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"The Right to Food"

Curriculum vitae of Dr Jacques Diouf



" A Millennium Free from Hunger"
Message on the occasion of World Food Day and TeleFood 2000
Rome, Italy, 16 October 2000

By selecting the theme, "A Millennium Free from Hunger" for World Food Day and TeleFood in the year 2000, FAO is inviting individuals together with world leaders, civil society organizations, private corporations, foundations, farmers and other grassroots groups, to join the Organization in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.

  • 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 all."

    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 FAO’s 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. Today’s 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 humane world.

    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.


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