|CERES No. 105/109 - October 1985 (FAO Ceres, 1985, 50 p.)|
"Today we are fighting another war, equally dramatic' that claims innocent victims every day."
On two occasions last year you showed your commitment to the World Food Security Pact on which the FAO Conference is to pass judgement. Why do you consider it an important initiative, and in what way do you think a moral commitment of this kind can influence both governments and the general public?
In the speech I made at the 86th Session of the FAO Council on 27 November 1984, my main purpose was to draw attention to the need for a new international commitment to solve the world's hunger problem. The World Food Security Pact is an efficient instrument in defining this task. I do not think we can be satisfied with the present interventions: to recall the frequency with which cases of under nutrition occur is sufficient to make us reflect upon their inadequacy.
The ultimate aim of international aid should, therefore, be to make the most of the food production potential of countries with food problems. For this, we must involve the overall responsibility of all nations and make each country aware of its obligations.
In recent years Italy has increased its budget allocations for aid to Third World development significantly. A conspicuous amount of these contributions are passed on to international organizations, including FAO. What are your objectives and hopes on this matter?
Italy is sensitive to the drama and needs of certain particularly critical regions and populations, and has considerably increased bilateral aid to certain countries with which it has traditional ties.
This does not mean that our country intends to neglect the channel of multilateral aid. On the contrary, I am convinced that international organizations such as FAO constitute an essential forum for assessing the requirements of beneficiary countries and the possibilities of donor nations. Moreover, by resorting to multilateral aid, it is possible both to mobilize greater financial contributions, thus permitting farther-reaching initiatives, and to make decisions based on well-proven experience.
For this reason Italy will continue to support the multilateral approach in aid to development and will certainly make its contribution to the competent organizations.
The agricultural policy of the EEC has at times been accused of hindering agricultural development in the Third World, of counteracting the aid provided by such means as the Lome Convention. What are your thoughts on this?
I feel these criticisms are unwarranted. The agricultural policy of the EEC has contributed above all to generally increasing agricultural production, and thereby passing on the benefit to developing countries. I do not think we can say that this has generated dangerous competition for Third World agriculture. EEC member countries are constantly concentrating their efforts on products that are either difficult to locate or available in insufficient quantity in developing countries. At the same time, the EEC has made decisions, obviously political, to reduce or even remove its protection of certain products so as not to compromise exports from developing countries. An example of this is the concessions granted to Mediterranean countries in the fruit and vegetables sector; these have entailed considerable sacrifice, especially for Italy. There are also cases in which the implementation of the EEC agricultural policy has allowed guaranteed purchase prices for typical products from Third World countries, 'thus considerably protecting farmers' incomes.
In your opinion, what are the most important changes that have taken place between Lome II and Lome III? Do you think the EEC could have cooperated more than it has done with ACP countries?
We consider the Lome Conventions an efficient vehicle for reducing the divide between North and South and, therefore, in promoting greater stability and peaceful coexistence between all countries of the world.
The Third Lome Convention emphasized the concept of the equal merit of nations and more clearly identified the common objectives of cooperation, the most important being to make all nations self-sufficient in food production.
To answer the second part of the question, I can say that the negotiation was concluded only thanks to Italy's commitment to make an additional contribution of 150 million ECUs.
In his speech last October on World Food Day, President Pertini emphasized that we should recapture the "spirit of 1943-45", when intergovernmental cooperation succeeded in creating the United Nations. Do you think there is any hope of retrieving such a high degree of international cooperation?
Undoubtedly, the degree of international solidarity achieved during the war in the fight against Nazism and Fascism gave rise to a new spirit of cooperation which found its highest expression in the Charter of the United Nations.
Today we are fighting another war, equally dramatic which claims innocent victims every day. To win this fight we must build up a spirit of solidarity among the forces committed to pursuing the peaceful development of all nations for the benefit of mankind. We cannot isolate ourselves in narrow, selfish ambitions if our aim is for mankind to advance on the road to progress, justice, freedom and peace.
How do you see the future of collaboration between Italy and FAO in the short and longer term?
Italy has established constructive relations with FAO, which plays a fundamental role in improving the world food situation. In particular, Italy has contributed to 56 projects for a total value of US$135 million, and another 40 projects, totalling $140 million, are being considered. This is a tangible sign of the importance we attribute to an efficient collaboration with FAO, and we hope it will become even stronger in the future.
Italy occupies a privileged position in the heart of the Mediterranean Basin. Does this mean that Italy has special responsibilities in this geographic area, or do you think, rather, that it should distribute its aid more equally in all regions of the Third World?
One of the criteria followed by Italian aid policy is to give priority to the countries whose need is greatest. Naturally, we do have special historical ties and responsibilities, and these are taken into account in our overall foreign policy with regard to certain sensitive geographic regions. In this sense the Mediterranean, the Near East and Africa do enjoy a special position.
Our increasing allocation of funds for aid to countries in these geographic areas is proof of this attitude. But we certainly do not neglect countries in Asia and Latin America whose problems are equally urgent and dramatic.