Pope, Diouf: “United Against Hunger”

World Food Day: Leaders rally for concrete and resolute actions; help to farmers

15 October 2010, Rome - On the occasion of this year’s World Food Day, Pope Benedict XVI, Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda and FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf called for global unity to find resolute and concrete actions against hunger by producing more food in the countries where the hungry live.

“Responding properly to the hunger problem requires urgent, resolute and concerted action by all relevant actors and at all levels. It calls for the need for all of us to be united,” said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. He said the theme for this year’s World Food Day “United Against Hunger” underlines that achieving food security is not the responsibility of one single party; it is the responsibility of all of us.”

Fruitful gratuitousness

In a statement to the World Food Day ceremony in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI said that “in order to eliminate hunger and malnutrition, obstacles of self-interest must be overcome so as to make room for a fruitful gratuitousness, manifested in international cooperation as an expression of genuine fraternity.”

“Everyone – from individuals to the organizations of civil society, States and international institutions – needs to give priority to one of the most urgent goals for the human family: freedom from hunger,” the Pope said. “In order to achieve freedom from hunger it is necessary to ensure that enough food is available, but also that everyone has daily access to it.”

The Pope praised FAO’s 1billionhungry project which he said “has highlighted the need for an adequate response both from individual countries and from the international community, even when the response is limited to emergency aid.”  Both the Pope and Diouf stressed the right to food.

Good governance

“Becoming self-sufficient in food production cannot be separated from good governance,” said President Kagame.

“In most developing countries, it remains the responsibility of government to create the right climate for farmers, especially smallholder farmers and allied agro-businesses.” 

“Ultimately, sustainable food security will be obtained within the overall framework of poverty eradication,” said President Kagame. An estimated 925 million people in the world go to bed hungry, with a child dying from hunger-related causes every six seconds.

Agriculture in ODA

Jacques Diouf outlined a number of measures that needed to be taken to make a rapid decrease in the number of hungry people. “We have to resolutely reverse the long-term negative trend of the share of agriculture in official development assistance which dropped from 19 percent in 1980 to three percent in 2006 and is now at around six percent,” he said.

“Government of low-income food-deficit countries also should increase the share of agriculture in their national budgets from the present average level of five percent to at least ten percent.” Among the measures required to spread greater food security was a stabilization of global food markets, Diouf said.

“There is a need for greater coherence and coordination in policy choices for greater assurance of unimpeded access to global supplies and improved confidence and transparency in market functioning.  

Effective tools and mechanisms to deal with food price volatility are urgently required.”

Kanayo F. Nwanze, the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development  said: “Let us look at things from the angle of opportunities.  People bemoan the fact that in Africa only six  per cent of land is irrigated or that the average level of fertilizer used in Africa is only one tenth of the world average.  Yet we know that 60 percent of the world's uncultivated arable land is in Africa.  Imagine the potential, working with nearly 2.5 billion people working in agriculture in rural areas, the smallholders of the world, if properly harnessed.”

“I truly believe now is the time for us to turn our dreams of a world free of hunger into reality,” said WFP Executive Director, Josette Sheeran. 

“Nelson Mandela had a dream, Martin Luther King had a dream, and Mahatma Gandhi had a dream.  Now it is time for all of us to dream big and mobilise an unstoppable movement of humanity to act against the hunger that continues to condemn hundreds of millions of children to unfulfilled lives simply because they have not had access to nutritious food.”

Goodwill Ambassadors

Diouf announced the future nomination of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak al Ketbi, First Lady of the United Arab Emirates, as Extraordinary Ambassador of FAO “in recognition of her deep concern about women’s rights at the local, regional and international level and the pivotal role she played in consolidating and promoting women’s rights movement in the Arab world.”

He also appointed four new FAO Goodwill Ambassadors: Italian actor Raoul Bova, Canadian singer Céline Dion, Filipino singer Lea Salonga and American actress Susan Sarandon.

Photo: ©FAO
FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf.