Just four years ago, in a landmark act of political
will, 186 governments gathered in Rome and committed
themselves not only to reducing malnutrition but also to
ending hunger and achieving the goal of "food for all"
early in this third millennium. That commitment, the so
called "promise" of the World Food Summit, must be
remembered as we work to achieve that goal.
It is appropriate to recall Commitment One of the
World Food Summit Plan of Action: "We will ensure an
enabling political, social and economic environment
designed to create the best conditions for the
eradication of poverty and for durable peace, based on
full and equal participation of women and men which is
most conducive to achieving sustainable food security for
It is against this and the other
internationally-agreed commitments in the World Food
Summit Plan of Action that we should measure national and
international efforts to combat the multiple causes of
food insecurity and restore the basic human right to be
free from hunger. The scourges of hunger and poverty are
morally unacceptable and have to be defeated. Hunger and
chronic undernutrition diminish human life. The lack of
physical or economic access to safe, nutritious and
healthy food at all times leads to negative consequences
for peoples and nations.
I have a vision of a world where every man, woman and
child has enough nutritious and safe food, every single
day. In my vision, the shocking extremes of wealth and
poverty are reduced. I see tolerance and not
discrimination; peace and not civil strife; sustainable
habitats and not environmental degradation; general
prosperity and not debilitating hopelessness.
But making that vision a reality requires action on
many fronts. With FAOs latest data indicating that
as much as 13 percent of all people are undernourished,
we have a great deal of work ahead of us although
considerable progress has been made.
Over the past three decades, the number of hungry
people has diminished by some 14 percent while the per
capita availability of food has grown by around 32
percent. However, at the present rate of progress, we
will not reach the World Food Summit target within two
decades. There is therefore no time to waste in the fight
against hunger, malnutrition and poverty.
Commitments and promises are mere starting points on
the road to achieving a millennium free from hunger.
Policies, programmes, projects, resources and activities
to achieve food security should be geared towards
ensuring adequate availability and stability of food
supplies, economic affordability of food, as well as food
quality and safety.
It is important to increase local food production. In
low-income food deficit countries, households and
communities can immediately benefit from improved access.
At the national level, appropriate resources are also
needed to improve distribution, and strategies have to be
developed to ensure that people can either produce enough
food or earn enough to buy it.
Rural incomes and access to food must be improved.
With accelerated transfer of adequate technologies, the
ability of people to participate in increasing the
productivity of their farms and fields will grow. But to
keep pace with expanding populations, agricultural
productivity has to be further expanded and optimized.
The rapid growth of information technology could be
helpful for a global outreach.
Improved access to land, water and other productive
resources, reduced production costs through better
management, conservation of natural resources including
fisheries and forests; integrated pest management; and
new technologies, other income or employment-generating
opportunities, and access to social services and
serviceable infrastructure are necessary to help improve
food security. But a continuing decline in overall
investment in agriculture due to urban bias,
protectionism in access of agricultural products to
markets, policies obstructing a level playing field in
international agricultural trade and civil strife have
contributed to food insecurity.
Civil society can be mobilized in promotional and
fundraising activities against hunger. The most committed
should also be involved in the dialogue and advocacy role
with their governments, as part of a broad campaign to
achieve food for all.
World Food Day this year marks the 55th anniversary of
the founding of FAO in Quebec, Canada in 1945.
Todays observances around the world provide an
opportunity to review the progress made since the World
Food Summit. FAO's new annual publication, The State of
Food Insecurity in the World, provides that annual
benchmark to illustrate the dimensions of hunger.
"TeleFood", a major awareness and fund-raising
campaign launched by FAO four years ago, has helped to
spread the word. TeleFood events and activities now take
place in more than 70 countries. Since its inception in
1997, TeleFood concerts, events and broadcast programmes
on radio and television have been enjoyed by more than
500 million people globally. Those people have responded
with individual donations totaling more than US$ 6
million, donations that go directly into setting up
small-scale projects to help groups of rural poor to
produce more and better food, improve family nutrition
and generate extra income for food.
This World Food Day and TeleFood theme, "A Millennium
Free from Hunger", is therefore a clarion call for
collective action by governments, civil society
organizations, the private sector and committed
individuals willing to work towards a more just and more
It is my hope that World Food Day 2000 will serve as a
catalyst for all of us so that the vision and challenge
of a millennium free from hunger can become a reality
within our lifetime.