FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA
WORLD FOOD SUMMIT
ROME, ITALY, 1996
Check Against Delivery
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Director General, honorable Heads of State and Government, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great honor for me to represent the Federated States of Micronesia, and on behalf of the citizens of Micronesia I bring greetings to this distinguished body of delegates who have gathered to reaffirm the fundamental right for everyone to be free from hunger.
I would like first to express our sincere appreciation to the Director General for the organizational and preparatory work FAO has undertaken to refocus world attention on securing the most basic of human needs - food. I would also like to thank our gracious host, the Government of Italy for its hospitality and cooperation in organizing the World Food Summit and for the courtesy that has been extended to my delegation.
The Federated States of Micronesia is proud to add its voice in adopting the Rome Declaration on World Food security and the World Food plan of Action. We pledge our national commitment to the eradication of hunger and malnutrition and achieving food security for all. We commit ourselves to implement, monitor, and follow up this Plan of Action at all levels in cooperation with the international community.
The Federated States of Micronesia is a small Pacific island nation comprised of over 600 small islands. By international standards ours is a nation economically impoverished. We are however, a nation blessed with abundant agricultural and marine resources that allow us to maintain a simple -- and hunger free -- lifestyle. Hunger is not a national problem, but we have, over time, substituted the consumption of traditional local foods with unnecessary reliance on imported foods of poor nutritional value. This has resulted in malnutrition and significant health problems. The impact of these poor nutritional choices is by no means limited to a small percentage or segment of the population. Diabetes, high blood pressure, anemia, vitamin A and iron deficiencies, low birth weight babies and high infant mortality rates are endemic to the nation.
This Summit comes at a critical period in our short seventeen year history as an independent nation, as we undertake fiscal reforms and transition from a public sector economy to a private sector economy. This transition will reduce the size of government, reduce subsidies to consumers, increase the cost of imports and stimulate local productive industry.
One may ask what relevance this economic transition has to food security or the nutritional adequacy of food supplies in Micronesia. The answer is that, even in the face of our limited utilization of available resources and poor decision-making in nutrition choices, political will, well-conceived policies and coordinated actions can drastically reduce malnutrition and ill-health.
Instituting a program of economic reform in Micronesia wilt increase the cost of imports, particularly food and other substitutable products, and thereby encourage consumption of traditional, local foods. The increased demand for local products will improve the financial viability of local productive industry, as well as increase food exports. Both the resulting economy and nutritional health will be stronger and more resilient to changes in the international environment.
Access to nutritionally adequate and safe foods does not simply mean availability or affordability, it also means the individual has the knowledge and ability to select food that supplies all necessary nutrients and energy. This will require increased awareness among policymakers and planners as to the extent and severity of nutritional problems.
Promotional and educational programs must be developed so that nutritional objectives can be achieved through public demand, based on enhanced consumer awareness and knowledge. The more vulnerable populations must be educated to make informed dietary choices. Women, as the main providers of meals, care and nutrition information, have a fundamental role in assuring improved nutritional status for all. These objectives can be accomplished by encouraging the full involvement of communities and the participation of the people in the identification of their own nutritional problems as well as the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of appropriate educational programs.
This effort can be assisted by investment in agricultural research necessary for the development of technology and systems applicable to small scale agriculture, thereby encouraging traditional production of food at the household and community levels. The assistance provided under UNDP/FAO development projects has increased self-sufficiency in agricultural and livestock production, thereby bringing us closer to these goals.
Of particular importance to the Federated States of Micronesia is the implementation of international conventions and agreements on food standards, trade and responsible fishing, straddling and migratory fish stocks - all which contribute to ensuring sustainable food production. Access to international markets should not be unfairly restricted because of the lesser technologic capabilities of developing countries. Fishing policies and management strategies must be formulated which will enable the fisheries sector to make optimum long-term contributions to food security and eventually lead to increased marine fisheries through better and sustainable management.
Of course, meeting these and other commitments conducive to improved food security may exceed the institutional and resource capacity of small, developing countries. Our efforts will require technical assistance from the international community so that we, and countries similarly situated, are in a position to meet international product quality standards and take advantage of new market opportunities.
Finally, we must all recognize that universal food security is an interdependent issue of concern to all members of the international community. The effective implementation of the World Food Summit Plan of Action will require supportive international cooperation for achieving accelerated and sustainable universal food security. Mutual help and sharing of expectations and experience is essential to accomplishing our goals.
The Federated States of Micronesia acknowledges that in the international community ours is a tiny voice and we wield little influence in matters of global impact. Yet it will only be through the commitment of all nations - no matter what their size or influence - that the goals of this Summit will be met. The Federated States of Micronesia makes that commitment and will make every effort to implement the decisions and policies adopted at this Summit.