PR 96/27 - WFS TO LAUNCH GLOBAL CAMPAIGN ON FOOD FOR ALL


UNITED NATIONS, 27 June -- Summit Secretary-General Kay Killingsworth discussed plans for the top-level meeting, to be held 13 to 17 November at the Headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, at a briefing for members of the UN press corps.

FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf proposed the Summit in response to rising concern of FAO Member Countries over the world food situation and its long-term implictions, Ms. Killingsworth said. It will be the first such meeting ever held.

"The convening of the Summit was unanimously approved by the governing Conference of FAO and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly because of the seriousness of the world food problem," she said.

According to FAO estimates, some 800 million people, nearly one-fifth of the population in the developing world, and many more in the developed countries suffer the debilitating effects of hunger and malnutrition, and nearly 200 million children under the age of five are affected by severe or chronic protein-calories deficiencies.

Ms. Killingsworth noted that the world's once ample grain reserves have fallen below the level considered necessary to guarantee global food security. Prices have soared, and low-income, food-deficit countries will be forced to spend an additional US$3 billion for their food imports this year, she said.

There is also general recognition of the urgent need for action to ensure that the world will be capable of meeting the food needs of the years 2010, 2020, 2030 and beyond, she said.

"Unless we act now, dwindling supplies of food and water could fuel violent conflict in the third millennium," Ms. Killingsworth warned. "The nature of the problem is ethical, political and strategic, and requires attention at the highest level of authority."

The heads of state and government attending the World Food summit will be asked to approve a Policy Statement and Plan of Action, committing themselves to the development of policies, programmes and strategies that can lead to food security.

To ensure continued awareness and support for this long-term endeavor, FAO has proposed a "Food for All" campaign which would be organized by National Committees, drawing on the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academic and research institutions, women's and youth groups and civil society in general.

Ms. Killingsworth reported that work on a draft Policy Statement and Plan of Action is nearing completion.

The documents, being drawn up by the Comittee on World Food Security made up of FAO and UN Member Governments, will incorporate the ideas and concerns voiced at FAO Regional Conferences by FAO Member Governments, regional NGOs and private sector associations concerned with food security issues.

Following Regional Conferences for the Near East, Africa, Asia and the Pacific and Europe, a North American Regional Meeting on the World Food Summit was held Monday and Tuesday in Lansing, Mich., organized by the Canadian and U.S. governments. The Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean will take place next week in Paraguay.

Because of the obvious connection between nutrition and athletic ability, marathoners throughout the world have joined in the effort to marshal support for the Summit and its goals. A total of 21 events, including the 3 November New York Marathon, are official endorsing the quest for "Food for All."

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