Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

FOOD SECURITY AND THE UNITED NATIONS

ADDRESS
By
He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific
Delivered to the

United Nations University Global Seminar – 6th Okinawa Session,

Okinawa, Japan 16-19 December 2004


I. The right to food

The right to food is a basic human right. Hunger is a violation of human dignity and an impediment to social, political and economic progress. It is inconscionable that millions of people around the world do not have access to food in a world of plenty: how can they ever hope to realize their full physical and mental potential?

This brings us to the question what is the right to food, and how important is it? What are its implications for every human being? Who is responsible for implementing it, and how best to implement it so that everyone, everywhere has enough to eat? These questions are of fundamental importance, not only to the world’s more than 800 million undernourished people, but also to national governments, international bodies, non-governmental organizations and others concerned with economic development and the improvement of living standards worldwide.

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, in Article 25(1): “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food ...”.

In human rights theory, there are two types of human rights: those respected simply through non-intervention, such as the right to worship, and those that require resources in order to be realized. Some question whether the latter are rights at all. So there is a sharp distinction between a narrow interpretation – the right to obtain food unhindered through one’s own efforts – and a broad interpretation – the right to be supplied with food when one cannot obtain it.

The narrow interpretation is not new. England’s Magna Carta of 1215 states that no one shall be ‘amerced’ to the extent that they are deprived of their means of living. More than 2000 years ago, Confucius stressed that food is the paramount concern of the human beings and advocated necessary means to meet the purpose.

The broad interpretation guarantees adequate nutrition when work or land are not available and therefore implies the use of resources to feed people. A number of governments do not accept this interpretation. Indeed, some have argued that spending time and money to promote the right to food wastes resources better spent on the poor.

Looking at food security as a fundamental right helps focus on crucial issues of accountability and nondiscrimination, which also have their foundations in human rights law. In sum, the right to food is all about sustainable agriculture, good governance and attention to the poorest and the most marginalized.

As noted in the 2002 World Food Summit: five years later Declaration, hunger is both a cause and an effect of extreme poverty and it prevents the poor from taking advantage of development opportunities. Hunger eradication is a vital step in alleviating poverty and inequality. The summit observed that 70 percent of the world's poor live in rural areas and depend almost entirely on agriculture and rural development for their livelihood; and noted the rapid increase in the numbers and proportion of urban people affected by poverty, hunger and malnutrition. The international community reconfirmed its commitment by adopting Millennium Development Goals (MDG) at the United Nations General Assembly in 2000, recognizing reducing hunger and extreme poverty by half by 2015 as the first and foremost MDG goal.

The world community is very conscious of the particular difficulties faced by all developing countries, in particular by the least developed countries (LDC), the low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDC), the small island developing states, and countries affected by violent conflicts, civil strife, land mines and unexploded ordnance, or exposed to desertification and natural disasters. It also noted further that global warming and climate change can have serious implications for food and livelihood security, especially in these countries.

Hunger is but an extreme manifestation of poverty. Out of 6.2 billion people in the world today, about 1.2 billion live below poverty line and 852 million (SOFI 2004) suffer from malnutrition. Freedom from hunger is a basic human right and ensuring humanities freedom from hunger has been one of core objectives of the United Nations system, in particular of FAO. To defeat hunger is a long enduring war: it’s challenging but the people must win—in today’s world of affluence, it is totally unacceptable to have more than 800 million of men, women, in particular children going to bed hungery every day.

 

II. Key commitments to hunger eradication and major progress in fighting against hunger

            1. Food security: past and present

The 1974 World Food Conference adopted the Universal declaration on the eradication of hunger and malnutrition which was endorsed by the UN general Assembly resolution 348 (XXIX) on 17 December 1974. Twenty-two years after the conference, in 1996, the heads of governments from over 170 countries met at the World Food Summit in Rome to discuss the same issue of persisting food insecurity, a large number of the world population was not getting enough food to eat. There was one important difference however. Unlike in 1974, there was no dearth of food globally and nationally in most parts of the world. By and large, the problem was not lack of supplies but lack of access to available food.

For the World Food Summit baseline period of 1990-92, there were some 824 million hungry people in the developing world, or 20 percent of its population considered as undernourished. This happened despite tremendous progress in food production, economic growth and poverty reduction in many populous parts of the world.

Concerned with the situation, the world leaders present at the summit adopted the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action affirming a global commitment to eliminate hunger and malnutrition and to achieve sustainable food security for all people. Towards this end, the summit called for the halving of the number of hungry people in the world by 2015. This global commitment was further reaffirmed in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) following the Millennium Summit in 2000. MDG-1, calls for eradication of extreme poverty and hunger.

 

2. United Nations partnerships for food

With the fifty sixth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 2004, I should like to emphasize that the United Nations is committed to giving equal importance to all human rights – civil, cultural, economic, political and social. Indeed, all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. If all human rights are to be treated on an equal footing, more attention needs to be paid to clarifying the universal minimum core contents of economic, social and cultural rights.

In this respect, the World Food Summit Plan of Action and the Millennium Development Goals are warmly welcomed as they create the possibility for a substantive strengthening of the right to food, while throwing light on the different but complementary approaches of the many actions involved, including in the UN system.

In this connection, I should like to highlight a network set up specifically to promote partnerships among UN agencies in the fight to alleviate poverty and hunger: the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) Network for Rural Development and Food Security. Set up in 1997, this network is managed by FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in close collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP).

At the international level, the ACC Network consists of 20 IN organizations and associated international and regional non-governmental organizations; and at the country level, of close to 100 national Thematic Groups working on rural development and food security in all the regions of the world.

A national thematic group is typically composed of representatives of UN agencies and organizations in the country, government agencies, donors and civil society organizations. The group aims to respond in a demand-driven and participatory way to country-specific needs and priorities.

            3. Progress in hunger reduction 

Let us now look at the food security situation today (SOFI 2004). In 2000-2002, there were 852 million undernourished people in the world, including 815 million in the developing countries.

The number of undernourished in developing countries declined from 824 million in 1990-92 to 815 million, or merely 9 million in the ten year from the baseline period. Thus, the average annual decrease since the summit has been less than 1 million, far below the level (20 million) required to reach the WFS goal. More alarming still, the number has actually increased over the most recent five years for which numbers are available.

At the regional level, the numbers of undernourished were reduced in Asia and the Pacific and in Latin America and the Caribbean. In contrast, the number continues to rise in Sub-Saharan Africa and in Near East and North Africa, slowing down the overall progress in the achievement of the World Food Summit targets.

The world is certainly not on track in achieving the World Food Summit target. How about the Asia-Pacific region? Is it on track? The answer is unfortunately no. The rate of reduction in the region (5 million per year) is approximately on third of the annual requirement of 14 million originally estimated. Secondly, the number of hungry increased in the second half the 1990s in this region as well.

Analysis of more recent trends makes the prospects of meeting the WFS target by the 2015 even bleaker. While the number of undernourished people in the region declined by 60 million from 1990-92 to 1995-97, the number actually increased by nearly 10 million from 1995–97 to 2000-02. This happened because progress in Bangladesh, China and Viet Nam slowed and India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Philippines shifted into reverse. Only Sri Lanka increased the rate of hunger reduction, while even in the Republic of Korea and Malaysia the number of undernourished people either stagnated or increased. This was a result of several factors, such as the Asian financial crisis, market reform measures and under investment in the agriculture and rural sector in some countries.

For the whole period from 1990-92 to 2000-02, the number of undernourished people declined in East and Southeast Asia by 24 and 17 percent, respectively. In South Asia, however, the absolute number of undernourished increased, instead of declining. South Asia sub-region can therefore be considered as the regional hot spot for food insecurity.

              4. Food availability 

What is the overall situation of food availability and population? Available information show that the per capita food availability is steadily increasing in the developing countries since late 1960s. In the past thirty years, it increased by 4 percent annually. This clearly shows that the food production in developing countries has increased faster than the population growth.

Regionally, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa have lower per capita food availability than the average for developing counties. Consistent with this, these regions have the highest proportion of undernourished population in the world: 22 percent in South Asia and 33 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa.

              5. Facilitative or hindering factors

The progress in hunger reduction across subregions and countries, therefore, varied due to the interplay of a multiplicity of factors and outcomes. The major determinants of success at the country level were its relative performance in terms of economic and agricultural growth and distribution, success in poverty reduction, population growth, specific measures to expand access to food, improve health and sanitation conditions and maintain a conducive policy and institutional environment as well as general peace and social stability. Several of these outcomes were greatly influenced by external economic and political environment and natural disasters. 

III.  Challenges for sustainable food security

As the Asia-Pacific region is quite diverse in many dimensions, each country has a different problem of food security. However, taking a broad sweep I have identified seven major challenges which many countries commonly face. These are,

  • Meeting the food needs of an increasing and urbanizing population
  • Rural poverty and infrastructure
  • Natural resource use and management
  • Policy reforms and liberalization
  • Globalization and competitiveness
  • Use of science and technology
  • Institutional reforms

            
            1. Meeting the food needs of an urbanizing population

The first challenge is to meet the food needs of an increasing population which is urbanizing at a rapid rate. The world population of 5.9 billion in 1997-99 is projected to increase by more than 40 percent to 8.3 billion in 2030, with 60 percent of people in developing countries living in urban areas. During the same period, the population of Asia-Pacific region is projected to increase from 3.2 to 4.4 billion in 2030. As people’s income increase and they move from rural to urban areas, their dietary pattern becomes more diversified. Their demand for cereals changes from coarse to fine grains and they tend to consume more livestock products, fruits, vegetables and processed foods. If incomes also grow at rates resembling recent trends, the world demand for cereal grains will increase by 52 percent to 2 830 million tons. In our own region, the demand will increase by 57 percent to 1 203 million tons.

Similarly, there will 1.2 billion new mouths to be fed in the Asia-Pacific region alone. Can the region meet these demands?

            2.   Rural poverty 

Food insecurity and poverty are closely related. They perpetuate each other. We cannot address poverty without addressing hunger, because the undernourished – in particular women, children and vulnerable groups – have much restricted chances of escaping from the poverty trap.

Poverty remains mainly a rural phenomenon in the Asia and Pacific region. Even urban poverty is partly a direct effect of rural poverty. About three-fourths of the 800 million poor in this region, who live on less than a dollar a day, live in rural areas.

Rural poverty is a formidable problem for low-income countries. One would ask what are the issues impeding productivity we need to tackle at the same time. These are low levels of human resources, poor infrastructure and weak institutions, limited access to land and capital and information and modern technology as well as marketing constraints. 

             3.  Natual resource use and management

Population pressure, slow growth of productive non-farm employment opportunities as well as inappropriate policies and institutional framework have led to unsustainable farming practices and degraded the natural resource base (land, soil, water, climate and biodiversity). A good part of cropped lands in the region is in fragile, rainfed and semi-arid areas, with steep slopes or poor soils or both. Low and declining soil fertility is a growing problem.

Related to resource degradation is water scarcity. Agriculture already accounts for about 70 percent of the freshwater withdrawals in the world and is usually seen as the main factor behind the increasing global scarcity of freshwater. For the next 30 years, water resource constraint is projected to slow down the annual growth of irrigated area to as much as one-fourth that achieved in the last 40 years. For countries not well endowed with water resources, water scarcity could become the problem for long-term food security, and if not addressed well, it could even be a cause of regional conflict. 

             4. Policy reforms and liberalization

Most countries in the Asia-Pacific region now follow the market-oriented economic policies. State provided subsidies and protections have been withdrawn and farmers are asked to pay the market prices for inputs. Output prices on the other hand have been declining in real terms.

While the past evidence showed rapid economic and agricultural growth in economies that followed market-oriented policies, the experience with the Asian financial crisis a few years ago amply illustrated the pitfalls of open-ended liberalization. Finding an appropriate blend of policy reforms and sequencing of such reforms with safety nets and support to farmers, and the poor in general, is another major challenge in ensuring food security. Policy choices are also limited for countries which are significantly dependent on foreign aid because the donor conditions have to be met. 

              5. Globalization and competitiveness

One important indirect influence on the region’s food security comes from its increasing integration with the global economy. Agriculture is now under the general World Trade Organization (WTO) disciplines on other goods.

In principle, free trade should benefit developing countries with comparative advantage in labour intensive goods, including many agricultural commodities. FAO’s analyses have indicated that developing countries have not benefited much from trade liberalization. OECD countries continue to protect their agricultural sector through heavy subsidies, at about US$ 1 billion a day, which effectively deny equitable market access to developing country products. Further, many countries in the region continue to face restricted access to export markets due to problems in fulfilling sanitary and phytosanitary requirements in destination markets.

The Doha Development Round negotiations over the agricultural issues indicates the difficulties of trade reforms. Although the WTO agreed on 1 August 2004 the Framework for Establishing Modalities in Agriculture, countries in the region still face the twin challenge of hard negotiations in the trade issues and upgrade capabilities, infrastructure and accreditation to meet world market standards. Moreover, they need to enhance competitiveness in products they have revealed comparative advantage. 

              6. Use of science and technology

Growing concerns about environmental degradation and sustainability of intensive agricultural systems in the face of the challenge of feeding the growing population have given rise to consideration of alternative science and technologies, in particular biotechnology.

Biotechnology offers opportunities to increase overall agricultural productivity and the availability and variety of food. Through the introduction of pest-resistant and stress-tolerant crops, biotechnology could lower the risk of crop failure under difficult biological and climatic conditions. Furthermore, biotechnology could help reduce environmental damage caused by agricultural chemicals.

But so far only a few farmers in a few developing countries of the region are reaping these benefits. Neither the private nor the public sector has invested significantly in new genetic technologies for the so-called “orphan crops” that are critical for the food supply and livelihoods of the poorest people. Other barriers that prevent the poor from accessing and fully benefiting from modern biotechnology include inadequate regulatory procedures, complex intellectual property issues, poorly functioning markets and seed delivery systems and weak domestic plant breeding capacity. Moreover, some food safety and environmental implications need to be carefully assessed. There is need for a balanced and comprehensive approach to biotechnological development, that takes into consideration the opportunities and risks as well as small farmers’ need and benefits.

The important challenge before the developing countries in the region is to properly analyze the issues and then develop appropriate national policies, regulatory framework and institutions on biotechnology. 

             7. Institutional reforms

The last challenge, in my list, towards ensuring sustainable food security in developing countries of the region is institutional reforms.

A rapidly changing domestic and external environment calls for an accompanying adaptation on the part of institutions, support services and markets that serve the rural sector. Flexibility in responding to market changes is needed in a manner that is consistent with the specific conditions and endowments of small farmers. Farmers’ organizations and institutions can help reduce transport and transaction costs. The problem, however, is that existing institutions in many countries are not equipped to deliver their services to small farmers with the consequent risk of the marginalisation of the latter in a market-oriented economic environment which is increasingly globalized.

IV. Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations and food security 

The United Nations, consisting of 191 member states, is the indispensable common house of the entire human family (UN Millennium Declaration, 2000). Among a large number of UN organizations and institutions working directly (such as Word Food Programme, International Fund for Agricultural Development) and indirectly (such as UNESCO, UNEP, UNIDO, UNICEF) on food and agriculture issues, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), created in 1945, is a specialized agency leading international efforts to fight against hunger. Serving both developed and developing countries, FAO acts as a neutral forum where all nations meet as equals to negotiate agreements and debate policy. FAO is also a source of knowledge and information, helping developing countries and countries in transition modernize and improve agriculture, forestry and fisheries practices and ensure good nutrition for all. Since its founding in 1945, FAO has focused special attention on developing rural areas, home to 70 percent of the world's poor and hungry people.

Achieving food security for all is at the heart of FAO's efforts - to make sure people have regular access to enough good quality food to lead active, healthy lives. FAO's mandate is to raise levels of nutrition, improve agricultural productivity, better the lives of rural populations and contribute to the growth of the world economy.

FAO provides information, advice, technical cooperation and assistance that helps people and nations help themselves. If a community wants to increase crop yields but lacks the technical skills, FAO introduces simple, sustainable tools and techniques. When a country shifts from state to private land ownership, FAO provides the legal advice to smooth the way. When a drought pushes already vulnerable groups to the point of famine, FAO mobilizes action. And in a complex world of competing needs, FAO provides a neutral meeting place and the background knowledge needed to reach consensus.

            1. FAO’s main activities comprise four main areas: 

Putting information within reach:  FAO serves as a knowledge network. We use the expertise of our staff – agronomists, foresters, fisheries and livestock specialists, nutritionists, social scientists, economists, statisticians and other professionals – to collect, analyze and disseminate data that aid development. Using information and communications technology, FAO provides comprehensive information through its WAICENT and its website – http://www.fao.org – visited by worldwide users several million times a month to consult a technical document or read about our work with farmers. FAO also publishes hundreds of news letters, reports and books, distributes several magazines, creates numerous CD-ROMS and hosts dozens of electronic fora.

Sharing policy expertise: FAO lends its years of experience to member countries in devising agricultural policy, supporting planning, drafting effective legislation and creating national strategies to achieve sustainable agriculture, rural development and hunger alleviation goals.

Providing a meeting place for nations: On any given day, dozens of policy-makers and experts from around the globe convene at headquarters or decentralized offices in all the regions of the world to develop standards or forge agreements on major food and agriculture issues, such as the Codex Alimentarius, International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, and the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing. As a neutral forum, FAO provides the setting where rich and poor nations can come together to build common understanding.

Bringing knowledge to the field: FAO’s breadth of knowledge is put to the test in thousands of field projects throughout the world. FAO mobilizes and manages millions of dollars provided by industrialized countries, development banks and other sources to make sure the projects achieve their goals. FAO provides the technical know-how and in a few cases is a limited source of funds. In crisis situations, we work side-by-side with the World Food Programme and other humanitarian agencies to protect rural livelihoods and help people rebuild their lives.  

           2. FAO’s structure

FAO has 187 member nations plus the European Union and is governed by the Conference of Member Nations, which meets every two years to review the work carried out by the Organization and approve a Programme of Work and Budget for the next biennium. The Conference elects a Council of 49 Member Nations to act as an interim governing body. Members serve three-year, rotating terms. The Conference also elects the Director-General to head the agency.

FAO is composed of eight departments in headquarters in Rome: Administration and Finance, Agriculture, Economic and Social, Fisheries, Forestry, General Affairs and Information, Sustainable Development and Technical Cooperation; five regional offices, five subregional offices, five liaison offices and over 78 country offices. The HQ and decentralized offices are all working on a unified programme through network approaches.

The Organization employs more than 3 450 staff members - 1 450 professional and 2 000 general service staff—forming a multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary team as a service provider to its member nations. 

           3. FAO’s Strategic Framework and Programme

Since 1994, FAO has undergone the most significant restructuring since its founding to decentralize operations, streamline procedures and reduce costs. Savings of $50 million a year have been realized. The report Reforming FAO: into the new millennium outlines steps taken by FAO to decentralize the Organization and focus its programme activities on key priorities. Highlights of the reforms include: 

  • increased emphasis on food security
  • the transfer of staff from headquarters to the field
  • increased use of experts from developing countries and countries in transition
  • broadened links with the private sector and non-governmental organizations
  • greater electronic access to FAO statistical databases and documents

In 1999, the Conference approved a Strategic Framework (SF) to guide FAO's work with focused priorities until the year 2015. The SF was developed through extensive consultations with member nations and other FAO stakeholders and provides the authoritative framework for the Organization's future programmes. It identifies five strategies with 12 strategic objectives. 

4. FAO’s budget

The smooth functioning of an organization representing 187 member countries plus the European Union is a complex process. Every two years, representatives from all members meet at the FAO Conference to review work carried out and to approve a new budget. The Council, serving three-year rotating terms, governs the Organization's activities.

FAO's Regular Programme budget is funded by its members, through contributions set at the FAO Conference. The budget for 2004-2005 is US$ 749.1 million, and covers core technical work, cooperation and partnerships including the Technical Cooperation Programme, information and general policy, direction and administration.

Preliminary information for 2003 indicates that US$ 386 million paid for 1 800 field programme projects, of which 400 were emergency operations amounting to US$ 183 million across all funding sources and accounting for 47 percent of total delivery. The technical cooperation field programme amounted to US$ 203 million, of which FAO contributed 25 percent with the remainder coming from outside sources: Trust Funds - 70 percent, and the United Nations Development Programme - 5 percent.

Box 1: FAO’s strategies to address members’ needs

 

Strategy A: Contributing to the eradication of food insecurity and rural poverty

A.1

Sustaining rural livelihood and more equitable access to resources

A.2

Access of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups to sufficient, safe and nutritionally adequate food

A.3

Preparedness for, and effective and sustainable response to, food and agricultural emergencies

 

Strategy B: Promoting, developing and reinforcing policy and regulatory frameworks for food, agriculture, fisheries and forestry

B.1

International instruments concerning food, agriculture, fisheries and forestry, and the production, safe use and fair exchange of agricultural, fishery and forestry goods

B.2

National policies, legal instruments and supporting mechanisms that respond to domestic requirements and are consistent with the international policy and regulatory frameworks

 

Strategy C: Creating sustainable increases in the supply and availability of food and other products from the crop, livestock, fisheries and forestry sectors

C.1

Policy options and institutional measures to improve efficiency and adaptability in production, processing and marketing systems, and meet the changing needs of producers and consumers

C.2

Adoption of appropriate technology to sustainably intensify production systems and to ensure sufficient supplies of food and agricultural, fisheries and forestry goods and services

 

Strategy D: Supporting the conservation, improvement and sustainable use of natural resources for food and agriculture

D.1

Integrated management of land, water, fisheries, forest and genetic resources

D.2

Conservation, rehabilitation and development of environments at greater risk

 

Strategy E: Improving decision-making through the provision of information and assessments and fostering of knowledge management for food and agriculture

E.1

An integrated information resource base, with current, relevant and reliable statistics, information and knowledge made accessible to all FAO clients

E.2

Regular assessments, analyses and outlook studies for food and agriculture

E.3

A central place for food security on the international agenda

V. Building a food-secure world through International Alliance against Hunger 

The challenges that I discussed in section III indicate the complexity of the task of hunger eradication. And this is not an exhaustive list of challenges. The existence of hunger in a world of plenty is not just a moral outrage, it is also a short-sighted national and international policy. FAO thus stresses the need to mobilize the political will of national decision-makers, the energy of civil society and bilateral and multilateral resources. At the global level, FAO’s mission, in partnership with all concerned UN agencies and international funding agencies, is reinforcing the United Nations family by aimed at the elimination of poverty and the creation of a safe world where all people can live with dignity. However, there are many country-specific issues which need to be addressed mainly by national governments.

The Asia-Pacific region – of which Japan is a member – is home to more than 58 percent of the world’s population and 73 percent of the world’s farming households with 32 percent of the world’s agricultural land. In other words, the region has lower per capita land availability and smaller farm size than the world average. As I mentioned earlier, the region has also more than half a billion people, or 60 percent of world’s hungry.

The question before us is how can the countries in the Asia-Pacific region eradicate hunger as their leaders pledged at the World Food Summit and Millennium Summit? What changes need to be introduced in the ways we are tackling the hunger issues.

In this regard, I propose five major elements of a strategy that should be followed by the governments and their development partners including international organizations, civil society and the private sector. It must adopt a holistic approach and mount concerted efforts. The past experience has shown us that a piecemeal approach will not work.

            1. The strategy to tackle hunger in the region

            a.  National food security strategy 

The first task in dealing with the hunger issue is that each country should have a comprehensive national food security strategy addressing the various dimensions of food security, in particular the supply and access issue. If the country is food deficit, it should set realistic and economically sustainable targets for self- sufficiency. These goals should also be time-bound and quantitative in order to form the basis for monitoring, accountability and political pressure for their achievement. Setting goals at the national level is a powerful instrument to reinforce political will, gather consensus around a National Alliance Against Hunger, and mobilize resources. The strategy should include practical programmes and projects that create employment and income generation opportunities and improve the poor’s access to productive resources such as land and technology to enhance their productivity and enable them to be self-reliant.

The civil society, private sector and the international agencies should actively participate in the formulation of the strategy to ensure their support and participation in the strategy’s implementation.

             b. Mainstreaming food security in the national development framework

The second task in addressing hunger is mainstreaming food security as an overarching goal in regional, national, and local policy design and implementation. This requires integration of the food security strategy in the national development plans and its harmonisation with other anti-poverty and anti-hunger plans and policies that are ongoing or are being developed.

In order to address the wide spectrum of cross-sectoral issues and make sure that food security concerns are incorporated in the entire policy domain (including macroeconomic, education, health policies and others) there is a need for a wider coordination amongst related government ministries and agencies. This may require mobilizing inter-ministerial coordination through the prime minister’s office or national development planning authority. (The reference to NESDB should be omitted as the audience is Japanese.)

             c. Increased resource allocation

Despite the dependence of poor countries on agriculture for incomes and food security, the share of public expenditure for agriculture has been declining. Not only have the share of national governments’ budgetary allocations to agriculture and rural development been declining, lending by multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank to these sectors has also declined. The developed countries, except 1 or 2 countries in Europe, have not met their promise to allocate 0.7 percent of GDP to overseas development assistance. Many countries in the Asia and the Pacific region are dependent on foreign aid to finance development. In the environment of reduced ODA flow, naturally there is more intense competition for donor money among different sectors of the economy. And agriculture has been lagging in this race for resources.

Adequate investment in agriculture is essential to survive the competition in the world market and ensure food security of farmers who constitute 52 percent of the population in the region. Although needs may vary from country to country, in general, the additional funding resources are required for increasing production, improving infrastructure and market access, supporting natural resources utilization and conservation and enhancing capacity building for knowledge regeneration. The civil society, private sector and the academics have an important advocacy role to play in this regard.

              d. Regional cooperation and programmes

While the main responsibility for addressing country-specific food security issues lies with the national governments and the stakeholders, there are certain issues which require a regional approach. There are certain commonality of needs and problems of trans-boundary nature which must be tackled together by close neighbours, as the experience with avian influenza outbreaks in some 10 countries and regions showed.

Countries in the region can learn from each others’ experiences and benefit from technical expertise and advice in improving the national capacities and standards to be competitive. Agricultural trade negotiations and facilitation are obvious areas of regional cooperation. Intra -regional consultations on negotiating approach, harmonization of sanitary and phytosanitary standards and simplification customs classification and procedures can greatly facilitate expansion of agricultural trade with positive effects on food security.

              e. National and international alliance against hunger

FAO analysis shows that the main reasons for slow progress toward achieving the World Food Summit target of halving the number of hungry by 2015 are the lack of political will and commitment of financial resources to sectors and activities that are important for food security.

Concerned with this situation, representatives of governments as well as the NGOs, civil society and social movements present at the 2002 World Food Summit: five years later held in Rome, recognized the urgent need to reinforce efforts of all concerned partners as an International Alliance Against Hunger (IAAH).

The main aim of the alliance against hunger is to facilitate initiatives at local and national levels by which the poor and hungry are enabled to achieve food security on a sustainable basis by mobilizing political will, financial resources and technical expertise. International community, including international organizations and donors, INGOs, industries, and academics and individuals can lend strong support to such local initiatives to address hunger.

International stakeholders have a fundamental advocacy role in influencing global public opinion and providing direct support to national actors. National actors have the responsibility and commitment to translate this advocacy into act. 

              2.  Contribution of Japan to building a food- secure world

Japan is a major donor to United Nations organizations and is playing an important role in defeating hunger worldwide through its Overseas Development Assistance budget and programme. Several Japan’s initiatives/programmes, such as the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), the Osaka Initiative to lead the international community in assisting Afghanistan for post-war rehabilitation and development, and Japan’s financial support (so far US$120 million for over 100 projects) to the UN Trust Fund for Human Security have attracted worldwide attention and won high appreciation for its contribution to social and economic development of the beneficiary developing countries.

FAO and Japan cooperation on food security covers wide geographical regions from Africa and Latin America, to Asia and the Pacific, as well as a broad range of activities from technical training to long term development assistance and emergency relief operations. Taking the Asia- Pacific region as an example, there are currently several regional projects funded by Japan, working on agricultural statistical data base, food insecurity and vulnerability information mapping system (FIVIMS), plant genetic resources conservation network, and a regional biosafety network. At country level, the government of Japan provided funding support to the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) in several countries in the region, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos. As a major industrialized export-oriented country, Japan has a clear stake in helping build a food-secure world and its enhanced international assistance to the developing world will continue to be needed.

Currently, there are a large number of government senior officers, scientists, specialists and young professionals from Japan working in the UN system, including FAO. Many have acquired knowledge and experience in working on programmes for poverty and hunger reduction and they know well what the strengths and limitations are in contributing to the eradication of hunger.

In my modest view, there is a need to further raise awareness about the seriousness of the issue of hunger in the Asia and Pacific region, Africa and the rest of the world. There is also a continued need to mobilize community actions, such as financial donations for FAO’s TeleFood projects. I applaud in this regard the substantial work carried out by the FAO Liaison Office in Japan and its advocacy for increased support for favourable policies, programmes and resource allocation for overseas development assistance to food security, and investment and finance for the agriculture sector, including infrastructure development, education and extension, research and development. Assistance in trade facilitation is another area of importance to enable developing countries to benefit from the globalization trend.

Youth is not only the future of the world, but also the hope of the United Nations. Japanese youth, including students like you present here today, have a particularly important and promising role to play in fighting against hunger and poverty. Even if your personnel action will result in some marginal reduction in hunger levels in the world, it should be a matter of pride as it would make a lot of difference in the lives of those touched by your actions. And it would certainly contribute to building a more food-secure and safe world.

Finally, let me conclude by stressing that reducing hunger is a necessary condition for the reduction of poverty and for achieving the World Food Summit target as an intermediate objective towards complete hunger eradication. This is not only a moral imperative, but one that makes good economic sense as the price is in fact lower than the human and economic costs of allowing hunger to persist.


Attachment:  Major events of FAO

2002
World Food Summit: five years later, attended by delegations from 179 countries plus the European Commission, reaffirms the international community's commitment to reduce hunger by half by 2015.

2001
FAO Conference adopts the legally binding International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which supports the work of breeders and farmers everywhere.

2000
FAO is granted the first-ever UN patent on a process allowing manufacturers to bottle coconut water without losing its flavour and nutritional characteristics, a potential boon for developing countries.

FAO develops a strategy for concerted government and UN agency action to combat chronic hunger in the Horn of Africa, at the request of the United Nations Secretary-General.

1999
FAO's Committee on Fisheries adopts plans of action on fishing capacity, sharks and seabirds.

1998
An FAO-brokered legally binding convention to control trade in pesticides and other hazardous trade in chemicals is adopted in Rotterdam.

1997
FAO launches campaign against hunger initiative TeleFood. TeleFood '97 reaches a global audience of 500 million.

1996
FAO hosts 186 Heads of State or Government and other high officials at World Food Summit in November to discuss and combat world hunger.  

1995
FAO celebrates its 50th birthday.

1994
FAO launches the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), targeting low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs).

The Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES), strengthening the Organization's existing contribution to prevention, control and, when possible, eradication of diseases and pests, is established.

FAO begins the most significant restructuring since its founding to decentralize operations, streamline procedures and reduce costs.

1991
International Plant Protection Convention is ratified with 92 signatories.

1986
AGROSTAT (now FAOSTAT), the world's most comprehensive source of agricultural information and statistics, becomes operational.

1981
The first World Food Day observed on 16 October by more than 150 countries.

1980
FAO concludes 56 agreements for the appointment of FAO Representatives in developing member countries.

1978
The Eighth World Forestry Congress, held in Jakarta, Indonesia, with the theme "Forests for people", has a profound impact on attitudes towards forestry development and FAO's work in this sector.

1976
FAO's Technical Cooperation Programme established to afford greater flexibility in responding to urgent situations.

1974
UN World Food Conference in Rome recommends the adoption of an International Undertaking on World Food Security.

1962
The FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission established to set international food standards becomes operational.

1960
Freedom from Hunger campaign launched to mobilize non-governmental support.

1951
FAO headquarters moved to Rome, Italy, from Washington, DC, the United States.

1945
First session of FAO Conference, Quebec City, Canada, establishes FAO as a specialized United Nations agency.

1943
Forty-four governments, meeting in Hot Springs, Virginia, the United States, commit themselves to founding a permanent organization for food and agriculture.