World Summit on Food Security: 16-18 November
Citizens of the World welcome the World Summit on Food Security of 16-18 November 2009 in Rome to address the root causes of the present food crisis and to work for the full implementation of the ‘Human Right to Food’. World citizens stress that there is a consensus that radical measures are needed to deal with the current world food crisis and that these measures will have to be taken in a wholistic way with actions going from the local level of the individual farmer to the national level with new governmental policies, to measures at the multi-State regional level such as the European Union or the African Union and at the world level with better coordinated actions through the United Nations system.
Today, cooperation is needed among the UN family of agencies, national governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the millions of food producers to respond to the food crisis. As Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme has said “The rapid march of urgent hunger continues to unleash an enormous humanitarian crisis. The world must pull together to ensure that emergency needs are met as long term solutions are advanced.” There is a need for swift, short-term measures to help people now suffering from lack of food and malnutrition due to high food prices, inadequate distribution, and situations of violence. Such short-term action requires additional funding for the UN World Food Programme and the release of national food stocks. However, it is the longer-range and structural issues on which we must focus our attention. The world requires a World Food Policy and a clear Plan of Action.
The aim of world food security was set out clearly at the World Food Conference in November 1974 by the then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who declared that the bold objective of the conference was that “within a decade, no child will go hungry, no family will fear for its next day’s bread, and no human being’s future and capacity will be stunted by malnutrition.” (1)
Sir John Boyd Orr, the first Director General of FAO had stressed world food security in his call for a World Food Board at one of the first meetings of FAO in Copenhagen in 1946. He proposed a World Food Board that would stabilise prices by holding buffer stocks and would deal with food emergencies. When the proposal was turned down by governments, he resigned from the FAO to devote himself to the world citizens’ movement and to work against the start of the East-West arms race that was literally “taking food from the mouths of the poor.” (2)
Nevertheless, food security has too often been treated as a collection of national problems. Yet the focus on the formulation of national plans is clearly inadequate. There is a need for a world plan of action with focused attention to the role that UN and regional institutions must play if hunger is to be sharply reduced. It is clear that certain regional bodies, such as the European Union, already play an important role in setting agricultural policy both in terms of production and export policy. There may be a time when the African Union will also play a crucial role in setting policy, monitoring and coordinating agriculture.
A world food policy for the welfare of all requires a close look at world institutions and patterns of production and trade. As Stringfellow Barr wrote in his 1952 book Citizens of the World “Since the hungry billion in the world community believe that we can all eat if we set our common house in order, they believe also that it is unjust that some men die because it is too much trouble to arrange for them to live.” (3)
1) 5 November 1974 address to the World Food Conference, Rome, 1974.
2) For a good account of John Boyd Orr’s World Food Board proposal and
subsequent world citizen activities see the memoirs of a later FAO Director General B.R. Sen Towards a Newer World (Dublin: Tycooly Publishing, 1982, 341pp).
3) Stringfellow Barr Citizens of the World (New York: Doubleday, 1952, 285pp.)
René Wadlow is the Representative to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizens.