Right to food must be a reality for all, urges Ban Ki-moon

16 October 2007 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marked World Food Day today with a call for a renewed commitment to stamp out chronic hunger and make the right to food a reality for all in a world where nearly 855 million people still do not have enough to eat.

Recalling that the right to food is a human right, Mr. Ban stated it is simply unacceptable that in a world of plenty 854 million people suffer from chronic hunger.

“The world has the resources, the knowledge and the tools to make the right to food a reality for all,” he said, drawing attention to the theme of this year’s Day – Right to Food.

“We must make the voices of these 854 million people heard. We must work to uphold their fundamental human right. We must recognize the role of human rights in eradicating hunger and poverty, and the connection between development, human rights and security,” he said.

Despite the fact that the right to food was included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN in 1948, progress towards eradicating hunger has been slow, the Secretary-General noted, urging that far more be done to ensure the most basic of human rights.

Speaking at the World Food Day ceremony in Rome, the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) asked, “if our planet produces enough food to feed its entire population, why do 854 million people still go to sleep on an empty stomach?” At the same time, Director-General Jacques Diouf stated that “a right is not a right if it cannot be claimed.”

According to international law, the right to food is the right of every person to have regular access to sufficient, nutritionally adequate and culturally acceptable food for an active, healthy life. It is the right to feed oneself in dignity, rather than the right to be fed.

In a statement issued on the occasion of the Day, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food noted that despite real advances in different countries, the number of people suffering from hunger has increased every year since 1996.

“Yet hunger and famine are not inevitable,” stated Jean Ziegler, pointing out that the world already produces enough food to feed every child, woman and man and could feed 12 billion people, double the current world population.

He stressed the need to address issues such as the exclusion and discrimination of the most vulnerable, the increasing uncontrolled power of transnational corporations over the food system, desertification, armed conflict and agrofuels.

“The sudden, ill-conceived rush to convert food, such as maize, wheat, sugar and palm oil into fuels is a recipe for disaster,” he warned. “In this rush, there are serious risks of creating competition between food and fuel that will leave the poor and hungry in developing countries at the mercy of rapidly rising prices for food, land and water.”

World Food Day is celebrated each year on 16 October, the day the FAO was founded in 1945 in Quebec City, Canada.

More than 150 countries around the world will observe the Day this year with events such as a global candlelight vigil to draw attention to the problem of hunger; musical events in Cairo, Rome, Bamako and other cities; sporting events such as the Run for Food race in Rome and Turin and professional soccer games dedicated to increasing awareness of the Day by Spain’s professional soccer league.

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