Food crisis not yet over, warns top UN rights official

9 March 2009 – Despite falling food prices worldwide, the global food crisis has not ended, the top United Nations human rights official cautioned today, emphasizing the need to view the issue through the very basic right to adequate food.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the Geneva-based Human Rights Council that it must target its work towards helping the most marginalized segments of society.

Last year, the number of the world’s hungry surged from 854 million to 967 million due to the steep climb in prices of staple foods. In spite of dropping prices, they remain higher than they were in 2002, leaving the poor still unable to purchase food, she noted.

Further, lower food costs are actually discouraging agricultural investment, Ms. Pillay said, impeding efforts to step up food production, especially the capacity of small-hold farmers to sustain their livelihoods.

The Commissioner told the 47-member Council that steps to alleviate hunger and promote the right to food have yet to be translated into concrete action to help those most impacted by the crisis.

She voiced particular concern for the situation of the rural and urban poor, landless or small-scale farmers and households headed by women.

Ms. Pillay maintained that any successful strategy to defeat hunger should involve stronger institutions with better accountability, sustainable investments in agricultural production and research, and targeted support to small-scale farmers and the poor.

Last week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored the need to scale up efforts to combat hunger and realize the right to food, given that the number of hungry people around the world is surging amid the current global financial crisis and the effects of climate change.

“Food is not just a commodity, and agriculture is not just a business. Both are central to survival. Realizing every person’s right to food is a moral and humanitarian imperative,” Mr. Ban told students of the UN International School at a conference on the global food crisis.


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