STATEMENT OF THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL ON PARLIAMENTARIANS' DAY
Rome, 11 June 2002
Mr President of the Italian Senate,
Mr President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies,
Mr President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,
It is a great pleasure for me and the Organization that I represent to be able to address you today.
In November 1996, you yourselves, Parliamentarians of the world, were anxious to provide your solemn support to the World Food Summit by endorsing the objectives and recommendations of the Rome Declaration and the seven commitments of the Plan of Action.
The renewed initiative of the Italian Parliament and the Inter-Parliamentary Union to bring you all here today is the expression of your continued commitment alongside FAO in the fight against hunger and poverty.
You remain aware that continuing efforts must be made to eliminate hunger from all countries. The Plan of Action of 1996 aimed to halve the number of undernourished people by the year 2015. On 20 September 1996, during the ninety-sixth session of the Inter-Parliamentary Conference in Beijing, you adopted by consensus a resolution setting out the priority lines of action in the most critical areas. Follow-up meetings to the Summit were held: again in Rome, then in Jordan, Cuba and finally Burkina Faso. The time has now come to take stock.
There are today an estimated 815 million people in the world who are undernourished, including 777 million in the developing countries and 27 million in the countries in transition. The joint efforts of the international community, the governments and the non-governmental and governmental organizations have helped - in spite of population growth - to lower by 39 million the number of people suffering from hunger in the developing countries. However, this average annual reduction of 6 million people is not sufficient to meet the objective set for 2015. That would require a reduction of 22 million.
The situation is therefore alarming, and before the holding of the World Food Summit: five years later, you, Parliamentarians, took pains to point this out. You declared that only a few nations had adopted determined measures, that the number of undernourished was still too high and that the level of reduction was too low. You also defined the situation as unacceptable.
Yet, significant efforts have been made at international level. The G8 Summit of last July in Genoa was the first time that the Heads of State of the major powers had placed food security on their agenda. Their final communiqu reads: "a central objective of our poverty reduction strategy remains access to adequate food supplies and rural development. Support to agriculture is a crucial instrument of official development assistance".
Since then, the tragic events of September 11th and subsequent reactions have raised awareness of the importance of global solutions that deal not only with the consequences, but also with the causes of the major crises of our time. How can we talk of peace when justice is flouted, when the environment is destroyed, and when so many sectors of the world's population are humiliated by hunger? Eliminating terrorism, combating violence and aspiring to peace, in order to build a more united world also means addressing the situations that generate despair, namely hunger and poverty.
The political will must therefore be found at all levels for decision makers to adopt concrete measures that will foster agriculture and rural development, with, importantly, the mobilization of necessary resources.
The message that you are preparing to send to the World Food Summit: five years later will, I am sure, reflect both your legitimate concern over the extreme slowness of progress made, and at the same time your renewed desire to see that existing commitments actually translate into meaningful deeds at national, regional and international level.
FAO is tirelessly announcing the terrible 'news' that our planet has more than 800 million people - including 300 million children - still suffering from serious malnutrition. This is a human tragedy... yet no television channel interrupts its programmes to remind us, no crisis unit is set up, no minute of silence is held to show solidarity with these innocent victims.
If this is the sad reality, should we then just give up? The answer can only be, no! The route to follow will be long and arduous, but it is feasible, it exists.
His Holiness Pope John Paul II once declared: "The conscience of humanity demands compulsory humanitarian intervention when the survival of entire ethnic groups and populations is seriously compromised: this is a duty for nations and for the international community".
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Your parliamentary bills and your budget votes, your written and spoken questions and your watch over government action are vital links in the international chain of solidarity. Your sustained and continued action can help overcome the shameful indifference to hunger and its devastating consequences throughout the world.
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