The Sovereign Order of Malta welcomes the initiative for the World Food Summit and the world-wide initiative of states and many organizations to reduce famine, one of the primary misfortunes of mankind. As expressed in the planned final statement, today's situation is unacceptable, in spite of the great technical progress still 800 million people suffer from famine and especially many children sustain permanent physical and mental damage through malnutrition. This situation leads to deprivation of human rights and dignity as well as social unrest and disturbances.
The Sovereign Order of Malta is the world's oldest charitable institution with the unchanged aim - since its foundation 900 years ago - to fight the world's poverty and misery. In 1983 the Order was officially invited by FAO's 22nd Session of the Conference "to send an Observer to future Sessions of the Conference and the Council".
The main objective of our activities lies in the domain of medical and sociomedical care. Our eight pointed white cross became the symbol for hope, the esteem of human rights and the respect for the dignity of the distressed in many hospitals, clinics, dispensaries and refugee camps, for handicapped and lonely old people, for lepers and victims of catastrophes and wars.
In this connection we are confronted again and again with the scourge of hunger.
From our experience with relief actions for the population who have been hit by catastrophes, wars and non-international conflicts, we condemn as intolerable, that the starvation of parts of the population and refugees and the refusal of opening possibilities for relief are continued to be used as a political or military instrument. Lately we had to engage ourselves for such reasons in former Yugoslavia and now for a second time in Zaire/Rwanda.
In participating in the efforts for the international ban of anti-personnel mines we have repeatedly pointed out the disastrous consequences for agriculture by the contamination of whole regions with these weapons.
We think it is necessary to reconsider the policy of economic sanctions to the effect that these sanctions are no longer brought into action, if in this way especially the poorest parts of the population are being exposed to hunger whereas the elite in power is hardly affected.
We are very concerned that we have to continue to keep up soup kitchens in so-called developed countries in order to guarantees a daily meal to people of the poorest section.
Very often malnutrition is also the result of ignorance. In such cases it is indispensable to make greater efforts for better instruction of the population regarding the requirements of a suitable nutrition.
In this connection we emphasis also the need to co-operate with religious leaders, who have the trust and the authority to make the population understand the need to carry out social measures for the reduction of hunger and to rouse a willingness for further education.
The Sovereign Order of Malta is prepared also in future to co-operate with states and NGOs to take its share in the alleviation of misery. To that end we are relying operationally on the entities and Order's relief organizations which have developed world-wide under the roof of the Sovereign Order of Malta. More than 10'000 members and 100'000 volunteers as well as nearly 10'000 employees in the Order's works are active in more than 90 states. Thereby our relief activities have undergone an expansion during the last decades as never before in our 900 years history. Our status as sovereign subject of international law with 71 diplomatic relations with states, our official observer status with the United Nations and its suborganizations and further official relationships make it possible for us to become politically active in this direction.
Thus we will continue to be available with our experience and capacity for the distribution of food in special emergency and crisis situations and for the purification of drinking water and shall develop this further within the scope of the international "Emergency Corps of the Order of Malta". We shall continue our basic health and education programme also with regard to its nutrition components. And we shall also continue to operate and as far as possible expand our social kitchens which exist in many countries.
But especially we value FAO's and this summit's efforts to improve the pre-conditions so that such relief will hopefully becomes less frequently necessary in the future. Whenever we have the possibility we are ready to co-operate and to give our support.