Parliaments must work together in the final stretch against hunger

Support for political alliances key to fight malnutrition globally

10 October, 2016, Rome -- Building strong alliances among legislators across the world is vital to making headway on hunger eradication, FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said on Monday, as he underscored the agency's continued support to fostering global exchanges between lawmakers.

"Our objective is simple: to ensure that food and nutrition security is placed at the highest levels of the political and legislative agenda," Graziano da Silva said, speaking at a special event on the role of parliamentarians in the Zero Hunger Challenge held at FAO headquarters.

FAO has been intensifying its collaboration with parliamentarians, he said, because of the critical contributions legislators bring to the fight against malnutrition and the global efforts to implement the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

"Food security and Nutrition should be considered a public issue -- a State responsibility," he stressed.

Experience shows that where public policies and programs are anchored in appropriate legislation, the indicators on malnutrition improve significantly, the FAO Director-General said.

Giving one example of such legislative initiatives, Graziano da Silva drew attention to food labeling, saying that people must be well-informed regarding the benefits and detriments of what they are eating and the quality of their food.

"People usually consume much more sugar and salt than the limits recommended. And most of the time, they do not even know what they are consuming, because the labels do not provide understandable information," he said. 

Mitigating climate change and preserving valuable natural resources are other areas where legislation can drive progress towards more sustainable agriculture.

In her keynote address at today's event, Amal Abdulla Al Qubaisi, President and Speaker of the Federal National Council of the United Arab Emirates said: "As parliamentarians we shoulder a particular responsibility - a responsibility to join hands with governments and nations to preserve natural resources and assure food security." She underlined the importance of an engaged citizenry in this collective effort to preserve resources, which is of particular concern in the UAE, where water and arable land are scarce.

She called on parliamentarians to adopt legal provisions to enshrine the right to food in their constitutions and set aside special budgets for each of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially the fight against hunger. "There is no more worthy achievement we can strive for," she said.

Graziano da Silva underlined that political will remains the deciding factor for real progress on hunger and malnutrition. Using the unmatched success of Latin America and the Caribbean, the FAO Director-General reminded the audience that much of the progress made in the region is due to members of parliaments across the continent making hunger eradication a political priority.

Forums for exchange are vital for building that political will, according Graziano da Silva. He pointed to the Parliamentary Front against Hunger and Malnutrition for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the new European alliance Fight against Hunger as examples of collaborations designed to galvanize action against hunger. A Pan-African Parliamentary Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security, which FAO helped establish, will be launched on Thursday. 

"We've come a long way in the fight against hunger - but the last mile will be crucial," said European Parliamentarian Paolo de Castro, who serves as Chairperson of the Fight against Hunger Alliance.

Photo: ©FAO/ Giuseppe Carotenuto
Political will remains the deciding factor for real progress on hunger and malnutrition, the FAO Director- General stressed in his remarks.