Mr Zhang Jilong, Acting AFC President
HRH Prince Alin Bin Al Hussein, FIFA Vice-President from Jordan,
Dr Chun Hwan Kwak, AFC Social Responsibility Committee Chairman,
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, please allow me to express, on behalf of FAO, my sincere gratitude and the high respect to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for supporting the mission of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) through the Asian Football against Hunger initiative, undertaken during the 2011 Asian Football Cup, last January in Doha.
Hunger is one of the most dramatic manifestations of poverty, social inequality and food price hike. One child dies of hunger every six seconds. The number of chronically hungry people stood at about 925 million as at 2010, of which 578 million or 62% live in the Asia-Pacific region. Most recently, according to the World Bank’s estimate, an additional 70 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty this year due to rising food prices, affecting poor population who spend 60-70% of family income for foods. This would likely bring the number of hungry people close to 1 Billion, once again.
This hunger situation, by all means, is unacceptable because ending hunger is an achievable goal, not a dream. Food is our most basic human right. Unfortunately, this situation would be further deteriorated in the future due to rapid population increase in developing countries. In fact, the world population is expected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050 against present level of 7 billion, which would necessitate 100% increase in food production in developing countries in next 40 years, under existing constrains such as stagnation of crop productivity growth, negative impact of climate changes, increasing scarcity of water and land resources, competition of use of land with bio-energy crops, etc.
The vulnerable population in low income food deficit developing countries would most suffer if we are unable to attain the target. It is our human obligation to ensure that everyone on the planet have adequate food to satisfy their needs and healthy life.
Having said above, this is a huge global challenge which can not be tackled by a single UN Agency like FAO. We all have to be united and work together as a team to mobilize awareness, support, political will and the financial resources needed to stop hunger. We strongly believe that the professional football has the capacity and power to move the world and make a substantive contribution in this joint effort.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Following the first World Food Summit in Rome in 1996, FAO launched the TeleFood Programme in 1997 to encourage initiatives to create a global solidarity movement, pooling the resources of governments, the private sector and civil society to raise awareness of the problem of hunger. TeleFood also collects funds to finance small-scale projects that provide sustainable solutions for improved household livelihoods.
Various solidarity campaigns have been held through concerts, sporting events and other activities to harness the power of media, celebrities and concerned organizations and citizens to help fight hunger. Donations to TeleFood funded small, self-contained agriculture, livestock and fisheries projects that help poor families produce more food; not a penny is spent on administrative costs. Over the last 15 years, the TeleFood campaign has generated over US$ 29 million in donations and has funded more than 3 200 projects in 130 countries around the world.
In 2008, FAO initiated a partnership campaign to reach out to various regional football associations as part of it Professional Football against Hunger Campaign. To date, it has established partnerships with the regional football association in Africa with CAF, in Europe with the EPFL, in Latin America with CONMEBOL, and in Asia through the AFC.
Ladies and gentlemen,
FAO had the privilege to sign a cooperation agreement with the Asian Football Confederation in May last year in this very hall, to work together for one goal - the eradication of hunger – within the Dream Asia framework, which is the name of AFC’s social responsibility activities. Our strategic partnership commits to social development, development that realizes the dream of a more just society and equality among all segments of the Asian populations.
The Asian Football against Hunger campaign achieved wide public and media attention to the AFC-FAO partnership and the issue of hunger, as witnessed by a media dossier of over 300 pages containing press and internet news in Arabic, English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian languages.
Today we are witnessing the historical event of the handover of funds contributed by the Asian Football Confederation for FAO’s TeleFood campaign. Funds which will be used exclusively to implement small Telefood projects in Ásia in order to give concrete sustainable solutions to the poorest communities and provide rural dwellers with opportunities to learn and produce food and have a better life.
With over USD 400 000, the AFC donation will be able to implement numerous community projects aimed to bring immediate change to the lives of thousands of people in Asia. in this opportunity, I wish to invite AFC representatives to visit our Telefood projects on the ground to see how they are making a lasting contribution as well as realize the impact of working together in partnership.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Planning for the future, AFC and FAO held a Working Group meeting yesterday to review the first year of cooperation. We agreed on a framework for the future, working together at both strategic and operational levels through a wide range of activities such as AFC’s Under 19 Women’s Championship to be held in Viet Nam in October 2011, and for 2012 we foresee to work hand-in-hand during the Champion Leagues’ campaign.
In conclusion, allow me to emphasize that AFC and FAO share common values and commitments guiding our work, namely: fair play, solidarity, team work, and action towards reaching a goal. It is our shared goal to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in our lifetime. Otherwise, there is a great risk that the world security and peace would be compromised, and social and political stability, especially in low income food deficit countries would be threatened, and most importantly our children and future generation would suffer.
With our partnership – set in the world’s most vibrant region – we can reach numerous people to fight hunger; to appreciate the value of football; and to understand that the eradication of hunger can be won only by all segments of society working together as a team towards reaching our common goal , starting from football!