Greater international will to combat world hunger was the theme of 60th anniversary celebrations at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
In opening remarks, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, was established 60 years ago to free humanity from hunger.
The agency's essential tasks, he said, remain the same as when it was founded: to rid the world of what he called the "twin scourges" of hunger and malnutrition. Mr. Diouf said, the FAO has played an active role in increasing food production to meet the needs of a global population that has tripled since the agency was founded.
Mr. Diouf says, since 1960, the proportion of the world's population that is undernourished has fallen from 35 percent to 13 percent.
But, he said, despite this achievement the FAO has fallen short of its founders' expectations. He says 852 million people still suffer hunger.
Mr. Diouf said the FAO must be more effective in working toward eradication of hunger. He announced reforms aimed at restructuring and streamlining the agency's offices around the world.
Heads of state present for the celebration urged wealthy countries to put hunger on their political agendas.
Botswana President Festus Mogae said poverty and hunger continue to escalate, despite great strides in science and technology, and he said lack of commitment from wealthy nations, in particular, was to blame.
"At the root of these problems lies political will of the global community, especially the rich," said President Mogae.
Brazilian President Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva was awarded FAO's Agricola Medal during the ceremony. The FAO director-general said the Zero Hunger Program in his country has freed millions of Brazilians from hunger.
But, he said much remains to be done.
Mr. Lula da Silva said hunger continues to kill many people. When it does not kill, it provokes diseases or compromises forever the development of children, women, and men. He said, in a world of technological advance and abundance, it is scandalous and unacceptable that hunger is still present in the life of millions in so many countries.
The most controversial presence at the FAO ceremony was Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. He defended the land reform program that his government embarked on five years ago as redressing the past gross imbalances in land ownership, which were institutionalized by British colonialism. Critics say his land program has caused a sharp decline in agricultural production and increased hunger in Zimbabwe.