Leaders Facing Tall Order as They Gather for Food Summit

  • From: "Muslim-News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 12 Jun 2002 09:13:06 +0100

Leaders and officials from 183 countries gather for the World Food
Summit to boost flagging efforts to halve the number of the world's
hungry by 2015, but the richest nations will be conspicuous by their
leaders' absence. 

Anti-globalization protesters march through Rome's central streets June
8, 2002. Thousands of anti-globalization protesters marched ahead of an
international food summit to demand that world leaders and the United
Nations change their tactics in the war on hunger. Photo by Giampiero
Sposito/Reuters 

The summit, which runs until Thursday, is likely to emphasize the divide
between the rich industrial countries of the north and the poor,
aid-dependent states of the south. 

Rich and poor states will be asked to redouble efforts towards a
commitment made by the last World Food Summit in 1996, to slash in half
the number of undernourished. 

Then the figure was put at 841 million, and this year's summit at the
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters in Rome will set
the agenda for the coming five years, but already they are falling far
behind their target. 

Estimates show 815 million people are currently going hungry. Though
this is certainly an improvement, the UN says the turnaround is
happening at a rate of only six million people a year. 

To reach its target, the number of hungry has to decline by 22 million
every year. 

There is little doubt that the leaders will agree to renew their efforts
to slash hunger in a declaration on Thursday, "but there won't be any
money put behind it," according to a UN diplomatic source. 

Part of the problem is that the leaders of the rich northern
industrialized countries who bankroll most of the aid to the developing
world will be absent. 

French activist Jose Bove, left, and Vittorio Agnoletto, leader of the
Italian anti-globalization movement, laugh during a demonstration in
downtown Rome Saturday, June 6, 2002 against genetically modified food
and other agriculture issues, two days before the start of a U.N. summit
in Rome. The Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization is hosting
the four-day summit, which is aimed at making donor countries make good
on promises to halve the number of hungry people in the world by 2015. 

The World Food Program (WFP) believes hunger could be slashed by
focusing on children, who make up 40 percent of the total, but it has
recently had to curtail aid efforts in Afghanistan because of lack of
donor funds. 

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who will address the summit
Monday in his capacity as current president of the European Union
council, will be one of the few European heads of government present.
Most will be represented by senior officials. 

However, heads of state from Africa and Latin America, the recipients of
a large proportion of emergency food and technical aid, will be here in
force. 

They include Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, whose country is one of
several southern African states facing a food emergency imperiling
nearly 13 million people, and for which the World Food Program is
launching its biggest emergency field operation. 

Mugabe is defying an EU travel ban imposed for rights abuses and alleged
fraud during his campaign for re-election in March, exploiting a
loophole which gives him the right to attend UN meetings. He may still
be restricted to a limited area around the airport and the actual summit
venue. 

South African President Thabo Mbeki will also attend, in part to discuss
a meeting of NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development) which
proposes good governance and sound democratic and economic principles in
exchange for aid, debt relief and access to world markets. 

FAO Director General Jacques Diouf, seeking to build the broadest
possible coalition against hunger, has welcomed the participation of
non-governmental and civil society organizations at the summit. 

Some 800 delegates from nearly 100 countries have been meeting in Rome
since early Sunday for a parallel summit of Non Governmental
Organizations (NGOs), and will submit a separate declaration to the main
summit. 

The leaders attending the "World Food Summit, five years later," will be
urged to back a new Anti-Hunger Program by the UN food body to boost the
fight against global hunger at an estimated cost of 24 billion dollars a
year. 

The summit represents the largest gathering of world leaders since the
September 11 attacks in the United States and Italy has mobilized some
5,000 police, backed by a fleet of helicopters, to protect them. 

Source:  AFP

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