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Press Release 99/60

FAO NAMES FOUR AMBASSADORS; PREPARES FOR WORLD FOOD DAY 1999


Rome, October 13, 1999 - Nobel Prize winner in medicine Rita Levi Montalcini, actress Gina Lollobrigida, jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater and legendary South African singer Miriam Makeba have been named Ambassadors of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). They will participate in the 1999 World Food Day Ceremony Friday October 15 at FAO's Rome headquarters to mark the 54th anniversary of the founding of FAO.

The Ambassadors are among the many celebrities from the worlds of entertainment, science, sports and politics who have expressed public support of FAO's fight against world hunger and called upon the public to help poor people of the world " break out of the vicious circle of chronic hunger and undernurishment."

This year's World Food Day theme, Youth Against Hunger, is meant to focus attention on the potential of young people in the battle against world hunger. It is FAO's goal to give a voice to these one billion people between ages 15 and 24 who, with better education, training and employment opportunities, could funnel their youthful idealism, energy and determination into a positive force for change. Young people represent one-fifth of the world's total population, 85 percent live in the developing world and only 15 percent live in countries where average annual income exceeds US$5,000.

Slovakia's president Rudolf Schuster, Italian Minister of Agriculture Paolo de Castro and FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf will address the October 15 ceremony. The Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to FAO, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, will read a message from Pope John Paul II.

The four new Ambassadors will make an appeal in support of another World Food Day activity, TeleFood, an annual campaign of Radio and TV broadcasts, concerts and other events. TeleFood is dedicated to increasing awareness of world hunger and appealing for international solidarity to finance specifically targeted grass-roots projects aimed at improving food security.

The latest estimates show that although there has been progress in alleviating world hunger in the last decade, there are still almost 800 million people suffering from malnutrition and undernourishment.

With futures so often uncertain in their rural communities, many young people have joined the ranks of those migrating to urban centres or even abroad. One reason for this is the low regard that young people have for agriculture as a profession. As a result, cities swell with unskilled newcomers, and a whole range of urban, social, environmental and political problems intensify, such as rapid slum growth, drug trafficking, unemployment and crime.

In his World Food Day message, Dr. Diouf emphasizes that "the first step in breaking this negative spiral is to focus on the basic issue of eradicating hunger and malnutrition. We have the knowledge and technology to do so, as well as the global capacity for efficient and sustainable food production. But what is also needed is education, awareness-building and the strengthening of formal and informal social organizations to help young people to put their hands on proactive services and resources necessary for food production."

Other World Food Day Activities and Events

  • Dr. Diouf will present awards to the winners of the United Nations Women's Guild annual poster competition among Rome's International Schools, including Giovanna Sauve of Kendale Primary School, Anika Rahman of St. George's School, and Kristin Heusinkued of Marymount International School. This will take place during the October 15 ceremony at FAO Headquarters, Rome.
  • Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, one of the leaders of India's "Green Revolution" in the 1960's will deliver the keynote speech at World Food Day Ceremony October 19 at UN Headquarters in New York. Other scheduled speakers include Dr. Jacques Diouf, UN Deputy Secretary General Ms. Louise Frechette, Mr. Theo Ben Gurirab, Foreign Minister of Namibia and currently President of the UN General Assembly, and Ambassador Francesco Paolo Fulci of Italy, President of the UN Economic and Social Council.
  • BBC World News programme "The World Today" will broadcast Food Week features focusing on FAO field projects, including stories from Angola, Brazil, Pakistan, Senegal and Kosovo on topics ranging from desertification to artisanal fisheries. BBC News 24 will air a feature on the disappearance of farm animal breeds, which is part of an FAO project on domestic animal genetic diversity.
  • 16th Annual World Food Day TeleConference will be broadcast from George Washington University in Washington, DC, over Worldnet Satellite facilities.
  • Newsweek Education Programs has dedicated its student publication Newsweek This Week to World Food Day.
  • The main TeleFood 99 concert will be broadcast worldwide on December 4 from James Bond Beach in Ochos Rios, Jamaica. The previous two were held in Rome (1997) and Dakar, Senegal (1998). In the last two years, TeleFood has raised around US$4 million, all of which has been earmarked for special mini-projects in the world's poorest areas.

World Food Day was first observed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in 1979, to raise public awareness of the urgent need to find a lasting solution to the worldwide problem of hunger and malnutrition. It is held annually on October 16, the date FAO was founded in 1945 in Quebec City, Canada. In addition to the events listed above, some 150 countries have planned a variety of local events to mark World Food Day and Telefood.

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