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Press Release 01/70


Rome, October 16, -- As World Food Day activities took place in more than 150 countries, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf announced that he was seeking postponement of the World Food Summit: five years later scheduled for next month. "Unfortunately the present international circumstances and the loss of so many innocent lives and the crisis that followed have led us to seek postponement of such an event," Dr. Diouf said.

World Food Day activities this year focused on the theme "Fight Hunger to Reduce Poverty" and included a global teach in, a concert by performers from around the world and a news conference in Rome detailing the extent of global hunger.

Other participants speaking at FAO Headquarters in Rome included Germany's President Johannes Rau and Italy's Minister of Agriculture Gianni Alemanno. The Rome observance also heard a message from the Vatican relaying the Pope's concerns on World Food Day read by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to FAO. Belgium's Queen Fabiola was awarded the Ceres Medal in recognition of her work to promote rural women in developing countries.

It is because of the intricate connection between hunger and poverty that the theme, "Fight hunger to reduce poverty" was selected for this year's World Food Day, Dr. Diouf said. "Fighting hunger is a moral obligation. The right to adequate food is a fundamental and inalienable human right. Without biological integrity of the human being which requires his daily bread, there can be no real and lasting progress in the stuggle for more justice and equity in the world."

Dr. Diouf warned, "The fight against hunger may be difficult, but it is a battle that can and must be won. Experience of several countries has shown that hunger can be reduced, and reduced quickly. We have learnt that hunger reduction can be swift where there is peace and political stability. Increased investment for agriculture, in particular in basic infrastructures of water control, rural roads and storage facilities, but also a policy environment favourable to increased farm income including social safety nets for the poor, are essential conditions for success."

Germany's President Johannes Rau noted that trying to do something about hunger is "not a hopeless task. Just twenty years ago, 29 percent of people in the so-called developing countries were malnourished. Today the figure is 18 percent, although the world's population has increased dramatically.

"While many in the rich countries fight against the consequences of overeating and lack of exercise, others are fighting for grim survival. That is not the fair world we all wish for!" said Mr. Rau.

"In the rich countries of the North no one can seriously believe that he can live permanently on an island of prosperity surrounded by a sea of sorrow and suffering. That is why it is in the rich countries' very own interests to fight hunger. Barbed wire and walls are no response to refugee flows, to poverty and suffering," he warned.

"We need not only the international coalition against terrorism. We also need a global alliance against hunger and poverty."

Mr. Rau also warned against "using globalization as an excuse for doing nothing in development policy terms and just sitting back and waiting. The reality is quite the opposite: globalization brings new challenges for development cooperation, challenges which we must tackle actively in a spirit of partnership."

A message from the Holy See, read by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, warned that hunger is a serious offense against all stages of life, on both the material and spiritual levels. The message urged a profound effort to help the poor particularly in the wake of the recent attacks on the United States.

Accepting the Ceres Medal, Queen Fabiola of Belgium said, "With its specific everyday activities, the FAO contributes to rural development and to the fight agains famine in the world, even though hunger and thirst have regrettably become lethal weapons in the hands of the rich and powerful."

Speaking to reporters at a World Food Day news conference to launch the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2001 (SOFI 2001), Hartwig de Haen FAO Assistant Director-General, Economic and Social Department, said, "On average, the number of hungry people during the 1990s declined by only 6 million people a year. This indicates that at the current rate of decline, it would take 60 years to cut the number of hungry people in the world to 400 million by 2015 as agreed at the 1996 World Food Summit. In 1996, a decline of just 15 million a year was needed to reach the target on time.

"Today, if we are to achieve the target, the average annual decrease must reach 22 million people, far above the current level of performance." Mr. de Haen added that "the target can be met if there with increased political will. FAO is encouraged by the success of 32 developing countries, including China, which reduced the number of hungry people by 116 million people. But the Organization is sad to report that the majority of developing countries failed to stop an increase in the number of hungry by 77 million people."

Singers Magida Al Roumi of Lebanon, Gilberto Gil of Brazil, Mory Kanté of Guinea, and Al Bano Carrisi of Italy were appointed Ambassadors of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

North America kicked off World Food Day/TeleFood activities with Groundwork 2001,* a week long series of concerts and community events in Seattle, Washington from 14-22 October. Top musicians R.E.M., Michael Franti & Spearhead, Pearl jam, Alanis Morissette, Dave Mathews, Femi Kuti, Emmylou Harris, Mana, Blind Boys of Alabama, Daniel Lanois, Ann and Nancy Wilson - Heart, Artis the Spoonman and many others are on the bill.

Noemi Pinto, a 9 year-old student at Southlands English School in Rome and Nicola Eades, a 7year-old from St. George's School, also in Rome, won the United Nations Women's Guild poster competition depicting the World Food Day theme. Accepting her award, Miss Pinto said, "When I designed my poster I thought of the poor people in many countries, where there is little food and I think we can help them by storing food and giving them the help they need to grow vegetables and fruit for themselves."

World Food Day was established in 1979 by FAO's biennial governing Conference and is observed each year on the anniversary of the founding of FAO in Quebec City, Canada on Oct. 16, 1945.

Globally, more than 150 countries held World Food Day and Telefood events, including a global TeleConference from Washington, DC, and a high-level Seminar in Bangkok, with Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand.

Some 30 countries took part in a global teach encouraging children and youth to get actively involved in creating a world free from hunger and malnutrition. Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger, developed by an international coalition of partners, including FAO, UNESCO, the World Bank and Newsweek, have launched a global education campaign with model lesson plans and resource materials on major issues in hunger?**


* Groundwork is made possible with the generous support of Adobe Systems Incorporated. For more information on concerts and related events please visit:

** The Feeding Minds Fighting Hunger teaching materials are available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Italian and Spanish on the internet at The lessons are also available in some languages on CD-Rom and in print.

For further information on World Food Day please contact the FAO Media Relations Office at telephone number: +39 065705 3625, or the FAO web site at:

Audio-clip: FAO Director-General proposes postponment of the Summit

Dr. Jacques Diouf, on 16 October 2001
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