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Press Release 01/53


Rome, 17 September 2001 - Undernourishment and starvation should not be considered less serious than blatant violations of other human rights, according to a statement by UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jacques Diouf. "The State has the obligation, as an instance of last resort, to ensure that nobody should die of hunger. The international community is called upon to assist those States that do not have the means to ensure minimum access to food for all their people through complementary measures."

Mr. Diouf's statement was delivered by Hartwig de Haen, FAO Assistant Director-General, Economic and Social Department, at the Jacques Maritain Seminar on the right to food. In the remarks, he said: "The World Food Summit not only reaffirmed the right to adequate food, but also explicitly recognized the crucial link between food security and democracy and civil and political rights as part of the enabling environment that is necessary for the full enjoyment of the right to food. It is well known that in the presence of hunger, the ability to exercise other human rights is severely hampered."

The FAO message added:"We know that there is enough wealth in the world to ensure a minimum standard of living for everyone and we should devote our joint efforts to the rights of the poor to a free and dignified life, of which adequate food is fundamental."

Addressing the many armed conflicts around the globe, FAO said, "the deliberate starvation of civilians and the use of food as a method of warfare are forbidden under the Geneva Conventions and are an obvious violation of the right to food. So is blocking humanitarian assistance and failing to come to the assistance of people in dire need. But the failure to address the silent undernourshment of millions of children and adults in peacetime should also be regarded as a violation of the right to food."

The FAO statement warned, "The scandal of hunger merits more outrage than it is getting, not only on moral grounds, but because it is a human rights violation on a massive scale." He called on agencies and organizations dealing with humanitarian assistance and development to "urgently address and seek to redress violations of the right to food."

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The International Jacques Maritain Institute Seminar on the right to food, a challenge for peace and development in the 21st centrury, is being held from 17-19 September at Sala del Parlamentino in the Italian Ministery of Agriculture at Via XX Settembre, 20 in Rome. The Seminar has the technical support of FAO and is being held under the patronage of the President of Italy.

For further information, please contact:
The FAO Media Office
Tel: 39 06 5705 3625

Related links:

FAO in depth focus: Food - a fundamental human right
FAO Web page: The Right to Food
The International Jacques Maritain Institute

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