It is unacceptable that 843 million people in developing and transition countries continue to suffer from hunger and that more than 1 billion still live on less than 1 dollar a day. Effective action against hunger and poverty has been impeded by a lack of political will to tackle the problem and, consequently, to provide the required resources. However, following the adoption of the Millennium Declaration, the formulation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and their reaffirmation at the Monterrey Summit in 2002, there are now encouraging signs of a strengthening of resolve to fight poverty and hunger.
Developing countries are acknowledging the need to commit more resources for development activities that benefit the poor. Donor countries are taking steps to increase official development assistance (ODA) to countries committed to poverty and hunger reduction. The work of non-governmental and civil society organizations is creating a groundswell of public opinion in developing and developed countries alike. The United Nations Millennium Project Report, Investing in Development, and the Project's various task force reports to the Secretary-General call for specific steps to achieve the MDGs, while the Report of the Commission for Africa calls for a doubling of ODA to Africa by 2015. The activities of private foundations as providers of funds for critical initiatives are also worth noting.
However, one segment of international aid is decreasing; that is global food aid, which plummeted by almost 30 percent from 2003 to 2004. The international community should provide sufficient food aid that targets vulnerable and food-insecure households.
There is an emerging consensus on effective strategies for poverty and hunger reduction: a twin-track approach is required that combines investments in productive activities with targeted programmes to provide the neediest with direct and immediate access to food as well as other basic goods and services. With about 75 percent of the poor and hungry in developing countries living in rural areas, promoting investments in agricultural and rural development is fundamental. This twin-track approach was first presented by FAO, IFAD and WFP at the International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico, in March 2002. It was further elaborated in FAO's Anti-Hunger Programme publication in 2003, and its main elements are reiterated in the report of the Hunger Task Force of the UN Millennium Project.
However, for implementing the twin-track strategy, three urgent requirements remain:
that hunger reduction be recognized as a key component of all national poverty reduction strategies;
that agricultural and rural development be recognized as key engines of pro-poor growth and hunger reduction;
that consensus on strategies to reduce poverty and hunger be translated into concrete action at the scale required.