World hunger can be reduced, says FAO
A group of 30 countries, 13 of them African, managed to reduce the percentage of hungry people among their populations by at least 25 per cent during the 1990s, providing proof that progress can be made in that area, reports the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In its State of Food Insecurity in the World 2004, the FAO reports that even though current efforts to reduce hunger are not on track to meet the international goal of halving the number of hungry people by 2015, there is evidence that the goal is attainable.
Advances in the 30 countries, representing nearly half the population of developing countries, "provides proof that rapid progress is possible," notes the FAO report. Overall, the most significant change in trends took place in sub-Saharan Africa, where the rate of annual increase in the number of undernourished slowed from 5 million to 1 million between 1995-97 and 2000-02.
"Enough is known about how to end hunger and now is the time to capture the momentum toward that goal," says FAO Assistant Director-General Hartwig de Haen. "It is a matter of political will and prioritization." The FAO states that the resources needed to deal with hunger are small in comparison with the potential benefits -- every dollar invested in reducing hunger can yield 5-20 times as much in benefits. The report recommends a two-pronged approach: improving food availability and incomes for the poor by enhancing their ability to produce, and targeting desperate families with direct and immediate access to food.
Over the last 10 years the number of the world's hungry has risen by 18 million people to 852 million. Hunger and malnutrition kill more than 5 million children each year, reports the FAO.
Conference strengthens Africa-Asia business ties
With trade between Africa and Asia expanding at an unprecedented pace, Japanese Prime Minister Junichero Koizumi opened an Asia-Africa Trade and Investment Conference with the words: "African winds are blowing in Tokyo." The 1-2 November conference, which emphasized the role of business in accelerating African development, was attended by Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, Nigerian President and African Union Chairman Olusegun Obasanjo, and public and private sector leaders from 49 African and 13 Asian countries.
Although Africa accounts for only about 2 per cent of global trade and foreign direct investment, African exports to Asia nearly tripled during the last decade, from $6.7 bn in 1990 to $17.2 bn in 2000. The next challenge, noted President Obasanjo, is to increase Asian investment flows. "With on-going reforms in Africa," he said, "the continent represents a very fertile and rewarding ground for investment." Asian governments should increase development aid and technical cooperation with Africa to strengthen Africa's economic competitiveness, he concluded, and "lend a helping hand" to businesses seeking investment opportunities on the continent.
The conference was part of an ongoing initiative to strengthen African-Asian development cooperation that began in 1993 with the first Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). The third TICAD, in 2003, agreed to link the process with the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
UNICEF: landmine ban a "moral responsibility"
With landmines killing or injuring thousands of children each year, the head of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), Ms. Carol Bellamy, has called on those countries that have not yet ratified the 1997 landmine ban or ended production of the devices to do so. She specifically named China, India, the US and Russia. "Landmines are a deadly attraction for children, whose innate curiosity and need for play often lure them directly into harm's way," she told delegates to the first World Summit on a Mine-Free World in Nairobi, Kenya, on 2 December. "Countries have a moral responsibility to ratify the mine ban treaty and rid the world of these devastating weapons."
According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, the overwhelming majority of the 15,000-20,000 people killed or maimed annually by landmines are civilians -- 20 per cent of them children. With upwards of 300 mn of the explosive devices scattered across conflict zones in Africa, Asia and Latin America, mines are a major obstacle to development in some areas. A project to clear mines from a wildlife sanctuary and elephant migration route in Angola was announced at the summit, one of 2,200 mine fields known to remain in the country after decades of war.
Ms. Rachel N. Mayanja of Uganda was appointed on 12 August 2004 by the UN Secretary-General as his special adviser on gender issues and the advancement of women, at the level of assistant-secretary-general. Ms. Mayanja formerly served with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization as director of human resources, and in 1999 was secretary of the Secretary-General's task force on reform of human resources management. Ms. Mayanja's UN career started in the then Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs, where she joined the Division for Equal Rights for Women shortly after the first world conference for women. She has also served in peacekeeping missions in Namibia and Iraq/Kuwait.