Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, it is an honour and a pleasure for me to welcome you all to Norway and to Oslo. You are faced with one of the most daunting challenges for the 21st century: the elimination of hunger and malnutrition, with particular emphasis on a gender perspective on nutrition through the life cycle. At the World Food Conference in Rome in 1974, it was decided to eliminate hunger within a decade. We did not succeed with this important moral obligation - far from it, in fact. Poverty and the great division between the rich and poor in the world today present us with a moral imperative. We cannot refuse to become involved in the fight against poverty and malnutrition. Globally, there are more than 800 million chronically hungry people and 160 million malnourished children under the age of five. Twelve million children under the age of five die annually and 50% of these die of malnutrition. Billions of people suffer from illnesses related to bad nutritional habits and millions of people suffer from famine as a result of natural disasters and conflict. These numbers must go down and we have to contribute to their reduction.
There is no simple solution to the elimination of malnutrition and hunger. The challenge before us is immense. If we are to solve this problem we have to supply a broad range of measures. The UN, donor countries, civil society, and developing countries must work together in a coordinated manner to contribute to its elimination. The Declaration and Plan of Action of the World Food Summit in Rome, 1996, recognised that governments must take the prime responsibility for action in their own countries. National policies will have to put the interests of poor and starving people first. The international community has an obligation to support national efforts. The failure by rich countries to fulfil the UN target of 0.7% of GNP for official development assistance is unacceptable. The reduction in the aid budgets of the donor countries must be reversed.
In 1988, I spent a year in a village in Tanzania doing fieldwork for my thesis in social anthropology. I lived and worked among village farmers, and measured at close range how international prices affected government subsidies (and the lack thereof), and how adjustment programmes affected local women and their families. Make no mistake about it, these seemingly abstract, almost academic structural phenomena about which we publish books, papers, and articles are matters determining the lives of millions of people. An assistance programme is not of much use unless it takes these conditions fully into account.
The international community must make extensive efforts to improve the enabling environment for development. Among our most important tasks are:
· to improve the functioning of the world trade system through the World Trade Organization, taking into account the poorest countries needs;In addition, national policies and aid resources are crucial in order to attain development goals in the poorest countries. In this regard, the 20/20 Initiative is of great importance. On the basis of this Initiative, launched at the Social Summit in Copenhagen, donor countries should allocate 20% of their development aid to basic social services, such as primary education and basic health care. Likewise, developing countries should allocate 20% of their own budgetary resources to the same end.
· to support the efforts to provide effective debt relief through, for example, the Paris club;
· to support, although not necessarily without criticism and conditions, macro-economic reforms lead by the Bretton Woods Institutions.
The implementation of the 20/20 Initiative should be a top priority, and is also a pre-condition for reaching results in the area of gender and nutrition for the 21st century. Women are often the prime producers in the households. They take responsibility for the children and take care of meal preparation and family nutrition. Investing in education for women and reaching women with basic health services are investments in the future. It gives a lot in return in food security and nutrition and in health and prevention. That is why gender should be our prime focus.
The development efforts by many countries are currently being complicated - some might even say jeopardised - by the lack of coordination among donors. Tanzania has to relate to some 30 donors at the same time, each with often very different demands and agendas. There are around 3000 projects in the country. Each project might in itself be worthwhile, but they are not necessarily a result of priorities stated by the government. Often they are more a result of the donors own priorities. This diverse and uncoordinated project portfolio might instead be a serious impediment to development. In fact, our presence can do more harm than good. The host government might have to use most of its resources to follow up all the donor projects, and have less time and even fewer resources to set their own agenda for development and to implement a comprehensive strategy for sustainable economic growth. We have to get our act together in all donor furore to strengthen donor coordination. In this context, everyone has to let go of self-interests. I am calling for a comprehensive approach to the fight against poverty and malnutrition. What matters are results on the ground, among the poor - not at home.
There is now broad support for emphasising women in development. Most of us recognise the importance of the role of women for economic and social development. On the other hand, we have a long way to go before we can say that we are anywhere near equality between the sexes in most countries. The question is how to best fight inequality and discrimination against women, and thereby establish an environment that leads to development. Statistics show that 70% of the worlds poor are women. This is often called the feminisation of poverty.
Statistics show that 70% of the worlds poor are women. This is often called the feminisation of poverty.
A key element in any strategy to eliminate malnutrition and reach women is targeting the poor. We have to target the poorest countries, the critical sectors of health, education, and agriculture, and the poorest parts of the population. Our goal is not to feed people, but to enable people to feed themselves. We have to stimulate income-generating activities in the private sector. Only through growth and productivity will people find work, incomes grow, and families be fed.
A poverty-oriented policy in development is a gender-oriented policy. Fighting poverty and achieving food security are two sides of the same struggle. A key to positive results is improved access to education, health care, employment, land, technology, and credits for the poorer segments of the population. However, environmental degradation and population growth threaten to disrupt the equilibrium between people and resources. Increased investment in agriculture is needed, not least in the poorest developing countries where agriculture contributes a major share of GNP, employment, and exports. We must implement sustainable rural development policies that ensure stable food supplies and food security for all. Supply of micro-credits to female entrepreneurs is one way to mobilise women in the private sector.
The Norwegian government has put education and health at the top of the priority list in its cooperation with developing countries. By educating girls and improving primary and maternal health care, we contribute to lowering population growth, to increasing family incomes, and to reducing gender inequalities. We reach a number of development goals simultaneously. Reducing poverty and meeting the basic needs of individuals are in themselves, means of promoting human rights. Adequate access to food and nutrition is a fundamental human rights issue. If the right to food is not fulfilled, then other human rights will be of less importance. The human rights approach is an essential part of the work for sustainable social and economic development. With this approach, people are not just defined as beneficiaries with certain needs, but recognised as active subjects with established rights. The State is obliged to respect, protect, facilitate, and when necessary, to realise these rights.
By educating girls and improving primary and maternal health care, we contribute to lowering population growth, to increasing family incomes, and to reducing gender inequalities.
As for all human rights, the right to adequate food and nutrition must be guaranteed without any form of discrimination as to national or social origin, race, gender, language, religion, political or other opinions. It is inherent in the definition of the right to adequate food, that food should never be used as an instrument for political or economic pressure. In the case of nutrition and malnutrition, it is crucial to keep the gender dimension in view. It has repeatedly been documented that in many societies girls and women are exposed to poverty and malnutrition more so than boys and men. Malnutrition among women has severe consequences for the next generation. Poor maternal nutrition results in low birth weight infants, which in turn leads to increased health risks during childhood and adolescence. Therefore, it is vital to keep in mind the gender dimension in our struggle for better conditions for the millions of people living in poverty.
It is my hope that this symposium will help increase involvement and knowledge in this area and stimulate further action.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is not the case that some human rights apply today and others tomorrow. Nor do some, like the right to food and basic needs, apply to us and not to them. Nor do some apply to men and others to women, some to the rich and others to the poor. The obligations are universal, as are the responsibilities for their implementation. It is no less than that challenge we are here to take on - realisation to the right for food and nutrition for everyone on this planet. With these few words I welcome you to Norway, to Oslo and to this important conference, and wish you all the best in your deliberations.