Despite progress, food insecurity remains pressing challenge – UN official

FAO Director-General Jose’ Graziano da Silva. Photo: FAO/Alessandra Benedetti

4 April 2013 – While there has been significant progress in recent years in combating global hunger, food insecurity is still a major challenge and eliminating it will require strong leadership and concerted action, a top United Nations official stressed today.

“The only effective answer to food insecurity is political commitment at the national level, and reinforced at the regional and global levels by the international community of donors and international organizations,” the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), José Graziano da Silva, told a high-level meeting in Madrid on the UN vision for a post-2015 strategy against world hunger.

One of the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) seeks to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. Among the other Goals, to be achieved by 2015, are improving education, gender equality, child and maternal health and environmental stability.

“The Millennium Development Goals have pushed us forward. But with 870 million people still suffering from hunger, the war against food insecurity is far from over,” Mr. Graziano da Silva said.

Also addressing the meeting was Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who stressed that much more needed to be done to eliminate hunger, especially with 1,000 days until the 2015 MDG deadline.

“We must keep the millennium promise that world leaders made to the human family’s poorest and most vulnerable members,” he stated.

Mr. Ban noted that “spectacular” economic growth in some countries has made it possible to cut extreme poverty in half. “But the tide of prosperity has not lifted all boats,” he added. “To succeed before the end of 2015, we need a concerted effort focused on support for smallholders and better nutrition for women and children.”

Beyond 2015, it will be necessary to transform virtually every aspect of food production and consumption, the Secretary-General continued. “Farmers, fisher folk, pastoralists, indigenous groups and young people all need to be empowered, and granted equal access to assets and resources.”

Mr. Graziano da Silva pointed out that since the world produces enough food to feed everyone, emphasis needs to be placed on access to food and to adequate nutrition at the local level. Such progress will require significant public and private investment in rural areas, where over 70 per cent of the hungry live, and where millions of people depend on agriculture for food and employment.

However, he warned that despite the primary responsibility of national governments to ensure their citizens are fed, today’s globalized economy means that no country acts alone.

“Actions taken by one country or company may affect the food security of others [while] conflicts can lead to instability in neighboring countries and regions,” Mr. Graziano da Silva said. “Impacts on environmental and natural resources are not purely national and it is virtually impossible to regulate markets and activities at the national level alone.”

Multilateral efforts are needed to reduce hunger and make development more sustainable, he said, citing the Committee on World Food Security and the Zero Hunger Challenge launched by Mr. Ban as successful examples of international cooperation.

Public policies should also create opportunities for the most disadvantaged, including subsistence and small-scale producers, women, youth and indigenous people, he added.

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