Address by the FAO Director-General
World Food Day Ceremony at FAO Headquarters
Alliance Against Hunger"
Rome, FAO Headquarters, Plenary
Hall, 16 October 2003
Your Excellency Jorge Luis Batlle Ibañez,
President of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay,
Your Excellency Pierferdinando
Casini, President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Republic,
Excellency Juan Francisco Reyes López, Vice President of the Republic of
Your Excellency Giovanni Alemanno, Minister of Agriculture and
Forestry Policies of the Italian Republic,
Monsignor Renato Volante, Permanent
Observer of the Holy See to FAO,
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to thank you all for being here
with us to mark the 23rd observance of World
World Food Day commemorates the founding of the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on 16 October 1945, as the world
faced the spectre of hunger and starvation at the end of the Second World War.
FAOs task is to ensure freedom from hunger for all of humanity.
World Food Day is an occasion for reflection. Current estimates indicate that
840 million human beings on our Earth remain hungry, 800 million of them in the
developing world and around 10 million in the countries in transition. That figure
represents a decrease of 2.5 million per year over the last eight years. This
is clearly far from sufficient to reach the World
Food Summit goal of cutting by half the number of hungry by 2015. In fact,
at the current rate, we will only reach this target in 2150, that is, 140 years
However, we must keep hope. I believe that we are now at the threshold
of the end of this long struggle against global hunger.
There are three
reasons for being hopeful about the future.
First of all, never before
in the history of the world has so much food been produced. If all the food produced
this year were divided equally among the worlds inhabitants, global food
production would provide each person with 2800 calories per day, an increase of
17 percent over the level of 30 years ago. And this has been possible despite
the fact that over the same period the population has grown by 70 percent.
Even in the developing countries, where the population has doubled, per capita
food production has increased by 30 percent over the past 30 years.
Secondly, there is now broad international consensus that hunger and poverty must
end. In June 2002, the international community met in Rome on the occasion of
the World Food Summit: five years
later to examine the persistent problem of hunger. One hundred and seventy-nine
world leaders unanimously adopted a decision to make a strong push towards fulfilling
the earlier promises made in 1996 to achieve a significant reduction in the number
of persons who go to bed hungry.
In Rome, the world leaders were very
clear. In the final Declaration of the World Food Summit: five years later,
entitled the International Alliance against Hunger, they recognized
that governments alone cannot resolve the problem of hunger. In fact, it is only
through the strong and uncompromising efforts of civil society acting in concert
with the elected political leaders that this issue can be dealt with in a meaningful
At the International Conference on Financing for Development in
Monterrey, Mexico, last year, many nations promised to increase official development
assistance. They promised to reverse the alarming trend of falling investment
and aid to the agricultural sector. Those pledges must not be forgotten.
In July 2003, at the African Union Summit in Maputo, the Heads of State and Government
adopted a Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa that calls for
immediate implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme
under the New Partnership for Africas Development (NEPAD). The African leaders
also committed themselves to allocating at least 10 percent of national budgetary
resources for agricultural development within five years.
I am hopeful
that this renewed international consensus will translate into an active global
partnership that brings together the strengths of all those committed to ending
hunger into a single effort. Appropriately, the theme of this years World
Food Day is International Alliance against Hunger. Nations must turn
verbal commitments to fight hunger into practical programmes that address the
underlying causes of hunger. The low-income countries will need adequate financial
resources to put these programmes in place. And we must continue to advocate that
governments put in place appropriate policies for improved economic performance,
sound institutions and good governance.
I am confident that this International
Alliance will become a reality when partnerships have been formed between
food producers and consumers, local governments and community organizations, scientists,
academics, religious groups, NGOs and policymakers, who will work together at
national level, in practical ways, to help vulnerable groups and particularly
disadvantaged small farmers to emerge from the hunger trap.
sector should be fully included in this process. Some private firms have simple,
sustainable technologies for agricultural production and for food processing and
storage that can be transferred to help rural communities grow food, create jobs,
raise incomes and reduce poverty. There are many private firms that, if called
upon, will contribute technology, research and know-how, as well as skilled human
resources towards helping this important cause.
I have spoken to many
celebrities who are willing to give their personal time to work on the issue of
hunger and who anxious to have their governments take up this cause. The appeal
to end world hunger launched by the international celebrities who have been appointed
FAO Ambassadors, to raise public awareness and commit themselves to fighting hunger,
malnutrition and poverty in the ambit of an International Alliance against
Hunger is an additional reason for me to have hope for the future.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The third reason for my optimism
today is that during the past year a number of countries have boldly put the fight
against hunger at the forefront of their national priorities. It is with a great
deal of admiration that I cite, among various other examples, Uruguay, Brazil
and Sierra Leone. The leaders of these countries have embarked on programmes which
translate verbal commitments to fight hunger into practical programmes that address
the obstacles to ensuring the right to adequate food.
I bring to you
today a strong message of hope that, together, through an International
Alliance against Hunger, governments, civil society, farmers organizations,
private sector firms, financial institutions and a range of other partners will
create a broad global coalition to deal with this problem. Everyone must be part
of the solution.
A great deal can be learnt from the experiences of countries
which have been successful in the fight against hunger. Many of the countries
that are making rapid and broad-based progress in reducing hunger have applied
a combination of measures. They have put in place programmes to improve the performance
of smallholder agriculture, for example by improving infrastructure, access to
farm supplies, storage, markets and credit.
At the same time, they apply
more direct measures to address urgent hunger needs, like food-for-work programmes,
school feeding programmes and other safety nets. These programmes are directed
at the poorest and most vulnerable members of the population.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let us not forget that three-quarters of the
poor live in rural areas and derive their livelihoods from agriculture or related
activities. Investment in agriculture is therefore key to sustainable economic
development. And yet insufficient attention has been paid to small rural farmers
who are key to feeding the poorest and hungriest, especially women who represent
the majority of small farmers and are often denied access to essential resources
like land, water and credit.
If rich countries really want to play their
part, they must also continue to address distortive trade policies that prevent
developing nations from participating fully in agricultural trade.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On this 23rd World Food Day marking the 58th
anniversary of FAO, I call on everyone world leaders, governments, civil
society organizations, the scientific community, the private sector, international
organizations and the general public to join in the International
Alliance against Hunger, to mobilize their energies to fight hunger. For
there can be no hope of a just, peaceful and prosperous world when 840 million
of our fellow citizens do not have enough food to keep them alive and healthy.
I thank you for your attention.
to 2003 statements