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Press Release 97/53

UNITED NATIONS OBSERVES WORLD FOOD DAY


New York, 21 October--World Food Day was celebrated at the United Nations headquarters in New York in a ceremony focusing on the theme "Investing in Food Security," to promote broader public awareness of the need to increase funding for agriculture and food production, particularly in the rural communities of the developing world where 75 percent of the world's poor and hungry live.

The ceremony was addressed by UN Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jacques Diouf, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, Mr. Manuel Tello, Vice-President of the Fifty-Second Session of the General Assembly and by Mr. Vladimir Galuska, President of the Economic and Social Council. Haiti's Foreign Minister Fritz Longchamps delivered the key note address on behalf of the country's President, Rene Preval.

In his address, Dr. Diouf focused on one of the most essential commitments of the 1996 World Food Summit Plan of Action to increase investment in food security. At the first Summit ever convened to deal with the problems of hunger and undernutrition, world leaders from 186 countries pledged their political support and national commitment to achieve food security for all and to reduce by half the more than 800 million people currently undernourished, by 2015.

He noted that much of the investment in food security would continue to be private, three quarters of that coming from millions of small farmers, traders, village artisans, entrepreneurs and others engaged in the production and distribution of food in the poorer countries of the world through their investments in such improvements as water control and land development. Some $41 billion each year should consist of public investments to create and maintain the conditions needed to promote profitable private-sector activity, Dr. Diouf said.

He also said that if official multilateral financial support was to provide the same share as in the past, about $15 billion will be needed annually to help the poorest countries meet their public investment requirements. Unfortunately, external development assistance to agriculture has fallen steadily for the last ten years, Dr. Diouf noted.

Dr. Diouf talked about FAO's Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), now under way in 21 of 86 low-income food deficit countries (LIFDC) where the vast majority of the world's more than 800 million hungry people live. The Programme is currently under formulation in another 40 countries. LIFDCs are those countries

suffering from chronic food deficits which do not have the resources to cover enough food imports to make up the difference.

Dr. Diouf said the Programme works towards the rapid and sustainable reduction of hunger through increased food production and productivity, thereby increasing farm incomes and ultimately broadening access to food.

Implementation of the SPFS consists of two phases: a pilot phase lasting about three years, followed by an expansion phase that takes place after results from the components of the pilot phase have been assessed and a policy and investment plan have been prepared and approved.

Trust fund donors, multi-lateral donors and financial institutions have joined the effort to fund the SPFS, including the World Bank, the African and Islamic Development Banks, the UN Development Programme, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme.

Furthermore, a South-South cooperation initiative was launched as part of the SPFS, in order to send experienced technical experts from more advanced developing countries to work alongside beneficiary farmers in other developing countries in need. This program provides an opportunity to strengthen cooperation among developing countries at different stages of development.

World Food Day is observed each year on the anniversary of the founding of FAO in Quebec City, Canada on 16 October 1945 to highlight the world's food problems and promote solutions. It was observed this year with events in more than 150 countries around the world, including the first-ever global TeleFood telecast, aimed at raising public awareness of the plight of the world's 800 million chronically hungry and malnourished people.

The broadcast linked an estimated 100 million viewers in more than 60 countries on four continents, culminating with a star-studded concert at the Vatican which was attended by more than 5,000 people. In some countries,TeleFood included appeals for donations to FAO's Special Programme and other grass-roots projects. In Italy more than $1.2 million was raised during the Telefood broadcast.

 


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