Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page


1. Hunger is the most extreme manifestation of poverty and human deprivation. Hunger in a world of plenty is not just a moral outrage; it is an infringement of the most basic of human rights: the right to adequate food. Hunger entails large economic costs, severely compromising the productivity of individuals, the growth of nations and the sustainable use of natural resources. The 1996 World Food Summit (WFS) pledged to halve the number of people suffering from hunger by 2015, a pledge that is echoed in the Millennium Development Goals. But unless purposeful action is taken on a scale commensurate with the size of the problem, the target of halving hunger cannot be met.

2. Sustainable development has little meaning in the presence of large-scale hunger and poverty. Hungry people are unable to work to their full potential, are more susceptible to ill health and lack the capacity to save and invest. Hunger is as much a cause as an effect of poverty. Those who suffer hunger find escape routes from poverty barred. The hungry have every reason to care deeply for the limited resources they use to subsist, but their actions are dominated by the struggle to find the next meal for themselves and their families. Eliminating hunger is an essential ingredient of any strategy for sustainable economic development and sound environmental management.

3. The major challenge is to put in place policies and institutions and to mobilize resources that promote the interrelated goals of agricultural productivity growth, hunger reduction and the sustainable use of natural resources. With few exceptions, the scope for bringing additional natural resources (notably land and water) into agricultural production is limited. The most viable option is sustainable intensification, i.e. increasing the productivity of land, water and genetic resources in ways that do not compromise the future productive capacity of those resources. Sustainable production technologies exist that can improve agricultural productivity while enhancing biodiversity, soil fertility and efficiency of water use and reducing the pressure to clear forests and overexploit wild fish stocks. It is the policy environment that determines whether the technologies applied, and their impact on people and the environment, are indeed sustainable.

4. The paper argues that further research on specific countries and issues is necessary but that insufficient knowledge on how to fight hunger is not a reason for lack of action. It is well known that about 75 percent of the poor and hungry live in rural areas and depend, directly or indirectly, on agriculture for their livelihoods. Therefore, a twin-track approach to hunger reduction is advocated in which measures to increase productivity, especially of resource-poor farmers and landless labourers, are complemented by measures to broaden direct access to food for the most needy.

5. Guided by the twin-track approach, the Anti-Hunger Programme sets out five priority areas for action that should be taken if the WFS target - that of halving the number of chronically undernourished by 2015 - is to be achieved. The paper notes that the benefits of reducing hunger would far outweigh the costs of the proposed Programme. The key actions proposed are fully consistent with the 1996 WFS Plan of Action and in line with the aims of the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002.

6. The paper contains a cost estimate for each of the priority areas and examines how these might be financed by the developing countries themselves and the international community. Of the various conceivable options for sharing the cost of the Anti-Hunger Programme, the one suggested in the paper assumes an equal sharing between the international donor community and recipient developing countries.

7. The Anti-Hunger Programme does not include the substantial complementary investments needed, for instance, to create conditions of security and peace or to establish systems of government accountable to the poorer members of society, both of which may be critical for ensuring inclusive access to adequate food. The paper does, however, reaffirm that, apart from being justified on moral and humanitarian grounds, investments in hunger reduction generate attractive economic and security benefits and are in the self-interest of rich and poor countries alike. While the Programme aims to ensure access to food by the most needy, both urban and rural, the investment in productive capacity is limited to rural people.

8. The Anti-Hunger Programme is built on the belief that, not only is the attainment of the target still within reach, but it can also be realized within a sustainable development framework. The paper is put forward as an input to an iterative process of consultation aimed at building the necessary commitment among stakeholders and actors in the fight against hunger. At the same time, by eliciting further comments and suggestions, it provides a forum for debate and the exchange of ideas on the ways to bring about rapid hunger reduction.

9. The Anti-Hunger Programme is a proposal to all stakeholders and actors in the fight against hunger. No additional resources are sought for any particular organization or programme. The first draft of the paper was unveiled in June 2002 at a side event during the World Food Summit: five years later, at which time comments and suggestions were invited. A second draft, prepared to allow further consultation on the occasion of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2002, stressed the critical importance of a supportive pro-poor policy environment to maximize the impact of the proposed investment programme on hunger reduction. This final version addresses some comments and suggestions by reviewers of the document and those of member countries expressed during the 2003 meetings of the Committee on World Food Security and the FAO Council. It re-emphasizes the fact that the proposed investment programme is not derived from a simple financing gap approach but requires a supportive policy environment for its success. Finally it presents clarifications of the cost-sharing options and financing arrangements, stressing that the cost estimates are meant to indicate orders of magnitude only.

10. The Anti-Hunger Programme forms a central element of FAO’s contribution to the Millennium Development Project and the strategy to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. It has also been used extensively in the conceptualization of the agricultural component of "WEHAB" (Water, Energy, Health, Agriculture and Biodiversity), the five priorities proposed for special attention during the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The twin-track approach proposed in the document provides a point of reference for many FAO initiatives, such as the Special Programme for Food Security; the Initiative to Review and Update National Agricultural, Rural Development and Food Security Strategies and Policies; and support to the Intergovernmental Working Group for the Elaboration of a Set of Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security.

11. The eradication of hunger is central to FAO’s mandate. The achievement of the target of halving the number of undernourished by 2015 will require a strong, concerted and adequately financed effort by all parties committed and able to contribute to hunger and poverty reduction through sustainable agricultural and rural development. At the international level, key players include the UN system and the international financing institutions. Within civil society, much of the driving force comes from parliamentarians, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academic institutions and philanthropic foundations, as well as individual citizens. The private sector also has a major role to play, especially given its enormous and growing role in developing new technologies and in managing the flows of international agricultural production.

12. As called for in the final Declaration of the World Food Summit: five years later, an "International Alliance against Hunger" has been launched to mobilize political will, technical expertise and financial resources to reach the World Food Summit and Millennium Development Goals and national alliances are now emerging in several countries. During World Food Day 2003, the theme of which was the International Alliance against Hunger, several initiatives were launched and joint activities organized between the Rome-based agencies and civil society organizations.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page