Press Release 01/70
MORE THAN 150 COUNTRIES OBSERVE WORLD FOOD DAY UNDER THE THEME "FIGHT HUNGER
TO REDUCE POVERTY"
FAO NAMES NEW CELEBRITY AMBASSADORS
Rome, October 16, -- As World Food Day activities took place in more than
150 countries, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf announced that he was seeking
postponement of the World Food Summit: five years later scheduled for next
month. "Unfortunately the present international circumstances and the loss
of so many innocent lives and the crisis that followed have led us to seek
postponement of such an event," Dr. Diouf said.
World Food Day activities this year focused on the theme "Fight Hunger to
Reduce Poverty" and included a global teach in, a concert by performers from
around the world and a news conference in Rome detailing the extent of global
Other participants speaking at FAO Headquarters in Rome included Germany's
President Johannes Rau and Italy's Minister of Agriculture Gianni Alemanno.
The Rome observance also heard a message from the Vatican relaying the Pope's
concerns on World Food Day read by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, Apostolic
Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to FAO. Belgium's Queen Fabiola
was awarded the Ceres Medal in recognition of her work to promote rural women
in developing countries.
It is because of the intricate connection between hunger and poverty that
the theme, "Fight hunger to reduce poverty" was selected for this year's
World Food Day, Dr. Diouf said. "Fighting hunger is a moral obligation. The
right to adequate food is a fundamental and inalienable human right. Without
biological integrity of the human being which requires his daily bread, there
can be no real and lasting progress in the stuggle for more justice and equity
in the world."
Dr. Diouf warned, "The fight against hunger may be difficult, but it is a
battle that can and must be won. Experience of several countries has shown
that hunger can be reduced, and reduced quickly. We have learnt that hunger
reduction can be swift where there is peace and political stability. Increased
investment for agriculture, in particular in basic infrastructures of water
control, rural roads and storage facilities, but also a policy environment
favourable to increased farm income including social safety nets for the
poor, are essential conditions for success."
Germany's President Johannes Rau noted that trying to do something about
hunger is "not a hopeless task. Just twenty years ago, 29 percent of people
in the so-called developing countries were malnourished. Today the figure
is 18 percent, although the world's population has increased dramatically.
"While many in the rich countries fight against the consequences of overeating
and lack of exercise, others are fighting for grim survival. That is not
the fair world we all wish for!" said Mr. Rau.
"In the rich countries of the North no one can seriously believe that he
can live permanently on an island of prosperity surrounded by a sea of sorrow
and suffering. That is why it is in the rich countries' very own interests
to fight hunger. Barbed wire and walls are no response to refugee flows,
to poverty and suffering," he warned.
"We need not only the international coalition against terrorism. We also
need a global alliance against hunger and poverty."
Mr. Rau also warned against "using globalization as an excuse for doing nothing
in development policy terms and just sitting back and waiting. The reality
is quite the opposite: globalization brings new challenges for development
cooperation, challenges which we must tackle actively in a spirit of
A message from the Holy See, read by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, warned
that hunger is a serious offense against all stages of life, on both the
material and spiritual levels. The message urged a profound effort to help
the poor particularly in the wake of the recent attacks on the United States.
Accepting the Ceres Medal, Queen Fabiola of Belgium said, "With its specific
everyday activities, the FAO contributes to rural development and to the
fight agains famine in the world, even though hunger and thirst have regrettably
become lethal weapons in the hands of the rich and powerful."
Speaking to reporters at a World Food Day news conference to launch the State
of Food Insecurity in the World 2001 (SOFI 2001), Hartwig de Haen FAO Assistant
Director-General, Economic and Social Department, said, "On average, the
number of hungry people during the 1990s declined by only 6 million people
a year. This indicates that at the current rate of decline, it would take
60 years to cut the number of hungry people in the world to 400 million by
2015 as agreed at the 1996 World Food Summit. In 1996, a decline of just
15 million a year was needed to reach the target on time.
"Today, if we are to achieve the target, the average annual decrease must
reach 22 million people, far above the current level of performance." Mr.
de Haen added that "the target can be met if there with increased political
will. FAO is encouraged by the success of 32 developing countries, including
China, which reduced the number of hungry people by 116 million people. But
the Organization is sad to report that the majority of developing countries
failed to stop an increase in the number of hungry by 77 million people."
Singers Magida Al Roumi of Lebanon, Gilberto Gil of Brazil, Mory Kanté
of Guinea, and Al Bano Carrisi of Italy were appointed Ambassadors of the
UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
North America kicked off World Food Day/TeleFood activities with Groundwork
2001,* a week long series of concerts and community events in Seattle, Washington
from 14-22 October. Top musicians R.E.M., Michael Franti & Spearhead,
Pearl jam, Alanis Morissette, Dave Mathews, Femi Kuti, Emmylou Harris, Mana,
Blind Boys of Alabama, Daniel Lanois, Ann and Nancy Wilson - Heart, Artis
the Spoonman and many others are on the bill.
Noemi Pinto, a 9 year-old student at Southlands English School in Rome and
Nicola Eades, a 7year-old from St. George's School, also in Rome, won the
United Nations Women's Guild poster competition depicting the World Food
Day theme. Accepting her award, Miss Pinto said, "When I designed my poster
I thought of the poor people in many countries, where there is little food
and I think we can help them by storing food and giving them the help they
need to grow vegetables and fruit for themselves."
World Food Day was established in 1979 by FAO's biennial governing Conference
and is observed each year on the anniversary of the founding of FAO in Quebec
City, Canada on Oct. 16, 1945.
Globally, more than 150 countries held World Food Day and Telefood events,
including a global TeleConference from Washington, DC, and a high-level Seminar
in Bangkok, with Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand.
Some 30 countries took part in a global teach encouraging children and youth
to get actively involved in creating a world free from hunger and malnutrition.
Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger, developed by an international coalition of
partners, including FAO, UNESCO, the World Bank and Newsweek, have launched
a global education campaign with model lesson plans and resource materials
on major issues in hunger?**
* Groundwork is made possible with the generous support of Adobe Systems
Incorporated. For more information on concerts and related events please
** The Feeding Minds Fighting Hunger teaching materials are available in
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Italian and Spanish on the internet at
lessons are also available in some languages on CD-Rom and in print.
For further information on World Food Day please contact the FAO Media Relations
Office at telephone number: +39 065705 3625, or the FAO web site at:
Audio-clip: FAO Director-General proposes postponment of the
Dr. Jacques Diouf, on 16 October 2001
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