Monterrey, Mexico, 18 March
2002 - The International Conference on Financing for Development
(FfD) cannot spur broad-based economic development unless it
leads to increased funding to fight world hunger and rural
poverty, three UN food and agricultural agencies warned at a
news conference today.
The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the
World Food Programme (WFP) charge: "Without increased,
targeted funding to fight world poverty and hunger, the most
basic of obstacles to human and economic potential will remain.
Moreover, hunger and poverty will not be halved by 2015, as
agreed by world leaders at the Millennium Summit in 2000.
Progress towards these goals has been proceeding well below the
rates needed for success."
joint report prepared for FfD, FAO, IFAD, and WFP outline a twin
track strategy for achieving substantial reductions in hunger
and poverty through:
agricultural and rural development mainly through productivity
increases, especially among smallholder farmers, to achieve
broad-based economic growth, increased food availability and
sustained poverty reduction, and
Improving food consumption to raise the productivity and
productive potential of those who are weakened by hunger, and
allow them to take advantage of the opportunities offered by
Widespread hunger and
malnutrition in a world of plentiful food implies that extreme
poverty is the root cause of undernourishment. At the same
time, hunger and malnutrition are major causes of poverty.
Of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme
poverty on less than $1 a day, 75 percent live in rural areas
and make their livings primarily through agriculture. And, 780
million people in the developing world still live in hunger.
Yet, over the last 15 years, aid to agriculture and rural
development has declined by nearly half. The UN agencies urge
FfD to reverse this downward trend in development finance. This
will enable limited aid resources to more effectively foster an
inclusive and equitable global economy - the overall aim of FfD.
The agencies warn: "Those suffering from hunger and
malnutrition are caught in a vicious circle: inadequate food
intake and poor nutritional status, cause susceptibility to
illness, low productivity and continuing poverty. Evidence
shows clearly that in societies where hunger is widespread,
overall growth, an essential element in sustainable poverty
reduction, is severely compromised.
Director-General Jacques Diouf says, "A hungry person
is not able to work at his or her full potential. If some 40
percent of a country's population is under-fed, the economy
as a whole lacks the energy needed for growth."
"Even more alarming,"
warns Dr. Diouf, "a hungry person is an angry person
easily swayed by charges that the global economic system is not
working and should be trashed in favor of something radically
The agencies charge:
"Between 1975 and 1999, countries that managed to
reduce the prevalence of hunger invested substantially more in
agriculture than those where undernourishment remains
widespread. It is worrying that capital formation per
agricultural worker has remained stagnant or declined in
countries where more than 20 percent of the population is
undernourished and where agriculture is essential for poverty
reduction and food security."
"There is a disconnect - in fact, a
fundamental inconsistency - in where aid goes and the fact that
poverty is found overwhelmingly in rural areas," says
Lennart Båge, President of IFAD. "Aid must be targeted
to enable the rural poor to build better lives for themselves
and their families through linking them with productive assets,
markets, and institutions. Access to technology is also
important to increase their productivity."
Development opportunities may exist, but poor families
often cannot take advantage of them. Direct access to food,
including food aid where needed, plays a special role here,
which is why the UN agencies are calling for the establishment
of food assistance programmes and food-based safety nets
directly targeted to poor households to improve their
nutritional status and help them in their longer term food
WFP's Executive Director,
Catherine Bertini, says: "We have to remember that the
hungry poor need our help today. Ideally, long-term economic
development will help them move out of poverty in the future,
but there are tens of millions of parents who wake up to the
same question every morning: How will I feed my children today?
We need to help them. If these families are malnourished, they
will only fall further behind. Food aid can simultaneously meet
their nutritional needs today and give them new opportunities
for tomorrow. School feeding programs, for example, have
increased enrollments, especially of girls, by up to 300 percent
in developing countries. What better way is there to promote
development, than to invest in the health and education of the
that the responsibility for escaping from hunger and poverty
rests first with individuals, their families, communities and
governments, the agencies caution that the proportion of public
expenditure which developing countries devote to agriculture and
rural development is far from adequate, "especially in
countries where food deprivation is highest."
"The agencies conclude: 'We
firmly believe that it is fundamentally wrong to consider
development assistance as an act of charity. Eradicating
extreme poverty and hunger is more than just a moral imperative
- it is in the self interest of the international community,
with a high pay-off in peace, political stability, overall
development, and prosperity.'"