Deputy Secretary-General: ‘We Cannot Rest while So Many People Go Desperately Hungry’, Launching Zero Hunger Challenge Campaign in Asia-Pacific

29 April 2013

Deputy Secretary-General: ‘We Cannot Rest while So Many People Go Desperately Hungry’, Launching Zero Hunger Challenge Campaign in Asia-Pacific

29 April 2013
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Deputy Secretary-General:  ‘We Cannot Rest while So Many People Go Desperately

Hungry’, Launching Zero Hunger Challenge Campaign in Asia-Pacific

Following are Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks at the launch of the Zero Hunger Challenge Campaign in Asia-Pacific, in Bangkok, 29 April:

It is a pleasure for me to join you here in Bangkok.  Let me begin with a statement of overarching principle:  defeating hunger is our shared duty and responsibility.  We cannot rest while so many people go desperately hungry in a world where there is enough food for everyone.

That is why Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, last June at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, launched the Zero Hunger Challenge.  And that it is why we are here today to launch this urgent effort in the Asia-Pacific region, as well.

I understand that many countries in the region are putting food security at the top of their agenda.  Both Pakistan and Nepal are already considering how best to achieve zero hunger for their people.  I welcome these signs of commitment and I hope others will follow.

The Zero Hunger Challenge has five objectives:  first, we should make sure that everyone, everywhere and every day, has access to as much nutritious food as they need.  They should be able to buy it through the earnings of their work, grow it themselves, or get it through social protection schemes.

Second, we should end childhood stunting, which affects almost 165 million children around the world.  Proper nutrition between the beginning of pregnancy and a child’s second birthday is the physical foundation for an entire life.  We must ensure that every child has access to nutrition during these crucial 1,000 days.  Several ESCAP [Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific] member States have joined the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement and are making important progress in cooperation with development partners, civil society and business.

But proper nutrition goes beyond food.  Without clean water and sanitation, mothers and children are at risk of many diseases which prevent children from getting all the nutrients available in food.  I have long been an advocate for the right of all to safe water and sanitation; ending stunting is another reason why heightened efforts for sanitation are necessary.

Third, we must build sustainable food systems.  Environmentally sensitive stewardship of our land, fisheries and forests will ensure that, once hunger is eliminated, it will not come back to haunt future generations.  Fourth, we should double the productivity and income of smallholder farmers.  Improvements in rural well-being create employment, cut poverty, increase the food supply and stabilize prices for everyone.  This will also require creating decent and productive employment off the farm, ensuring the proper functioning of agricultural markets and supporting agricultural research and innovation.

Fifth, we must do more to prevent food from being wasted.  You may be surprised to know that as much as one third of all food gets lost between harvesting and consumption.  We must reduce this massive waste.  This will require commitments by producers, retailers and consumers, as well as financial incentives, locally relevant technologies and changes in behaviour.

The United Nations is determined to make Zero Hunger a reality.  At the global level, in February of this year, the High-level Task Force on Global Food Security, comprised of 23 entities from the United Nations, the Bretton Woods institutions and the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] committed to urgent actions for comprehensive efforts to meet the challenge.

At the regional level, under the Regional Coordination Mechanism, a road map has been prepared to sharpen the focus on eradicating hunger in the Asia-Pacific region.  The road map identifies concrete outputs and activities to ensure resources, funding and expertise by United Nations and donor agencies.

Much of the progress made towards the Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger is a result of economic and social development in this region.  At current trends, we are close to achieving that global goal, but we need progress in Asia-Pacific to continue.   We are counting on all partners to come together and make this happen.  Governments, farmers, scientists, activists, businesses and consumers in Asia-Pacific all have to be part of this effort.  I ask that you also continue to be generous in sharing your experiences and expertise with other parts of the world.

Hunger is a cross-cutting issue, at the core of the three pillars of the United Nations:  peace, development and human rights.  And of course, the right to food is part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  When people are afraid of not being able to feed their families, the risk of instability rises; when people are starving and too weak and famished to work or learn, progress is stifled and stopped in its tracks.

With this drive to defeat global hunger, we are embracing a vision for the future — a future where all people are nourished and able to live healthy and full lives.  Now, it is time for us to rise to the challenge and finally make the world free from hunger.  Let us do this together.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.