Your Excellency Mr Mohamed Bin Hammam, President of Asian Football Confederation (AFC),
Senior Executives of AFC,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO, I wish to express my highest appreciation and gratitude to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for organizing this important ceremony today.
With this signing ceremony between FAO and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) we are launching today a cooperation agreement of a solidarity campaign within the ambit of FAO’s “professional football against hunger” campaign.
This ceremony, due to the will of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and of FAO constitutes one historic moment and a decisive turn in the fight for the eradication of the hunger and extreme poverty, since, for the first time the AFC and its members will be, in a collective way, involved in the fight against hunger which FAO has carried out since its creation in order to improve the living conditions of the rural populations and to contribute to the expansion of the global economy, sustainable development and work for humanity’s to freedom from the scourge of hunger.
With the effective participation of civil society, we are convinced that sport can play a fundamental role to mobilize the political will, the action and the resources to promote the solidarity of international community towards the people suffering from hunger, through partnership and co-operation with the regional organizations of sport, in particular the leagues and confederations of professional football.
This signing ceremony is another milestone of FAO’s “Professional Football against Hunger" campaign, by which the Asian Football Confederation joins formally the movement of international solidarity for the fight against hunger and extreme poverty and commits to contribute positively to finding lasting solutions to the global fight against hunger to achieve the goals of the World Food Summit and Millennium Declaration of the United Nations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
FAO signed its first cooperation agreement with International Olympic Committee in 1996 and launched in 1997, within the framework of the World Food Day, the TeleFood Program and the Programme of the FAO Goodwill Ambassadors. These sensitized public opinion on the serious problem of hunger in the world and mobilized funds to finance small projects (so called TeleFood projects) in the fight against the hunger and poverty in the developing countries. The success of these programs is made possible thanks to the generosity of the public and the invaluable role of celebrities who take a part in the organization of concerts and cultural and sporting events.
Among these celebrities, we have with us the three stars of international football, the Italian Roberto Baggio and the Spaniard Raúl Gonzalez of Real of Madrid and French/Senegalese Patrick Vieira of Manchester City who was just nominated last week in Rome during the 1 Billion Hungry Project Launch ceremony. Other athletes include Debbie Ferguson of the Bahamas and Beatrice Faumuina of New Zealand, both Olympic champions in Athletics. To date since 1997, over 28 million dollars have been collected from the general public for the TeleFood Program which has financed more than 2700 micro TeleFood projects in more than 130 countries. These community-based projects assisted poor rural communities in the sectors of agriculture, livestock, fisheries, aquaculture and other associated fields, among others directly targets the local communities in rural areas to help them to produce the food which they need and to generate income to help for sustainable development. Good examples of these projects are the school gardens and school lunch programme where school children could learn how to grow foods necessary for their school lunch to meet their nutritional requirement.
FAO, is a member of the international Working Group of the United Nations on sport for development and peace started in 2006, of which Mr. Valenzuela is currently the focal point for FAO
FAO has collaborated already with the Spanish and Italian Leagues of football like with Real of Madrid from 2007 on the occasion of World Food Day. . FAO has already signed in 2008, three cooperation agreements: with the Confederation of African Football (CAF), in March, the Association of the European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) in April and, the South American Confederation of Football (CONMEBOL) in October 2008. The goal of these new partnerships is to link the forces of the world of football which has a wide platform of fans and supporters in order to mobilize civil society and the general public thanks to the media capacity and the social role of football, to help the poor and those which suffer from the hunger. These are most effective, especially during a critical time when the number of hungry people exceeded the 1 billion thresholds, as a consequent of multiple crises.
FAO will be happy to discuss concrete ways of working together, including the development of a joint communication strategy and action plan to be jointly approved by FAO and AFC which may include, for example:
The participation and promotion of FAO’s 1 Billion Hungry Project signature petition.
The organization of field visits to FAO TeleFood projects in Asian countries with celebrities of the Asian Football Confederation.
The organization of a football match day weekend dedicated to the fight against hunger awareness in Asia and fund raising for TeleFood projects for poor countries of the region.
In this context, the contribution and support of football federations and associations and confederations of football in all continents, Africa, Europe Latin America, and Asia will be crucial.
On this occasion, in association with the World Food Day 2010, with its theme, “United against Hunger”, we wish to invite the Asian Football Confederation and its members to mobilize and invest in the fight to eradicate hunger and poverty so that the almost 1 billion hungry people in this world can be ensured of the world's most fundamental human right and the most basic one: the right to food.
It is now time to act. More than ever before, the future of the planet depends on the ability of all to support the development of agriculture and rural development in the poorest countries.