New York

18 October 2006

Secretary-General's remarks at World Food Day observance

It is good that so many of us have gathered here today to discuss a very important topic.

Every minute, dozens of children are born into extreme poverty. Every five seconds, a child dies of hunger. Every day, malnutrition and destitution condemn a vast swathe of humanity to a subhuman existence.

This week we mark both World Poverty Eradication Day and World Food Day –back to back –to remind ourselves that hunger and poverty are ugly siblings. You cannot get rid of either unless you tackle the other as well.

Hunger, after all, is both a source and a consequence of extreme poverty. A hungry man cannot think beyond his next meal. He has few thoughts of the future, and little inclination or opportunity to fulfil his potential as an individual, or as a member of society. This has devastating consequences for the economic and social development of society as a whole.

Today, more than 850 million men, women and children are caught in this terrible trap, unable to think beyond the immediate demands of their stomachs. In an age when we posses the resources to make a real difference –and when we see much of the suffering relayed live on our TV screens -- our failure to help them is unconscionable.

A decade after the World Food Summit, when world leaders pledged to halve the number of chronically undernourished by 2015, the number has actually increased.

This has occurred even though the way forward is clear. The United Nations Millennium Project's Task Force on Hunger calls on countries to adopt national action plans with six main components: improving agricultural productivity; enhancing nutrition; promoting market access; restoring degraded farming landscapes; empowering women; and increasing spending on agriculture.

As an immediate step, we must bolster agriculture, the focus of this year's observance. More than two thirds of the world's hungry live in rural areas, and increased investment in agriculture is one of the most effective means to help them. Unfortunately, the past two decades have seen a sharp decline in foreign assistance for agriculture. And many countries, including those most in need, have not allocated sufficient domestic resources to farming and rural development

There is a need to reverse this trend, and to channel increased public and private resources towards agricultural activities. Our investments must also look beyond infrastructure and irrigation systems to fund broader human development goals, especially the education of rural women and girls. They, after all, form the backbone of most agrarian economies.

The world has the resources and the know-how to make hunger history. What we need is political will and resolve. Let us renew our pledge to work together towards the day when no man, woman or child goes to sleep hungry. Let us resolve to win the fight against hunger once and for all. And I think that, with determination, resolve and will, it can be done.

Thank you very much.