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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

UN Headquarters

23 October 2008

Remarks at the Observance of World Food Day

Mr. President of the General Assembly [Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann], Mr. President of the Economic and Social Council [Léo Mérorès], Mr. Director General of FAO [Jacques Diouf], Former Congresswoman Ms. Eva M. Clayton,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

World Food Day this year comes at a time of crisis. While the international community is focused on turmoil in the global economy, I am extremely concerned that not enough is being done to help those who are suffering most: the poorest of the poor.

The structural problems that triggered this crisis have not been resolved yet. The current difficulties will only intensify if we fail to take resolute action now.

Food prices in parts of Haiti and Ethiopia are up to five hundred per cent higher than normal. This means that a family that once was able to buy five bowls of rice is trying to survive with just one. The financial crisis could diminish purchasing power further still.

Even before the food crisis began, eight hundred million people were going to bed hungry at night. Now, a staggering nine hundred and twenty-three million people suffer from chronic hunger and under-nutrition. We see children who are stunted, pregnant women who are anaemic, and older people in frail health who simply cannot afford to buy the food they need.

The first Millennium Development Goal challenges us to halve hunger and poverty. To do that, we need a comprehensive approach to food security. Delivering emergency food aid and providing seeds and fertilizer remain essential. But we must also improve market access for millions of small-scale farmers. We must strengthen rural infrastructure, and create the conditions that will attract private investment.

I am convinced that we can do all of this, and save hundreds of millions of lives in the process. But in order to succeed, we need strong political will.

And we need it on a range of fronts. The food crisis is tied to high energy prices. And both are linked to the challenges of climate change and sustainable development.

We have to confront these problems head-on.

Next month, at the Financing for Development Conference in Doha, Qatar, we will have an opportunity to make a real difference. Governments must make sure that the financial crisis does not undermine commitments to provide more aid and other financial resources for achieving the development goals and confronting new development challenges.

Over the past month, even in the midst of the financial turmoil, we have generated new momentum. At the General Assembly's High-level Events on Africa's Need and the Millennium Development Goals, a wide range of partners -- Governments, non-governmental organizations, philanthropists, academics, faith groups, businesses and others -- joined forces. They used their ingenuity to come up with new ideas. They forged new partnerships, launched new initiatives, and committed new resources to accelerate development progress in specific and strategic ways.

We must maintain this momentum. Ultimately, when we ensure food security and support for those most in need, we lay the foundation for a future of peace and prosperity for all.

Thank you very much.