WFP chief tells Italian deputies: ending hunger is critical to development

Published on 11 July 2006

In an address to the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, WFP’s Executive Director, James Morris, has said that globalisation is an economic and social reality that must be managed if it is to become an effective tool to fight hunger.

In an address to the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, WFP’s Executive Director, James Morris, has said that globalisation is an economic and social reality that must be managed if it is to become an effective tool to fight hunger.

 

“There should be a ‘food first’ policy – we must first deal with hunger to lay the foundation for growth and development

WFP’s Executive Director, James Morris

With the number of hungry people actually increasing each year, the problem must be resolved before any development policy can be effective.

 

The relationship between globalization, hunger and poverty was highlighted during Morris’ speech, in the context of a survey on globalisation conducted by the Third Permanent Commission of Montecitorio.

Millennium Development Goal

“We are less than 10 years away from the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of hungry people but, up to now, no real progress has been made. This goal would require 31 million people to be taken off the list each year, whereas it is actually growing by an average of four million annually,” said Morris, quoting from the State of Food Insecurity in the World, 2006, published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) last week.

The FAO report indicates that food security has improved in recent years in China and Southeast Asia, but has drastically worsened in sub-Saharan Africa where one in three people is undernourished.

The recurring food crises of the past decade have made WFP the largest humanitarian organisation in the world, feeding over 90 million people in 82 countries in 2005.

"Food first"

From Lebanon to Darfur, from Niger to Afghanistan, WFP has brought assistance to the hungry around the globe, also those caught up in disasters such as the earthquake in Pakistan, the drought in the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean tsunami.

The agency, based in Rome, has more than 9,000 staff worldwide deployed in crisis areas.

“There should be a ‘food first’ policy – we must first deal with hunger to lay the foundation for growth and development,” stressed Morris, thanking Italy for hosting three UN agencies – WFP, FAO and IFAD – within the international cooperation on food and agriculture.

"Debt-swap"

The collaboration between WFP and Italy is strong. Morris described how WFP had successfully lobbied for US$10 million dollars over a three-year period for a school-feeding programme in Egypt, in the framework of negotiations between Italy and Egypt on the so-called debt-swap.

He also cited WFP’s good cooperation with 30 Italian NGOs, whose partnership in the distribution of WFP food worldwide is so vital.

The United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Brindisi, led by WFP on behalf of the international community and funded by Italy, has become such a successful model that a network of similar rapid response bases are opening up in Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Priority

Strong cooperation with its host country, however, has not protected WFP from the budgetary constraints of the Italian government.

“Italy has always been one of our main donors but, over the course of last year, from being among the top 10 WFP donors, Italy has dropped to 25th place. We hope this is only temporary due to the current situation and that Italy’s contribution will better reflect its economic might, in view of its role as an important member of the G8,” said Morris.

He went on to stress that the challenge of ending child hunger had become a priority for WFP.

UNICEF

Working closely with UNICEF, the two agencies have launched a global initiative to provide food and basic services to millions of young children.

“It is an astonishing fact that for example in Italy, once the population’s nutritional requirements are met, there would be sufficient surplus food for all the undernourished people in Ethiopia. In France the “extra” calories could feed the hungry of the DRC,” said Morris.

In conclusion, WFP’s chief spoke about Italy taking up its seat in 2007 and 2008 on the UN Security Council.

Order of Merit

“We need your support to ensure that Security Council decisions taken on places like Darfur, the DPRK and the DRC are in the best interests of the children, who are the most vulnerable and in whose hands all our futures lie,” he said.

After the hearing in the Chamber of Deputies, WFP’s Executive Director will meet the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, who will confer on him the Italian Republic’s Order of Merit.