ADDRESS BY THE HON. EDISON C. JAMES
PRIME MINISTER OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF DOMINICA
TO THE WORLD FOOD SUMMIT
ROME, ITALY 13-17TH NOVEMBER, 1996

MR. CHAIRMAN, DISTINGUISHED HEADS OF STATES, HEADS OF GOVERNMENTS, HEADS OF DELEGATIONS, DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.

I WISH FIRST OF ALL TO CONGRATULATE THE FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION FOR ARRANGING THIS VERY IMPORTANT SUMMIT. I MUST ALSO THANK THE ITALIAN GOVERNMENT FOR THEIR ENORMOUS IMPUT IN HOSTING THIS SUMMIT AND FOR THE EXCELLENT ARRANGEMENTS MADE. THIS IS AN IMPORTANT SUMMIT WHICH PROVIDES A FORUM AT THE HIGHEST POLITICAL LEVEL TO DEMONSTRATE OUR COMMITMENT TO A MOST VITAL ASPECT OF HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, THAT IS FOOD SECURITY.

I AM SURE WE WILL ALL AGREE, MR. CHAIRMAN, THAT HUNGER CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE EXISTING IN A WORLD OF ABUNDANCE, NOR POVERTY ALLOWED TO ESCALATE HAND-IN-HAND WITH SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS.

THESE ARE TRENDS WHICH MUST BE REVERSED IF WE ARE TO ACHIEVE OUR ULTIMATE OBJECTIVE OF WORLD FOOD SECURITY AND TO REACH OUR IMMEDIATE GOAL OF REDUCING THE NUMBER OF UNDERNOURISHED PEOPLE TO HALF BY THE YEAR 2015.

THE STARTLING STATISTICS OF 800 MILLION PEOPLE IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES FACING CHRONIC MALNUTRITION AND 200 MILLION CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF FIVE (5) YEARS SUFFERING FROM PROTEIN AND ENERGY DEFICIENCY MUST SHOCK AND SPUR US INTO ACTION.

REGRETTABLY, WITHIN MY OWN REGION OF LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN IN THE FACE OF THESE DRAMATIC WORLD CONDITIONS, THE SHARE OF OFFICIAL INTERNATIONAL ASSISTANCE TO AGRICULTURE FELL FROM 24% TO 16% BETWEEN 1982 AND 1992. THIS IS A TREND WHICH MUST ALSO BE REVERSED!

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MR. CHAIRMAN, WE MUST AT ALL TIMES BE MINDFUL OF THE INTERDEPENDENCE BETWEEN FOOD SECURITY AND OVERALL ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND POLITICAL STABILITY. WE SHOULD FURTHER RECOGNISE THAT PEACE AND FOOD SECURITY ARE PREREQUISITES TO EACH OTHER.

IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF DOMINICA AND THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY GENERALLY, WE HOLD DEARLY TO THE PRINCIPLES OF DEMOCRACY; THERE IS A HEALTHY RESPECT FOR THE RULE OF LAW AND THERE IS PEACE AND STABILITY.

UNFORTUNATELY, MR. CHAIRMAN, AS I ADDRESS YOU TODAY OUR EXPORT BANANA TRADE, THE COUNTRY'S MAIN ECONOMIC ACTIVITY IS UNDER THREAT THROUGH A CHALLENGE TO OUR MARKETING ARRANGEMENTS WITH THE EUROPEAN UNION LODGED IN THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION BY FIVE OF OUR FRIENDS IN OUR OWN HEMISPHERE.

IT IS A CHALLENGE WHICH, IF SUCCESSFUL, WILL BE DEVASTATING TO OUR AGRICULTURE, OUR ECONOMY, OUR WAY OF LIFE AND OUR ABILITY TO FEED OUR PEOPLE. THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN GOVERNMENTS ARE TAKING PRE-EMPTIVE MEASURES TO MITIGATE THE POTENTIAL ADVERSE EFFECTS. HOWEVER, THESE MEASURES WILL REQUIRE THE SUPPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO AVOID MAJOR INCOME SHOCKS, HUNGER AND MALNUTRITION.

THE ROME DECLARATION ON WORLD FOOD SECURITY RECOGNISES THAT SMALL ISLAND DEVELOPING STATES SUCH AS THOSE IN THE CARIBBEAN HAVE PARTICULAR NEEDS FOR THEIR OVERALL SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT. THESE SPECIAL NEEDS ARE ACCENTUATED BY VULNERABILITY TO NATURAL DISASTERS SUCH AS HURRICANES, FLOODS, THE EXCESSIVE DEBT BURDEN AND THE LACK OF APPROPRIATE TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT FOR PRODUCTION, HARVESTING AND PROCESSING OF CROPS.

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IT IS THESE PARTICULAR NEEDS WHICH DICTATE THAT IN OUR THRUST TOWARDS GLOBALISATION AND TRADE LIBERALIZATION, WE DO NOT PUSH THE SMALL DEVELOPING STATES OUT OF THEIR MARKETS, EXACERBATE THEIR ALREADY NEGATIVELY SKEWED TERMS OF TRADE AND FORCE THEM TO BE EVEN MORE DEPENDENT ON IMPORTATION FOR THEIR SOURCE OF FOOD. IN THE CARIBBEAN, OUR ANNUAL FOOD IMPORT BILL IS ALREADY IN EXCESS OF ONE BILLION DOLLARS. WE THEREFORE CONTINUE TO CALL FOR A DEVELOPMENT MODEL WHICH EMPHASISES TRADE RATHER THAN AID EVEN WHILE RECOGNISING THE VALUE OF THE LATTER. SUCH TRADE SHOULD NOT ONLY BE FREE, BUT SHOULD BE FAIR. IN THIS, WE URGE THE MEMBERS OF FAO, PARTICIPANTS IN THIS SUMMIT, TO LEND US THEIR SUPPORT.

MR. CHAIRMAN, THE MULTIDIMENSIONAL NATURE OF FOOD AND NUTRITION SECURITY RAISES A NUMBER OF FUNDAMENTAL ISSUES RELATING TO PRODUCTION, PROCESSING, MARKETING, HEALTH AND FORMATION OF RELATIONS. AS FAR AS PRODUCTION IS CONCERNED, THE QUESTION OF LAND OWNERSHIP AND LAND TENURE PATTERNS ARISE. SO TOO ARE CRITICAL ISSUES RELATING TO RESEARCH AND EXTENSION, AGRICULTURAL CREDIT AND SUPPORT SYSTEMS FOR AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY AND FISHERIES. TO FULLY REALISE THE PRODUCTIVE CAPACITY AND TO ADDRESS THE INEQUALITIES IN LAND DISTRIBUTION, INCOME AND FOOD AVAILABILITY, WE IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF DOMINICA WILL REQUIRE TECHNICAL AND FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE IN GENERAL AGRICULTURAL LAND POLICY DEVELOPMENT WHICH EMPHASISES LOCAL CAPACITY BUILDING AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION. IN THIS REGARD, I MUST THANK FAO, THE WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME AND THE INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT FOR THEIR SUPPORT. WE ALSO COMMEND FAO'S POLICY OF DECENTRALIZATION OF ITS TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE STAFF AND FULLY SUPPORT THE PRINCIPLE OF MAKING THE SERVICES OF REGIONAL PROFESSIONALS AVAILABLE TO US IN THE CARIBBEAN. WE ALSO RECOGNISE THE CONTRIBUTIONS WHICH ARE CURRENTLY BEING MADE BY FRIENDLY GOVERNMENTS SUCH AS JAPAN, TAIWAN, THE UNITED STATES, THE UNITED KINGDOM AND OTHER COUNTRIES OF THE EUROPEAN UNION.

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MY GOVERNMENT WILL BE SEEKING THE CONTINUED SUPPORT OF THESE GOVERNMENTS, AND OTHER GOVERNMENTS AND AGENCIES, IN THE PREPARATION AND IMPLEMENTATION OF A COMPREHENSIVE LAND REFORM PROGRAMME THE MAIN FEATURES OF WHICH WILL INCLUDE THE DIVISION AND DISTRIBUTION OF STATE AND OTHER LANDS; THE CONSTRUCTION OF FEEDER, ACCESS AND ON-FARM ROADS, CROP DIVERSIFICATION; AGRICULTURAL CREDIT; AGROPROCESSING; LIVESTOCK DEVELOPMENT AND FARMER EDUCATION.

IT IS OUR CONVICTION THAT SUCH A PROGRAMME AND APPROACH, WITH PRIVATE SECTOR AND NGO INPUT WILL STRENGTHEN OUR ABILITY TO SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE PRODUCTION AND PRODUCTIVITY AND REDUCE, IF NOT ELIMINATE, POVERTY AMONG LARGE SECTORS OF OUR RURAL POPULATION.

MR. CHAIRMAN, MY GOVERNMENT PLEDGES ITS FULL COMMITMENT TO THIS SUMMIT'S OBJECTIVE OF ENSURING FOOD AVAILABILITY, STABILITY OF FOOD SUPPLY AND ACCESS TO FOOD BY ALL PEOPLE, SO THAT THEY CAN MAINTAIN A HEALTHY AND ACTIVE LIFE.

IN PLEDGING OUR COMMITMENT WE ARE MINDFUL THAT TWO DECADES AGO THE WORLD MADE A SIMILAR PLEDGE TO STAMP OUT HUNGER AND ELIMINATE FOOD INSECURITY. THAT WE ARE HERE AGAIN TODAY ON THE SAME MISSION REMINDS US ALL THAT PLEDGES ALONE ARE NOT ENOUGH. LET US THEREFORE SO COMMIT OURSELVES TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PLAN OF ACTION THAT WHEN WE MEET AGAIN IN A SIMILAR FORUM IT WILL NOT BE FOR A DECLARATION BUT RATHER IF WILL BE FOR A CELEBRATION - A CELEBRATION THAT THROUGH OUR EFFORTS EVERY MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD DOES IN FACT HAVE THEIR DAILY BREAD.

I THANK YOU ............


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