MILAN (AP) — Calling hunger "a terrible injustice," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday marked World Food Day with a visit to the Milan Expo World's Fair, which is focused on food security and nutrition.
Bidding to invigorate a global commitment to eradicating hunger by 2030, Ban called for a pledge "for food security for all the people around the world — to build a global movement to end hunger. This will go hand in hand with greater health, economic development and social inclusion for individuals and societies."
With nearly 800 million people hungry in the world, combatting hunger and malnutrition is emerging as a global focal point, not just at World Food Day but also at the U.N. General Assembly last month when world leaders backed the U.N.'s 17 sustainable goals, which include eliminating poverty and hunger in 15 years. The papal encyclical on the climate in June also addressed the issue.
"Hunger is more than a lack of food," Ban said. "It's a terrible injustice."
Speakers Friday also noted that hunger is a factor behind the migrant crisis.
"People seek refuge or migrate to other lands, to other countries when there is no opportunity, no food and no hope at home," WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said.
Cousin told The Associated Press that there is concern that the current refugee crisis is just "the tip of the iceberg" if issues of poverty and hunger are not addressed. By 2040, he said, an estimated 83 percent of the population will live in more vulnerable Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Italian officials presented the secretary-general with the Milan Charter, signed by more than 1 million people, including some but not all of the visiting national delegations during the six-month world's fair, containing individual commitments aimed at helping secure food and water for the world's growing population.
The document aims to boost awareness of the U.N. sustainable development goals and to be an Expo 2015 legacy.
On the eve of World Food Day, the Vatican's international charity, Caritas, criticized the charter as "lacking teeth," without concrete commitments and leaving out important topics like land grabs, genetically modified crops, climate change, desertification and the loss of biodiversity
"For us, it is always important that the people who are suffering are associated. In this case people living with hunger were not consulted," Michel Roy, the Caritas secretary- general, told reporters.
Ban and other speakers emphasized the power of individuals to help combat hunger, and urged participants to "capture the spirit of Expo Milan and continue to fight against hunger." Ban said it was in local communities where real progress was made.
"The difference is that the Milan Charter is rallying ordinary people," Kanayo F. Nwanze, president of the U.N. international agriculture development fund IFAD, told the AP. "It gives ordinary people a chance to have a voice and to recognize the issues."