Assembly President, citing a billion now hungry, urges ‘new politics of food’

6 April 2009 – Warning that one billion people worldwide are on the verge of starvation, the President of the United Nations General Assembly today called for “a new politics of food” emanating from the bottom up and based on the right to sustenance.

“We need to have an approach to food production that is multi-functional, that has a concern for the poor and their right to food, a concern for the earth and its right to life, a concern for communities and their right to self-governance,” Miguel D’Escoto said, as he opened a dialogue on the topic taking place in New York.

The discussion brought together economists, agro-ecologists, human rights specialists and other experts to discuss necessary changes in the world’s agricultural production from the perspective of the right to food, as the food crisis among the world’s poorest continues, Mr. D’Escoto said.

Every six seconds a child dies of malnutrition, according to a statement issued today by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier de Schutter, who affirmed: “The global food crisis is far from being abated.”

Mr. de Schutter, who reports to the Human Rights Council in an independent, unpaid capacity, explained that the poor will inevitably be hit by more price volatility, climate-related events and the effects of the economic crisis.

He called for a redesign of food production and trade to ensure that it serves development, the right to food and the plight of agricultural workers.

Agreeing with the Special Rapporteur that the present time presented an opportunity to profoundly reorient food policies, Mr. D’Escoto said it was important to see the food crisis as directly linked to the financial crisis, the energy crisis and climate change.

He advocated an end to “the dominance of industrialized food corporations,” calling for people-oriented food systems at the local, regional and international levels.

At a press conference held during the day-long General Assembly event, Mr. de Schutter explained that low commodity prices were not a solution to the food crisis in the long term. Lower prices mean that developing countries will have smaller revenues from exports and farmers have less incentive to produce food.

“The structural causes of the global food crisis remain entirely present,” he said, adding that the Assembly meeting was called to bring the focus back to the problem and to ensure that the global food system was reoriented to fighting hunger and malnutrition effectively.

He said that deals currently being negotiated to allow foreign investors to lease large tracks of land to grow food in such developing countries as Sudan, Pakistan and Madagascar would probably do more harm than good unless they were specifically designed to benefit local people.

Today’s General Assembly discussion follows the Madrid High-Level Meeting on Food Security for All, held on 26 and 27 January, in which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the right to food “a basis for analysis, action and accountability” in dealing with the food crisis.

It also precedes a possible world summit on global food security planned for November of this year.


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