World Expo can give new impetus to efforts to eradicate hunger – FAO Director-General

"Milan Charter" will help spur global dialogue on pivotal role of hunger and malnutrition in sustainable development

7 February 2015, Milan - With its theme "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life" the 2015 World Expo offers a chance to mobilize public opinion around the pressing need to make the eradication of hunger and malnutrition central pillars of the global development agenda, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva told world leaders gathered here today.

Speaking at a high-level event organized by the Italian government ahead of EXPO Milano 2015, which begins in this northern Italian city on May 1, the FAO Director-General said: "At FAO, we are committed to ensuring the right to food and food security and nutrition for all. This is the flag we are marching under, and it should also be a flag at EXPO 2015."

Praising the Italian government for its leadership in organizing EXPO 2015 -- which will draw millions of people from around the globe -- Graziano da Silva said: "Expo Milano is an universal exposition. We need to discuss global issues. And we must start with the right to food."

"We are proud to participate in today's discussions," he continued. "It is important to have an open dialogue with all sectors of society, as we are having today."

Bringing together leaders and some 500 experts from around the world, today's "Ideas for Expo 2015" event is a first step in an Italy-led consultative process that will terminate in a Milan Charter containing statements of principle and proposals for action on making sustainable agriculture and food systems an engine for human development.

The Charter offers an opportunity for the world to engage in a global discussion on the future global development agenda, and in particular the key role of sustainable food systems, the FAO Director-General noted.

Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, Italy's Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina and former president of Brazil Lula da Silva (via live video) and other high level guests also spoke.

Participants also heard a taped video message by Pope Francis. Recalling his remarks at FAO in November during the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition, the Pontiff said the world today is marked by "the paradox of abundance," in which the world produces enough food for all people, but not all people are able to eat.

A new era for development

2015 is critical year for the development agenda, with the Millennium Development Goals cycle coming to a close and the international community formulating a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to replace them, highlighted FAO's Graziano da Silva during his speech.

Over 60 developing countries have to date achieved the MDG-1 hunger target of reducing by half the proportion of hungry people, according to FAO analysis

But 800+ people still suffer from hunger, among them 165 million children, while two billion people suffer some form of micronutrient deficiencies or hidden hunger.

"We need to make the shift to truly sustainable food systems. We cannot go on with business as usual. We need real change and commitment to do more and advance towards sustainability, food security and nutrition for all," Graziano da Silva said.

The FAO Director-General highlighted the need to reduce food loss and waste, which affects one-third of all food produced today.

A global conversation about food

FAO is coordinating the UN system's participation at EXPO 2015, in close cooperation with the Government of Italy.

At EXPO a UN itinerary will offer millions of expected visitors an opportunity to learn more about the issues of food security and nutrition, sustainability, poverty reduction, development and cooperation and the UN's work to build a world free from hunger.

Photo: ©FAO/Alessandra Benedetti
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva