14 October 2010
By MacKenzie C. Babb
Staff Writer (Department of State)
Washington — A call by U.S. leaders for a comprehensive and cooperative approach to ensure food security for the 925 million hungry people in the world was echoed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on October 11.
“A growing number of governments, intergovernmental organizations, regional and subregional bodies, businesses and civil society groups are forming partnerships and implementing joint solutions. Increasingly, their approach is comprehensive — focusing on more stable supplies of food, better access to food and optimizing nutrition at the household level,” Ban said.
His message was to hundreds of delegates from governments, nongovernmental organizations, U.N. bodies, the private sector and philanthropic groups around the world who gathered in Rome for the 36th annual Committee on World Food Security (CFS) conference, held October 11–14. The 2010 session was the first to include members of civil society.
Ertharin Cousin, U.S. ambassador to the Rome-based U.N. food and agriculture agencies and head of the U.S. delegation to the conference, praised the inclusive approach of the conference and highlighted the importance of collaboration to address hunger.
“This problem won’t be solved just by governments. It requires civil society, the private sector, the governments of both donor and developing countries, as well as the U.N. agencies working together. The Committee on World Food Security represents the opportunity for them to come together and speak with an equal voice,” Cousin told America.gov.
Ambassador Patricia Haslach, also a member of the U.S. delegation, said although the number of hungry people has fallen from 2009’s historic high of 1 billion, more progress is needed.
“There’s been a lot of work that’s been done on raising productivity, especially in the staple grains, but where we’re really falling down is on the nutrition side,” Haslach said.
Cousin stressed the importance of combining the efforts of governmental and nongovernmental agencies to provide nutritional support for adults and for children, who Cousin said are most affected by a lack of dietary nutrients.
“Nutrition must include not just medical interventions, but also agricultural support for diverse crops that will ensure more balanced diets, particularly in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life,” she said.
In what she called “fantastic news,” Cousin said finding solutions to the nutrition problem had become an integral part of the committee’s work.
“When we’re talking about ending global hunger, we’re talking about the issue of food security and nutrition. You can’t and you won’t end global hunger unless you also address the issue of nutrition, and that concept has been embraced by CSF,” Cousin said.
Both Cousin and Haslach pointed to another issue taken on by this year’s committee — including gender in agricultural development programs.
Haslach said between 60 percent and 80 percent of the world’s food is produced by women, yet women do not have equal access to financing, technology and education. Investing in women is also beneficial to their local economies, she added.
“If women start to earn a fair wage for the products they’re producing, it’s been proven that women will put it back in feeding their children and providing funding for education,” she said. “It has a multiplier effect, so women are critical.”
The CSF, which serves as a forum to improve global governance efforts on food security, takes place each year ahead of World Food Day, October 16. It is hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Programe and the International Fund for Agricultural Development — the three Rome-based U.N. organizations dealing with food.