Political, financial push urged to end hunger

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rome ceremony celebrates World Food Day

FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf today called for a political and financial push to boost sustainable agriculture in the world’s poor countries, double global food production and free the world of hunger and malnutrition.

Speaking at a ceremony here marking World Food Day, the anniversary of FAO’s foundation in 1945, Diouf said, “I wish to reaffirm that we know what needs to be done to eradicate the hunger of 923 million people in the world. We also know what needs to be done to double world food production and feed a population that is expected to rise to 9 billion people by 2050.”

Noting that $US22 billion was pledged to promote global food security earlier this year, but that only 10 percent of this has so far materialized – mainly for emergency food aid – Diouf declared, “What we need ... is political will and delivery on financial commitments, if we are to be able to make the essential investments that are needed to promote sustainable agricultural development and food security in the poorest countries of the world.”

Peace and security

The Director-General added: “That is the surest way of forging a world of economic and social progress and creating the conditions for peace and security of humanity.”

In a keynote speech at the ceremony, Egypt’s First Lady Suzanne Mubarak said that the food crisis merited a rescue effort on par with the international response to the financial and credit crisis.

“We have just witnessed how seven hundred billion dollars were raised in record time to salvage the financial markets. How similar injections were made to salvage financial banks,” Mrs Mubarak said.

“I believe that the scale of the food crisis is of such magnitude that it warrants nothing less than the same swift and decisive measures to curb its lethal progression," she added. “Let us all remember that it is the lives of millions of people that are hanging in the balance”.

Social justice

Pope Benedict XVI, in a message read at the ceremony by Monsignor Renato Volante, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to FAO, said that a lasting solution to hunger in the world lay in the promotion of an international order based on social justice.

The world produced enough food to feed a growing population, he noted. If people went hungry, it was partly because of a “race for consumption” which “imposes forced reductions on the nutritional capacity of the world’s poorest regions”. Other reasons included lack of political will by nations but also “runaway speculation”, together with “corruption in public life or again growing investments in weapons and sophisticated military technologies to the detriment of people’s primary needs... ”

“An essential condition for increasing production, safeguarding the identity of indigenous populations as well as peace and security in the world is to guarantee access to land, thus helping agricultural labourers and promoting their rights,” the Pope added.

Run for food

Climate change and bioenergy are the focus of this year’s World Food Day activities, involving over 150 countries. They include a third edition of the popular Run for Food to take place in Rome on 19 October involving over 4 000 people, with a similar event to be held simultaneously in Milan.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon will participate together with Jacques Diouf and the Heads of other UN Agencies in a World Food Day ceremony at the United Nations in New York on 23 October.