From the podium

From the podium

Mr Kunio Waki (Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund - UNFPA)

Distinguished Delegates, it is an honour to address you today at the World Food Summit on behalf of Ms. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund.

The message I have come to deliver is simple and direct; we will not reduce hunger unless we reduce poverty, and we will not reduce poverty unless we empower women and unleash their full potential as agents of social and economic progress and sustainable development.

Many small-scale food producers, and a disproportionate number of the world's poor are women. Today women make up half of the world's agricultural workforce. In much of Africa women produce most of the staple crops. In southeast Asia, women provide 90 percent of the labour for cultivating rice. All over the world, women do most of the food production and food preparation. And yet they are given scant support to improve their situations and to improve food security.

Providing them with access to credit, markets and technical advice, as well as education and health care, and enforcing their right to own and inherit land could both improve the food supply of the world's poorest people and help them escape from poverty.

At the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development and the 19996 World Food Summit governments recognized a link between population dynamics and food insecurity, nutrition and health. Effective population and development policies and programmes help governments and communities meet human needs and expand the choice of opportunity and participation. There is, nowadays, broad consensus on the links between ending poverty and hunger, promoting reproductive health, securing gender equality and protecting environment.

Despite fertility decline in most parts of the world, population continues to grow most rapidly in the poorest countries, those that are least able to afford the basic services. In the next 50 years the combined population of the least developed countries is expected to triple from 658 million to 1.8 billion people. The implication of this rapid growth will be far reaching.

Today, in many poor countries population growth is already out-pacing food production. The number of malnourished in sub-Sahara Africa doubled between 1970 and 1990, during which time the region's population increased by 76 percent. The combination of poverty, population pressure and environmental degradation in the rural areas, drive migration to cities and across national borders. The main cities of the world should be powerhouses of development, instead they are essential services are at the risk of collapsing under the weight of unsustainable population growth. We must ask ourselves how can we assure food security in 2015 when they will be a billion more people, when we have failed to provide it today.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, no-one can predict the future but research today does suggest that providing food security for the 7.2 billion people who inhabit the planet in year 2015 will require reduction in poverty, gender equality, doubling of food production and the improvement in food distribution and the greater protection of the environment.

Finally, we must keep our promise and step up efforts to provide universal access to education and health care – including reproductive health services and family planning – to improve livelihoods and expand opportunities, especially for women. This will reduce poverty, slow population growth and reduce pressure on the planet's resources, which will contribute greatly to food security.

Thank you Mr Chairman.

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