4 March 2009
Press Release
Note No. 6191

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Note to Correspondents




The thirty-third annual UNIS-UN (United Nations International School-United Nations) Conference, under the theme “The Food Crisis: A Global Challenge”, will be held on 5 and 6 March in the General Assembly Hall.

With its focus on the socio-economic and political effects of the global food crisis, the goal of this year’s Conference is to educate youth through critical examination of the causes and effects of, as well as potential solutions to, the problem, while simultaneously allowing them to gain a greater insight and encouraging them to take their own initiatives to combat the global challenge.

According to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the total number of undernourished people worldwide has increased from 854 million to 923 million over the past five years.  Victims of poverty and therefore malnourishment are unable to consume the recommended 2,100 calories per day.  “Today, 1 in nearly 7 people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life, making hunger and malnutrition the number one risk to health worldwide -– greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined,” WFP states.

Oxfam International said recently that a combination of soaring food prices and the current global financial meltdown has forced an additional 119 million people below the poverty line.  The crisis has stirred people around the world to find ways to understand and address the situation.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will open the Conference, which will feature speakers with expertise in different areas of the global food crisis.  They include Daniel Gustafson, Director of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Liaison Office for North America; J.W. Smith, founder of the Institute for Economic Democracy; Caryl Stern, President of the United States Fund for UNICEF; A.G. Kawamura, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture; and Henk-Jan Brinkman, WFP’s Senior Adviser for Economic Policy.

Students will have the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion and a debate.  In the student panel, participants will explore the weight and impact of increased demand on the food crisis.  In the debate, students will address the following statement: “That the surge in population growth in developing countries is the primary cause of the present food crisis.”  Finally, there will be a presentation of student-produced films addressing this year’s topic.

The UNIS-UN Conference is organized and run by UNIS Upper School (Tutorial House) students.  The UNIS-UN Committee begins preparations for the Conference nearly a year in advance, finding and researching a topic of global relevance, drawing up a list of speakers, inviting several hundred students from schools all over the world, managing UNIS Tutorial House debates, and compiling a working paper of articles written and edited by members of the UNIS-UN Committee.

Designed to provide students with expert knowledge through the experience of provocative guest speakers, the UNIS-UN Conference also endeavours to give students a platform to express and debate their own opinions and views in arguably the most internationally significant gathering place on earth.

More than 800 students from six continents will attend the Conference, which will be webcast on both days.  By outlining some of the issues that dominate discussion of the food crisis, the UNIS-UN Committee hopes this year’s event will foster greater awareness of world hunger, a subject of significance.

For further information, please contact Sylvia Fuhrman, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for UNIS, tel: +1 212 963 8729; or the United Nations International School, tel: +1 212 584 3108, e-mail: unis-un@unis.org, Internet: www.unis.un.org.

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For information media • not an official record