16 OCTOBER 1997

On the occasion of the seventeenth observance of World Food Day this year, we mark the 52nd anniversary of the founding of the food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. The theme of World Food Day this year, "Investing in Food Security", highlights the need to promote investment that will lead to food security for all.

In 1995, when FAO observed its Fiftieth Anniversary at its birthplace in Quebec City, Canada, the Ministerial Meeting on World Food Security which preceded the Anniversary celebrations discussed the importance of investment to achieve food for all.

In 1996, the World Food Summit in Rome adopted the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action. At this first-ever Summit convened to deal with the problems of hunger and malnutrition, world leaders pledged their political will and national commitment to achieve food security for all and to reduce by half the more than 800 million people currently undernourished, no later than 2015.


The Plan of Action laid down seven commitments: creating an enabling political, social and economic environment; eradicating poverty and inequality and improving physical and economic access by all to sufficient, adequate and safe food; pursuing participatory and sustainable food, agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development policies and practices; fostering food, agricultural trade and trade policies in support of food security; meeting transitory and emergency food requirements in ways that encourage development; promoting and allocating the use of public and private investments; and monitoring and follow-up at all levels in co-operation with the international community.

We in FAO have selected Commitment VI of the World Food Summit Plan of Action to be the focus of this year's World Food Day theme. In that commitment, it is stated that:

"We will provide optimal allocation and use of public and private investments to foster human resources, sustainable food, agricultural, fisheries and forestry systems, and rural development, in high and low potential areas".

By choosing Investing in Food Security, we will highlight the need to create conditions and incentives that will promote investment both by private and public sectors to enhance food supply as well as ensure adequate access to food by all. We will also recognise the valuable efforts of farmers, producers, rural workers and women, in particular. The contributions of women in land preparation, water systems, new equipment, development of livestock herds and tree plantation are substantial and significant. At the same time, private and public sector investments are needed in storage, distribution and market infrastructure and in transportation and communications.

Likewise, it is essential to invest in human resource development, particularly the farmers and food producers in such areas as training, research and extension, credit, nutrition education and food safety. Strengthening farmers and rural workers organisations can also improve their access to productive resources and increase their income-earning potentials.

At FAO, our Special Programme for Food Security now covers 19 low-income food deficit countries (LIFDCs). This Programme aims to reduce hunger rapidly and sustainably by increasing production and availability of food where it is most needed. In the near future, we hope that the number of participating countries will extend to possibly all 86 low-income food deficit countries that are home to the vast majority of the world's more than 800 million chronically undernourished people.

However, this is not enough. All sectors of civil society must work together if we are to succeed in our objective to achieve food for all. Investing in food security means that grassroots and local efforts together with government, the private sector, multilateral and bilateral efforts at national level should all be focused on a common vision and agenda for food security. One way of doing so is through the organisation of national fora charged with food for all campaigns as called for in the Summit Plan of Action.

I also invite you to use the World Food Day observances as the opportunity to review the gains achieved after the World Food Summit as they provide an annual occasion for publicly assessing and reporting on the achievement of goals agreed at the Summit.

Heads of State and government and high officials from 186 countries participating at the World Food Summit pledged their political will and national commitment to the continuing effort to eradicate hunger in all countries. But the tragedy of widespread hunger cannot be eliminated through government action alone. Only a broad mobilisation of public and private commitment, of collective and individual resources, can deflect the course of history.

In an effort to mobilise greater public awareness, FAO for its part has launched on the occasion of this year's World Food Day, TeleFood - the first global television appeal to the general public to raise funds for food security projects and activities. TeleFood is intended to be a long-term endeavour and 1997 represents the first step in this process. It consist mainly of a series of television events organised simultaneously at the national level in the participating countries and internationally from Rome.

The initiative has two major objective: (i) to raise awareness and (ii) to mobilise resources. It is important that people, at all levels, are made aware of the issues underlying food security and how they can contribute to its attainment. To achieve this objective, TeleFood needs the broad mobilisation of governments, civil society and, in particular, professional organisation, business enterprises and commercial firms as well as celebrities, artists and eminent personalities all over the world.

Let us work together to achieve food for all. It is not merely a moral obligation; but it is for all of us and for generations to come, the key to a sustainable development.

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