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London, October 15 -- Heads of State and Government attending an historic World Food Summit in Rome next month will sign a policy statement and plan of action calling on all sectors of society to join in the fight for universal food security, the Summit organizer said today.

"The Summit is not a pledging conference, and it will not seek to establish any new form of bureaucracy. Its aim is to secure agreement on concrete action and to form new and effective partnerships that will bring the world closer to the Summit goal of "Food for All," Kay Killingsworth, Secretary General of the World Food Summit Secretariat, said.

Killingsworth spoke at a press briefing held in the United Nations Information Centre in connection with annual World Food Day observances on 16 October. In preparation for the Summit, this year's World Food Day theme is "Fighting Hunger and Malnutrition."

Close to 200 Heads of State and Government have been invited to attend the World Food Summit on 13-17 November at the headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome. It is the first such top-level meeting ever called to tackle the issue of food security.

The Summit, proposed by FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf, won unanimous endorsement from the FAO governing Conference and the United Nations General Assembly.

FAO, with 174 member nations plus, the European Community, a member organization, and Puerto Rico, an associate member, is the largest of the United Nations' specialized agencies. Its mandate is to alleviate poverty and hunger by promoting sustainable agricultural and rural development, improved nutrition and the pursuit of universal food security.

"In theory the world produces sufficient food for everyone, but that food is not reaching many millions of people," Killingsworth said. FAO estimates that some 800 million people in developing countries are chronically undernourished, and close to 200 million children under the age of 5 suffer from potentially debilitating protein or energy deficiencies. Eighty-two countries, 41 of them in Africa, are unable to produce or buy enough food to nourish all their populations at all times.

"According to current calculations," Killingsworth continued, the world's population will grow by 3 billion to a total of 8.7 billion men, women and children by the year 2030.

"Providing adequate nourishment for these people is a problem that agriculture alone cannot solve. It will take commitment at the highest level of government and the active involvement of the entire spectrum of society from intergovernmental, non-governmental and UN agencies to academic and research institutions, the private sector, parliamentarians, women's and youth groups, all of civil society."

Killingsworth said the proposed Plan of Action to be placed before the world leaders attending the Summit has seven components:

  • Creating political, economic and social conditions that foster food security.
  • Providing access to land and other resources, employment, education and health care.
  • Producing more food where it is needed, with less strain on resources, through careful use of land and water, human development and training, combatting environmental threats to food security and providing supporting infrastructure and services.
  • Promoting international food trade that meets the needs of importing countries.
  • Dealing with disasters through prevention, preparedness, effective emergency response and relief efforts that lead to development.
  • Encouraging investment in agriculture, food processing and distribution, research to optimize use of available resources and human development.
  • Ensuring results by fully utilizing existing organizations and mechanisms, accurately mapping the areas where hunger exists and promoting national responsibility with international solidarity.