BERLIN, 22 May 2002 -- "Hunger is a concrete manifestation of the persistent and widespread disparities in power in the world," said FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf in a speech on Wednesday in Berlin. "Weaker people have a disproportionately smaller share of the earth's abundant produce. While some will enjoy meals costing hundreds of dollars, others will squat before nearly empty rice bowls. Even in democratic societies national governments are not always responsive to weaker segments of their populations," Dr. Diouf said addressing an international workshop on 'Policies Against Hunger' organised by the German government.

Heads of State and Government will meet in Rome for the "World Food Summit: five years later"(10-13 June 2002) to take stock of gains made towards ending hunger and to identify ways to accelerate the process. They will also discuss the right to food. The Summit is expected to reaffirm political commitments to reduce the number of hungry people by half by the year 2015.

"The promotion of the right to food, accompanied by distinct mechanisms of accountability, will contribute to counterbalance the bias in social systems. It should lead to good governance, inclusion and increased equality among citizens," Dr. Diouf said. Integrating the right to food into national and international food security strategies will ensure much greater attention to the need to move faster towards the realisation of the goal of food for all, Dr. Diouf stressed.

The World Food Summit in 1996 reaffirmed the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger.

"The target of the World Food Summit 1996 of reducing the number of hungry people from 800 to less than 400 million people by 2015 can be met if the developing countries and their development partners have the political will to do so," Dr. Diouf said. Currently, the number of undernourished people is being reduced only by six million a year instead of 22 million necessary to reach the goal of the Summit.

"I accept that the main underlying reason for the persistence of hunger is due to the lack of political will, and as a result of this, the resources to fight hunger have not been mobilised to the extent required," Dr. Diouf said. "The trends have, for too long, gone in the wrong direction. Most developing countries are devoting insufficient resources to the rural areas where 70 percent of the hungry live. The concessional assistance given by OECD countries to agriculture in the developing countries has fallen in real terms between 1990 and 1999 by 49 percent.

"Eradicating hunger in the midst of plenty should be a global priority," Dr. Diouf said. "It is FAO's firm conviction that reaffirmation of political commitments and transformation of these into concrete action are the next essential steps towards the realisation of food for all, and the human right of everyone to be free from hunger."

Fulfilling the right to food would also facilitate the fulfilment of other rights, Dr. Diouf said. "Undernutrition is integrally linked to poor sanitation and hygiene, illiteracy, lack of education facilities, and lack of access to health care. Ensuring a meal to children attending school, preferably in a sustainable way through the production of school gardens, improves the rate of school attendance, and therefore the right to education. It also enhances the level of nutrition of the children, and therefore the right to food."

Dr. Diouf said that non-governmental organizations have developed a Draft Code of Conduct on the Right to Adequate Food and are now calling on governments to start negotiations for a non-binding Code of Conduct. "I would like to pay tribute to their significant contributions to our common fight against hunger."

"A Code of Conduct would have the potential for empowering the poor and the hungry andhelping tokeep governments and other actors accountable. At the same time I realise that there are at present FAO and UN members who question the usefulness of such a drafting process," he added.