20 June 2003, Rome
-- "The right to food is fundamental to human
existence," FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said
today in a key note speech at the opening of a two-day
International Conference on the Right to Food and the Costs of
Organized by the International
Jacques Maritain Institute and the National Committee for the
relations between the Italian Government and FAO in scientific
cooperation with LUMSA University, the conference will formulate
recommendations on the right to food to be taken into
consideration by the Intergovernmental Working Group responsible
for the elaboration of Voluntary Guidelines to support the
progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the
context of national food security.
"The right to food is the right of every
fellow human being to live in dignity," Dr. Diouf said.
He recalled that at the 1996 World Food
Summit and at the World Food Summit: five years later, in 2002,
Heads of State and Government reaffirmed the right of every
person to have access to safe and nutritious food and pledged to
cut by half the number of hungry by 2015.
Dr. Diouf regretted "the lack of political
will to address hunger frontally" and "the
failure to recognise the enormous global cost of not eradicating
hunger," but said that despite slow progress made in
hunger reduction since 1996, "we are seeing the tide
begin to turn."
Director-General indicated that since 2002, "over 20
countries have approached FAO for help in the design and
implementation of nationwide food security programmes through
which they will seek to attain, within their borders, the World
Food Summit goal.
Dr. Diouf lauded Brazil
for its comprehensive Zero Hunger Programme "which is
now gathering momentum, supported not just by the Government but
also by civil society at large."
He added that "Brazil's leadership seems
bound to inspire other nations to strengthen their commitment to
the costs of hunger, Dr. Diouf said: "Widespread hunger
and malnutrition impair the economic performance not only of
individuals and families, but of nations. Studies of selected
Asian countries have estimated conservatively that the combined
effect of stunting, iodine deficiency and iron deficiency was to
reduce GDP by 2 to 4 per cent per year."
Dr. Diouf also said that "recent calculations
by FAO suggest that achieving the World Food Summit goal of
halving the number of undernourished people by 2015 would yield
a value of more than $120 billion."
FAO's Director-General stressed that hunger
reduction strategies should include two major elements: food
security programmes which empower poor rural households, most of
which depend directly or indirectly on agriculture, and social
safety nets for those who are unable to produce or buy adequate
"We believe, therefore, that
getting rid of hunger is not simply a moral imperative and the
fulfilment of international legal obligations concerning the
right to food but that it also makes economic sense. We also
believe strongly that it lies with human capacity to ensure that
everyone can enjoy the right to food," Dr. Diouf
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