The U.N. Committee on World Food Security opened its new session in Rome Monday. The meeting follows Sunday’s observance of World Food Day with the theme: Food Prices – from Crisis to Stability.
Actor Jeremy Lyons – the new goodwill ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization – addressed the Rome meeting.
“In our world, billions of dollars are spent on aid and investment. Billions of words are spoken, written, promising change and a billion people still go hungry every day. Now as a citizen of the world, I find myself asking: why is this?”
Lyons questioned whether it’s a matter of money or the way aid money is spent. He says he wonders whether a whole new approach to combating hunger is needed.
“Now we need to answer these questions urgently because what we do know is that the gap between those who have and those who have not is widening every year,” he said.
Weapon of mass destruction
FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said his agency predicts food price volatility will continue for the foreseeable future.
“The impact of food price volatility falls heaviest on the poorest, especially the urban poor and the landless, who may spend as much as 75 percent of their income on food,” he said.
Food price volatility is blamed in part on growing demand.
Diouf said, “High rates of economic growth in emerging economies have boosted commodity demand. There has also been increasing demand for some agricultural products as feed stock for biofuel production, which has expanded significantly as a result of subsidies and mandates.”
Meanwhile, World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran called for the political will to end hunger.
“Hunger is a weapon of mass destruction – the deadliest we know. We need leaders who will tackle hunger and stand with life,” she said.
Sheeran said safety nets that were in place in the Horn of Africa mitigated the effects of the long drought and protected millions of lives. But she says much more could have been done.
Kanayo Nwanze, head of IFAD, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, agreed.
“Still the fact remains people have died. Children are malnourished. People are suffering. This was a crisis that need not have happened. But it did happen. And unfortunately, it may happen again,” he said.
FAO chief Diouf said greater investment in agriculture can help ensure food security and fight poverty.
“The time has come to take action and implement policies that will enable all farmers of the world in developing and developed countries alike to face equitable conditions through mechanisms that do not distort markets and consequently be able to earn an income suitable for a dignified life,” he said.
The demand for food is only expected to grow, with a world population of nine billion predicted by 2050. The U.N. Committee on World Food Security includes U.N. agencies, NGOs, civil society, financial and trade institutions and others.