As the world's largest donor of humanitarian aid, we provide about half the humanitarian aid distributed throughout the world each year. Recent improvements in our procedures now mean we can respond to crises promptly. In 2001, this allowed us to provide rapid crisis relief in Peru, Afghanistan, Algeria and Belize.

As we meet in Rome, a food crisis of terrible proportions is unfolding in southern Africa. The EU is already responding to the appeal from the World Food Programme. Emergency aid is needed and the EU urges all donors and NGOs to provide the necessary aid urgently.

Mr Chairman,

In the past, international scientific research and cooperation in agriculture, fisheries and forestry have proved to be powerful instruments in the fight against hunger in the world. But we still have much to learn about the crops and methods that are most suitable in the context of underdevelopment. At the global level, Europe will continue to support the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), to which we have allocated 62 million for the next three years. -The FAO has an important role to play in this sector and I congratulate the Organisation on the conclusion of the negotiations on the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. This Treaty, which we signed a few days ago, will stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty, and hence increase food security.

Poverty is not just a lack of income and financial resources. Resources alone will therefore not be enough. Reducing poverty means combating its economic, political, social, environmental and institutional dimensions.

Tackling the scourge of world poverty and enhancing national and global security and peace calls for poverty-reduction, strategies that are owned by the countries concerned. Such strategies must be based on broad citizen participation and assent. They must be comprehensive in scope and long-term in perspective, and they must be supported by external partners.

Good governance, the rule of law, and democratically accountable institutions are vital in the fight against poverty. Developing countries have primary responsibility for their own development. National governments must put in place the right domestic policies and institutions. All too frequently we have seen how famine follows on the heels of a new conflict. Without progress in conflict prevention and peace building we will not win the battle against hunger.

Lastly, let me stress that the FAO has a crucial role to play as a centre of excellence. We intend continuing our fruitful cooperation with the Organisation.

I congratulate the FAO for organising a conference of this momentousness and for helping to mobilise, the international community towards the achievement of our common Millennium development goals and we fully support the Declaration calling on an International Alliance Against Hunger adopted at this summit.

Mr Chairman,

Events in recent months show how the world is wavering between two equally plausible alternatives. We can watch as poverty spreads, with the attendant problems of growing marginalisation, further conflicts and increasing environmental degradation. Or we can move forward together to forge a future of progress, peace and prosperity. Our future is a matter of political will and choice. Europe has opted for openness and solidarity. I call on all our partners to join us in a global partnership against poverty and hunger contributing to peace and sustainable development.

Thank you.

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