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Universal Declaration of Human Rights Turns 60


Wednesday marks the 60th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (HDR). In 1948, the general assembly adopted the document that says the recognition of the inherent dignity, and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family, is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.

The group ActionAid is using the occasion to warn the current food and financial crises are threatening people's right to food. Brendan O'Donnell is ActionAid's international head of campaigns. From London, he told VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua that the crises have wiped out 20 years of progress in reducing hunger.

"Our main concern is that there are now 963 million people living in hunger. That's almost a billion people and they're the worst figures for about 20 years. Our concern on this date, the 60th anniversary of the Universal declaration of Human Rights, is that food is a fundamental human right. It's enshrined in the HDR and in all the covenants agreements that came with it. And yet it's really a neglected human right," he says.

Earlier this year, the food crisis held the world's attention, but now the world is in the grip of a financial crisis. " O'Donnell says, "The recent food crisis and financial crisis have made things worse. But the bigger picture really is that this is a permanent crisis. The year before this year there were 854 million people in hunger. The crisis situation has just made a very bad situation even worse."

Asked whether the current financial turmoil will make the problem worse by reducing donor aid, he says, "Well, this really isn't the time to bail out on our commitment to the poorest and most vulnerable people. We know that about 90 times as much has been spent on economic bailouts than has been than has been pledged to fight global poverty this year. We think this is time for donors, but also poor country governments, really to commit, honor their commitments, on fighting hunger."

Earlier this year, a UN-led food crisis summit was held in Rome. He says, "$22 billion was pledged only just in June…to fight the food crisis. And only 10 percent of that has actually been delivered so far. So, the first step is really for governments to implement the programs and the pledges that they have already made. And we want to see the aid that is available going into social protection schemes that enable people to get food immediately."

He says however, that long term investment is needed in the small-scale farmer, especially women farmers in developing countries. "They form the backbone of food security in those countries. If we invest in those women, they feed their communities. They feed their countries and they can really create food security."

O'Donnell says the fundamental right to food enables all the other human rights.

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