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Diouf calls for rapid elimination of hunger

World Food Day: Official aid to agriculture to increase

©FAO/Alessia Pierdomenico
FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf
16 October 2009, Rome -  FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf  today called on world leaders to reach a “broad consensus on the total and rapid elimination of hunger” when they gather in Rome for the World Summit on Food Security of Heads of State and Government on November 16-18. 

In his annual address to mark World Food Day, Diouf also urged leaders to agree to increase agriculture’s share of official development assistance to 17 percent, the level it was in 1980, from the current five percent.   

The theme of this year’s World Food Day is “Achieving food security in times of crisis”.  Diouf said the current economic crisis that had forced 105 million more people into hunger was “historically unprecedented” as it directly followed the 2008 world food price crisis.

It also comes at a time when “in some countries, prices of some products are still at the same level than their peak in 2007’,’ said Diouf, citing rice in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Kenya and Ecuador, millet and sorghum in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger and wheat in Bolivia and Pakistan. 

“That amount of $44 billion of official development assistance that we need to devote to agriculture development is very low compared with the $365 billion spent in 2007 to support agriculture in the rich countries, the $1,340 billion spent by the world each year on armaments and the trillions of dollars found in short order in 2008–2009 to prop up the financial sector,” he said.  

Rich donor countries, developing countries and assistance institutions all now have to focus on policies that will assist the 1.02 billion undernourished people in the world, Diouf said.  

“There is a whole series of fundamental problems that need to be resolved like governance. The world food security governance system is inefficient and not well coordinated to address the present food crisis and the new challenges which we will have to face in the future.

The current reform of the Committee on World Food Security is a real opportunity for strengthening this Committee and make it more efficient and effective as a basis for a Global Partnership on Agriculture and Food Security.”

Reason for hope

There was however much reason for hope. Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, Viet-Nam, Thailand and Turkey had all significantly reduced the number of undernourished people in their countries over the last five years, Diouf said. 

“This means that we know what should be done and how it should be done. Generally, programmes, projects and plans exist and are simply waiting for the political will and resources to become operational.”  

In a message to the World Food Day celebrations, Pope Benedict XVI, who will be attending the November World Summit on Food Security, called for the “international community and its institutions to intervene in a more suitable and decisive manner."

“It is my wish that such actions will favour the kind of cooperation that aims to protect farming methods adapted to the soils of each region and avoids a thoughtless waste of natural resources,” he said in a statement read out to the World Food Day celebrations.  

“I also wish that this cooperation will preserve the values of rural people and the fundamental rights of those who toil on the land.” 

Access to food was a fundamental human right and that the “drama” of hunger could only be eliminated by “removing the structural causes” and by investing in agricultural development in poor countries, the Pope said.