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World Food Summit Concludes With Mixed Reaction - 2002-06-13

The World Food Summit in Rome has ended with delegates reaffirming a commitment to cut by one-half the number of hungry people in the world by 2015. But many participants complained the gathering brought the world no closer to a solution on how this is to be achieved.

The four-day summit, at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, exposed sharp divisions between wealthy nations and developing countries. With only two leaders of western nations among the 80 heads of state present, many delegates said major industrialized countries are indifferent to the problem of world hunger.

Developing countries called for more access to world markets and a reduction in the burden of debt repayment. FAO Director General Jacques Diouf has requested an extra $24 billion a year to be invested in farm development aid. But the money will not come easily from Western nations, which have not responded to this call.

Delegates approved a declaration called "International Alliance Against Hunger," reaffirming a commitment taken at a similar food summit in 1996 in which they had pledged to reduce by 50 percent the more than 800 million hungry people in the world by 2015. Mr. Diouf said at the end of the summit Thursday, that the "world is in a race against the clock" in its war against hunger and poverty.

But a forum of non-governmental organizations meeting alongside the summit said the high-profile event was a wasted opportunity. They expressed their collective disappointment and rejection of the summit's final document.

The forum said the food summit did no correct the problems blocking progress over the past five years towards eliminating hunger. And it said, the new plan of action compounds the error with what the forum called "destructive prescriptions" that will make the situation even worse.

Environmental groups said that the summit took a step backward by calling for advancement in biotech research, which they said hurts rather than helps the fight against hunger.