Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):
Mr. Speaker, on June 8,
I stated, in reply to a question by the leader of the opposition (Mr. Graydon), that I would table the report of the united and associated nations conference on food and agriculture as soon as it was available, and that, at the same time, I would make a brief general statement on the work of the conference and the programme for future action. I now table the report as approved on June 3, under the designation: Final Act.
The food conference was held at Hot Springs, Virginia. Its sessions opened on May 18, and were concluded on June 3. It was the first general conference of the united nations. That in itself gives the conference an historic significance. While the conference met in time of war, it was not concerned with the prosecution of the war. It had to do with one of the problems which demand solution if, after the termination of hostilities, the world is to enjoy enduring peace. Its purpose was to assist in freeing the peoples of the world from want, once the axis powers have been defeated. The conference was an act of faith in the continuing solidarity of the united nations.
The fact that the subject matter of the conference was food and agriculture is evidence of a determination to make a fundamental approach to the solution of post-war problems. No subject could have been more suitable for exploration. The production of food is the most important of man's economic activities. Its absorbs the energies of more men and women than all other economic pursuits combined.
A consideration of the problems falls naturally into three parts: the objectives in quantity and quality tn be set in the consumption of food; the production of foodstuffs to meet consumption needs; the better distribution of the produce of agriculture and of fisheries.
The conference recognized that there had never been enough food produced in the world to maintain the health of all its peoples. The development of the science of nutrition has added greatly to the knowledge of the kinds of food needed to maintain health and efficiency. The nutrition experts who were gathered at the conference set the goals for the achievement of better standards of health, and indicated various measures which might be taken to that end, particularly the provisions of protective and other nutritionally desirable foods. The problem to be faced was stated by the conference to be that of ensuring the production of the necessary food and having it made available to the consumer. The primary emphasis in all the studies made by
the nutrition experts, and the basic conclusion of the conference itself was that the production of food must be increased if freedom from want is to be achieved.
The conference gave attention to methods of increasing the supiply of food by such means as raising the efficiency of production, the employment of additional land and labour, the conservation of resources,, and the advantages to be derived, in certain cases, from international specialization.
The largest market for the produce of agriculture lies amongst the tillers of the soil. Producers of food are also important consumers of other goods as well as of their own produce. It was recognized by the conference that the general welfare would be promoted by ensuring to the producers of food a reasonable return for their labour. The conference therefore considered special measures to increase the purchasing power of agriculturists generally, and, particularly, the purchasing power of the less advanced and less favoured peoples.
A second main conclusion of the conference was that the expansion of agricultural production must be part of the expansion of the whole world economy. It was recognized that if markets are to be opened for an expanded food production, and if people are to be able to buy the food which they need, poverty must be made to disappear. The increasing of industrial production, the provision of full employment, the prevention of exploitation, the development of social legislation, the orderly management of currencies and investments, the fostering of international trade through the reduction of trade barriers, were seen to be problems to be considered if the purposes of the conference on food and agriculture were to be realized. These studies lay outside the scope of the conference and call for separate consideration, which some of them are already receiving.
The conference was primarily concerned with agriculture, but it did not overlook the value, as foodstuffs, of fish and marine products. It recognized the importance of fish in the economy of many countries. It recommended that the general conclusions which it had reached, wherever appropriate, should apply to fish and marine products.
In its deliberations, the conference had to take account of the special world conditions under which it was meeting. There were two questions of great importance which did not come within its terms of reference. The first concerns the production of food and its distribution in wartime, which is a task for
agencies already in existence. The second is the question of relief, on an international scale, which is to be the subject of a conference at an early date.
The conference's study of the problems of food and agriculture was partly concerned with the intermediate period between the present, and the time when the long-term goals of the conference could be actively pursued and achieved.
Countries which are free from the tyranny of the invader are already able to take steps towards the attainment of the goals set at the conference. As other countries are liberated, they, too, can strive towards these goals. The immediate aim must be the abolition of hunger as a first step towards freedom from want. During the transition period which will follow the cessation of hostilities in particular areas, measures will have to be taken to meet the special circumstances caused by the war. Long-term goals will have to be kept firmly in mind so that temporary expedients will not result in permanent maladjustments.
Throughout its deliberations, the conference recognized the primary responsibility of each nation to ensure that its own people are fully employed, and that they have the means of procuring the food needed for a healthy life. The conference also agreed that only through active cooperation with other nations can the fullest prosperity of each nation be secured.
The final act of the conference, the result of its deliberations, comprises a declaration and some thirty resolutions. In the first resolution, the conference recommends that all nations represented should set out in a formal declaration their individual obligation to their own people, and to one another, to collaborate in raising the levels of nutrition and standards of living of their peoples, and in improving the efficient production and distribution of agricultural products. It also recommends that they report to one another on the progress achieved. Other resolutions contain statements of principles and recommendations of policy for the short-term and the long-term period. The resolutions also dealt with the opening up of undeveloped areas suitable for settlement and food production, the fostering of desirable changes in the pattern of production designed to give greater emphasis to protective foods; the provision of agricultural credit; the advancement of cooperative societies, and the improvement of marketing facilities. I need scarcely assure the house that all these recommendations will receive detailed study by the government.
To facilitate collaboration among nations in this field of endeavour, the conference
Agriculture Committee Report
recommended that a permanent international organization on food and agriculture be established. It suggested that each government represented at the conference appoint a representative to an interim commission, the duty of which would be to carry out the recommendations of the conference and to prepare a specific plan for a permanent international organization on food and agriculture. The conference invited the President of the United States of America to arrange for the establishment of this interim commission, and for the calling of an early meeting.
In recommending the functions of the proposed permanent organization, the conference followed closely the comprehensive agenda which had been fixed for its own deliberations. It also urged the interim commission to give consideration to the question of providing for membership in the permanent organization of countries not represented at the conference. It recommended as well the association of the permanent organization with other institutions, which already exist, or which may be set up later, in the field of food and agriculture, and in related scientific, economic and other fields.
President Roosevelt in his speech to the delegates on Monday last, described the conference as "epoch making". He willingly accepted the recommendation that, as President of the United States, he should call together the proposed interim commission.
The president associated himself with the declaration of the conference that every nation should assume the responsibility, in collaboration with others, of providing adequate food for its own people. I am prepared to make at once a similar declaration on behalf of Canada.
In conclusion, I should like to mention among other of the promising results of the first united nations conference, the friendly spirit which inspired its deliberations, the earnestness with which the delegates worked together toward worthy ends, and the unanimity with which their decisions were reached. .
Mr. Speaker, I should ask that copies of the Final Act be provided to members of the house, and would move, seconded by Mr. Crerar:
That 700 copies in English and 300 copies in French of the Final Act of the united nations conference on food and agriculture, laid on the table this day, be printed forthwith, and that standing order 64 in relation thereto be suspended.
At first glance, it would seem that seven hundred copies in English and three hundred in French of the Final Act may not be as large a number as would be desired. I am informed however that something in the nature of an abridged popular statement which will serve all immediate purposes will shortly be available, and I think this would be a sufficient number, therefore, of copies of the Final Act in its formal shape to be obtained.
Subtopic: PROBLEMS CONSIDERED AND PROGRAMME FOR FUTURE ACTION-REPORT TABLED