FAO insists on food as a human right
World Food Day theme seeks renewed commitment to the Right to Food
16 October 2007 - FAO today called for a renewed commitment to guarantee the right to food for the world's hundreds of millions of hungry people.
Speaking at the World Food Day ceremony on this year’s theme, "The Right to Food," FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf asked: “if our planet produces enough food to feed its entire population, why do 854 million people still go to sleep on an empty stomach?” At the same time, Diouf said that “a right is not a right if it cannot be claimed.”
The President of Germany, Horst Köhler, said that “hunger is not an inescapable destiny, but can be eliminated by wise policies.” This requires that governments of developing countries make food security a priority. He said “all people have a right to healthy food, produced in a sustainable manner appropriate to their culture. Democratic participation by the people is the best guarantee that governments will genuinely understand people's basic needs and will take these into account.” He noted that people should have an adequate supply of food from their own fields and the surrounding region, which requires a type of agriculture based on "ownership" in developing countries and on functioning local structures and know-how.
Tanzania's President, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, stated that "40 000 children die every day throughout the world due to malnutrition and related diseases. These are the people who are being denied the right to food. These are the people who are the subject of this year's World Food Day." He also said that the ultimate solution lies in improving agriculture, especially in Africa.
In a message read during the ceremony, Pope Benedict XVI said that food is a universal right for humankind, without distinction or discrimination. He urged all members of society to ensure the right to food, the non-fulfillment of which is a violation of human dignity.
Despite the fact that the right to food was included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948, commitment to enforce the right has been only very gradual. However, Diouf said that while “national commitments to implement the right to food would have been unthinkable only ten years ago, such commitments are already bearing fruit. In Brazil, for example, the right is now firmly entrenched and hunger is in retreat.”
FAO has been working with both governments and non-governmental organizations to promote a set of guidelines and a framework aimed at helping policymakers and others realize the right to food.
Italy’s Minister for agricultural, food and forestry policies, Paolo de Castro, underlined the importance of the right to food guidelines as the most effective means of moving governments as well as civil society towards achieving global food security.
"Demographics, climate change and commodity prices appear to be working against us right now, threatening to swirl up into a perfect storm of overwhelming need. But there is hope to end hunger, and science and education are on our side," stated Josette Sheeran, WFP Executive Director, who also attended the WFD ceremony.
In a message from IFAD President Lennart Båge it was noted that “three quarters of the world’s one billion extremely poor people live in rural areas, many already suffer from hunger and malnutrition, but new and growing challenges such as climate change are making them all the more vulnerable. This is why now, more than ever, the world has a pressing moral obligation to invest in agricultural development to combat hunger and restore dignity to the poor.”
Still too many hungry people
Eleven years after the 1996 World Food Summit the number of undernourished people in the world remains unacceptably high, with 820 million in developing countries, 25 million in countries in transition and 9 million in industrialized countries. As a result, promoting the right to food is not just a moral imperative or even an investment with huge economic returns, it is a basic human right, according to FAO.
At the same time, still greater pressure is being put on food supplies. Staples such as wheat and milk have seen price rises mainly due to climate-change induced weather fluctuations that affect harvests, the switch to biofuels and increasing demand from new and emerging markets.
World Food Day events around the world
World Food Day is commemorated annually in 150 countries. Highlights of this year’s events include a worldwide candlelight vigil starting in the southwest Pacific and moving around the globe to draw attention to the problem of world hunger; musical events in Cairo, Rome, Bamako and other cities; sporting events such as the Run for Food race in Rome and Turin and professional soccer games dedicated to increasing awareness of World Food Day by Spain’s professional soccer league. On the occasion of World Food Day 2007, universities in Italy, Ireland and Iran are establishing institutes or launching university courses on the right to food.
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