Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lack of top leaders hobbled UN Hunger summit: Diouf

ROME — The absence of leaders from the world's wealthiest states undermined the UN Hunger Summit, reducing it to a "technical" forum, the head of the UN food agency said Wednesday.

"If we don't have the leaders with authority over all the dossiers, who can coordinate the action... we sidestep the problem, we reduce the issue to its purely technical dimension," Jacques Diouf told a closing news conference.

The plight of the world's billion hungry people "has an economic, social, financial and I would say even cultural dimension," said the head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Some 60 heads of state and government attended the three-day summit, but Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was the only leader of a Group of Eight nation to appear.

The summit came under fire for failing to generate pledges of new funding for agriculture, or including specific targets or timelines in its final declaration.

"The facts are that we need 44 billion dollars (nearly 30 billion euros) a year... and we have seen that in the world 1.34 trillion dollars a year is spent on arms, we've seen on the news it has been possible to mobilise trillions of dollars (to address the financial) crisis," Diouf said.

"I'm just thinking if it has been possible to mobilise (those funds), there's a possibility also to give some more focus on the priority constituted by one billion hungry people in the world," he said.

At the summit's closing session earlier Wednesday, the FAO boss said: "I am convinced that together we can eradicate world hunger, but in order to do so we must move from words to actions."

The humanitarian group Oxfam gave the summit a mark of two out of 10.

"One single meeting can not solve world hunger," said spokesman Gawain Kripke, "but we were expecting much more. The result does not match the problem of a billion hungry people. The near-total absence of leaders from rich countries sent out a bad message at the start of the summit".

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