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FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific


Delivering Zero Hunger in Asia and the Pacific


Hiroyuki Konuma
Chair, UN Thematic Working Group on Poverty and Hunger in Asia and the Pacific,
and the FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

at the

Launching Ceremony of the National Zero Hunger Challenge in Cambodia

Phnom Penh, CAMBODIA
12 May 2015


Your Excellency Dr. Yim Chhay Ly, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development of Cambodia,

Your Excellency Dr. Sok Silo, Deputy Secretary-General of the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development of Cambodia,

Ms. Claire Van der Vaeren, UN Resident Coordinator for Cambodia,

Honourable Ministers, Excellences, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,

I wish to express my heartfelt congratulations on the launch of the Zero Hunger Challenge in Cambodia, officially declaring its commitment to the eradication of hunger and malnutrition to the nation as well as to the international community. This launching has a tremendous impact on other ASEAN countries and beyond as a solid action to eradicate hunger in this sub-region.

I also wish to express my gratitude to the Government of Cambodia, especially to the Deputy Prime Minister, for inviting me to this important gathering.

At present, the world produces more than sufficient food to meet the demand of everyone, and maintains adequate food stocks. However, the number of hungry people in the world remains unacceptably high. The world is a home of 805 million undernourished people in 2012-14. One in every 9 people worldwide is suffering from chronic hunger, and the vast majority of them (98%) live in developing countries. Although the current number of undernourishment is 209 million lower than that in 1990-92, and the prevalence of undernourished has fallen from 18.7 to 11.3 percent globally and from 23.4 to 13.5 percent for developing countries since the period 1990-92, Asia Region remains a home of nearly two-thirds (65%) of the world total chronic hunger population.

Despite Asia’s rapid economic growth, its benefit was not equally shared among populations in different economic status. In many cases, it benefitted the rich who could invest further, while the poor who did not have capitals or resources were left behind, which resulted in widening of income disparity and social equity.

Indeed, we are living in the world of triple burden of malnutrition where “Hunger”, “Nutrient deficiencies” and “Excess intake of calories leading to overweight and obesity” are co-existing.

More specifically, in addition to 805 million chronic hunger people:
• one in every 4 children under age 5 is stunted in developing countries;
• over 2 billion people are suffering from micro-nutrient deficiency; and
• 2.1 billion people are overweight

In this region, according to the latest estimates released by FAO, WFP and IFAD in September 2014, the proportion of the undernourished declined from 24.1 percent in 1990-92 to 12.7 percent in 2012-14, making it possible to achieve the MDG1 target of 12 percent by 2015 if we double our efforts and adequate, concerted actions are taken. However, the developing world is not on track to achieve the World Food Summit (WFS) target of halving the number of undernourished people by next year, and Asia, the most populous region in the world, still has the highest number of undernourished.

Furthermore, even if we achieve the MDG target and reduce the proportion of chronic hunger to 12 percent, problems still exist with the last remaining 12 percent who constitutes the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in our society who desperately require our support. Without targeting them for support with various economic, capacity building and social protection measures, right-based approaches and other means, we would not be able to achieve equitable growth, social equity, and sustainable development.

Therefore, our goal is no longer the 12 % MDG target, or reduction of hunger. But our target must be hunger eradication, or “zero hunger.”

Eradicating Hunger and achieving food security and improved nutrition is one of 17 goals of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) which will start in 2015, immediately after the completion of MDGs. Hence, by implementing Zero Hunger Challenge, countries would be engaged in SDG and its implementation.

The Zero Hunger Challenge was first launched by the United Nations Secretary-General with a support by FAO, WFP, IFAD, the World Bank, and Biodiversity International during the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil in June 2012 with his vision for the future where all people enjoy their fundamental Right to Food and people’s livelihoods and food systems are resilient and able to withstand a changing climate. The challenge of Zero Hunger means: (i) Zero stunted children less than 2 years; (2) 100% access to adequate food all year round; (3) All food systems are sustainable; (4) 100% increase in smallholder productivity and income; and (5) Zero loss or waste of food.

This message was reinforced at the High Level Consultation on Hunger, Food Security and Nutrition held in Madrid, Spain, in April 2013 which called upon the world community to commit to a common vision that hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition can be ended sustainably by 2025.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the Zero Hunger Challenge was launched in April 2013 by the UN Deputy Secretary-General on the occasion of the 69th Session of the Commission of the UNESCAP. It was attended by Executive Secretaries of all UN Regional Commissions and high-and senior-level Government officials including the Prime Ministers of Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands. This launch was arranged and facilitated by the UN Regional Thematic Working Group on Poverty and Hunger in Asia and the Pacific that FAO chairs and UNDP and ESCAP co-chair.

In December 2013, the Ministerial Conference on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration in Asia and the Pacific organized by ESCAP adopted so called “Bangkok Declaration.” This Declaration recognized the importance of the Zero Hunger Challenge for providing a framework for (1) regional cooperation in the area of food security and (2) its implementation at country level.

As the Zero Hunger Challenge requires strong policy support for country-level implementation, the UN Regional Thematic Working Group on Poverty and Hunger developed “Regional Guiding Framework for Achieving Zero Hunger in Asia and the Pacific”, through multi-stakeholder consultations, including member countries in the region, UN and other development partners, and more than 40 CSOs, including farmer organizations. The Working Group presented it to senior officials and representatives of Diplomatic Corps attending the Ministerial Conference.

In this region, Timor-Leste became the first country to launch the National Zero Hunger Challenge. In January 2014, graced by the presence of Her Royal Highness, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand, the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, Mr. Gusmão, officially announced government’s all-out effort to eradicate hunger and malnutrition. The launch was made with the support of the UN Resident Coordinator and the UN Country Team under the leadership of the Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General for Timor-Leste, Ms. Noeleen Heyzer, and with the technical support of FAO. The launch was in response to the Global and Regional Zero Hunger Challenge initiatives and to the critical hunger and malnutrition situation of the country.

Following the launch, the Government established a multi-stakeholder National Coordination Committee, chaired by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and co-chaired by the Minster for Health and the UN Resident Coordinator, with senior representatives of line Ministries, UN agencies, donors, CSOs, and other partners as the members of the committee.

And a series of intensive and interactive consultations and workshops were undertaken with various interested stakeholders in order to formulate the National Action Plan under full Government leadership and ownership. This process took into consideration “Regional Guiding Framework” as a guiding tool and defined the outcomes and outputs most suitable to the country specific condition.

UN agencies, coordinated by the UNRC and technically supported by FAO, provided concerted assistance to this process.

A result of the National Action Plan formulation process is remarkable. The Government of Timor-Leste is now committed to allocating at least 10 % of its national budget annually to Zero Hunger Challenge implementation, together with other pledges from bilateral and multi-lateral agencies and donors. Myanmar has launched National Zero Hunger Challenge on 16 October 2014. Apart from Timor-Leste, Nepal, Myanmar and Vietnam have launched their own Zero Hunger Challenges and are currently formulating National Zero Hunger Challenge Action Plans. Several other countries, including Laos, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India, are now considering taking the same or similar approach by committing themselves to the Zero Hunger Challenge.

The Zero Hunger Challenge sounds an ambitious initiative. However, as Cambodia has already reduced the proportion of undernourished nearly 50 percent since 1990-1992 and heading to reach the MDG target, zero hunger is not an impossible target. Concrete, immediate actions from all of us are urgently required, bringing together our joint efforts, especially in alignment with the five pillars of the Zero Hunger Challenge that helps us cooperate with other partners beyond UN and Government systems.

I would like to assure you of our continuing support to the Government of Cambodia and development partners, including CSOs, in order to meet our new challenges ahead and to attain our common Zero Hunger goal. Let us work together for our future generation. Hunger must be eliminated by 2025 as we committed.

Thank you for your attention.