UN food summit to back new strategy against hunger

AP News
Posted: Nov 12, 2009 11:17 AM

A draft declaration for next week's U.N. food summit would commit world leaders to a new hunger-fighting strategy by pledging to increase agricultural development aid to help the world's 1 billion hungry people feed themselves.

However, the draft obtained Thursday by The Associated Press does not include a 2025 deadline for eradicating hunger, a goal sought by the United Nations.

Also missing are specific money commitments, such as the $44 billion in yearly agricultural aid that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says will be necessary in the coming decades.

Hunger now affects a record 1.02 billion people globally _ or one in six _ with the financial meltdown, high food prices, drought and war blamed for recent increases, the FAO says.

The draft document, negotiated by delegates from FAO's 192 member countries, is meant to lay out a strategy that emphasizes the development and needs of countries struggling to feed their people.

The U.S. delegation said the draft succeeded in uniting the world behind a new approach to fight its hunger problem.

Humanitarian groups said, however, that the document was weak, and that the three-day Rome summit starting Monday could fail if world leaders don't allocate new resources and come up with mechanisms to hold governments to their commitments.

Under the draft, developed countries would "commit to a crucial, decisive shift" that aims to "substantially increase the share" of aid invested in agriculture to help the world's poor become less dependent on direct food assistance.

Richer countries would continue to provide food aid to those in need while working to eradicate the root causes of hunger in the medium and long term.

Officials hope the draft can be approved by attending leaders on the first day of next week's summit at the U.N. organization's headquarters. FAO says some 60 heads of state are expected to show up, and Pope Benedict XVI will also take part to add his voice to the urgent calls for a solution to hunger.

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The Rome-based agency says falling agricultural investment in developing countries over the last decades has helped lead to rising hunger worldwide. The share of international aid going to agriculture went from 19 percent in 1980 to 3.8 percent in 2006, though the trend has slightly reversed since then, according to the draft.

Hunger "is an unacceptable blight on the lives, livelihoods and dignity of one-sixth of the world's population," the draft says. "The effects of long-standing underinvestment in food security, agriculture, and rural development have recently been further exacerbated by food, financial and economic crises, among other factors."