Leaders from governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector gathered in Rome on Monday to mark the 31st annual World Food Day at the headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
ROME -- World Food Week was officially launched on Monday with a ceremony at the headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, where WFP's head was among the leaders who underscored the need for collaboration, investment and political commitment in turning the tide against hunger
Led by FAO, WFP and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Food Day brought together varied stakeholders to acknowledge the progress that has been made in the fight against hunger.
At the same time, world leaders who spoke at the events also recognized the challenges that remain in fulfilling the fundamental right of all people to have access to adequate and nutritious food.
“Ending world hunger is not just about hope, but also about hard work,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran at the World Food Day opening ceremony. “It's not only about compassion, but commitment. Ending hunger is not only about dreams, but about discipline." Sheeran also stressed the need for accountability, political will and leadership.
Inaugurating the ceremony FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said that more investment is needed in agriculture to ensure food supplies for the world in 2050. Greater investment is the key to mitigating food price fluctuations and building poor people and nations' resilience, he said.
The theme chosen by FAO for this year’s World Food Day is Food Prices—From Crisis to Stability. High and volatile food prices have been especially damaging to the world’s hungry poor, many of whom are newly suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition. Amid a 'perfect storm' in 2011 involving volatile food prices, weather emergencies and political instability almost one billion people still go to bed hungry every night.
Billion hungry people
And as Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women and former President of Chile remarked, “A billion hungry people is a billion too many.”
She added in a keynote speech that a significant cause of food insecurity is "the poverty and discrimination faced by women and girls, including women farmers".
The World Food Day ceremony was followed by the opening session of the 37th Committee on World Food Security. In both events, speakers focused on the need to build strong safety nets for vulnerable populations, improve access to nutritious foods, provide support to smallholder farmers and involve women in economic and household decision-making. They also placed a strong emphasis on increasing transparency in global food markets.
Stand together against hunger
Perhaps most important, all those gathered today agreed that the world has the resources necessary to combat hunger. The time has come to work together to put those resources to good use, as “nothing short of radical collaboration will turn the tide against hunger,” said Ms Sheeran.
“No nation, region or organization can win the battle against hunger alone. We must stand together.”
In a message to the World Food Day ceremony at FAO headquarters, Pope Benedict XVI said that fighting famine and hunger required both immediate and long-term solutions.