Building political will to end hunger
Bread for the World’s David Beckmann addresses FAO Conference
19 November 2005, Rome -- The key to reducing hunger is not merely calling for more political will, but building it, said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, a US-based citizens' movement to end hunger, during the opening ceremony of FAO’s governing Conference today.
Beckmann’s remarks came during the McDougall Memorial Lecture, which honours Frank McDougall of Australia, one of the founders of FAO.
“Over the last several decades, many reports and conferences on world hunger have concluded with a list of proposed actions and a call for more political will,” said Beckmann. “But no report or conference should ever conclude that way again. Instead, the analysis should continue by proposing specific actions to build the necessary political will.”
Pushing for action
Beckmann highlighted the importance of creating and strengthening governmental institutions dedicating to fighting hunger and poverty.
“Governments are the main location of political will. Government programmes can reduce – or add to – hunger on a large scale. Government policies set the framework in which individuals, business and civil society can contribute to progress against hunger,” he said.
But he also called for action by people and organizations outside government.
“Political parties, civil society, organizations of poor people, the media, business corporations, and active individuals can all play roles in creating political will,” he said. “Sustained political commitment depends on systematically building institutions outside government that will push for progress against hunger over a period of decades.”
Beckmann noted the important contributions of grassroots movements around the world in securing support for the international debt relief campaign.
Funding for advocacy is crucial
“Many commitment-building efforts fail for lack of money,” Beckmann said. “Bread for the World doesn’t get any money from the U.S. government. But we find that we can leverage every $1 in our own budget to win at least $100 in public funds for effective programmes that help hungry people. Our experience suggests that investments in commitment-building have high returns.”
He urged the Conference delegates to use their power as government officials to provide help and opportunity to hungry people: “When agriculture officials work with associations of poor farmers or advocacy groups, you help them grow in strength.”
Beckmann also encouraged delegates to push for progress on development assistance and trade; to strengthen the International Alliance Against Hunger; and to use the September 2006 Special Forum in Rome, which will assess progress in achieving the 1996 World Food Summit goal of cutting world hunger in half by 2015, to intensify political commitment by bringing together diverse organizations from around the world (civil society groups, private sector organizations, farm associations, universities and others) who are working to end hunger.
“The people in this room come from many different cultures and traditions. But we all know that making sure that children have enough to eat is the right thing to do. We all know that allowing 850 million people to go hungry is wrong,” Beckmann said. “Ending hunger is sacred work. There is no more important business.”
Beckmann was invited by FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf to deliver this year's McDougall Memorial Lecture in recognition of Bread for the World’s role in leading the National Alliance Against Hunger in the United States, and in lobbying on behalf of its members for the government to increase its support for programmes aimed at reducing hunger and poverty, both at home and abroad.
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