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    For information only - not an official document.
      UNIS/DSG/46
        19 October 2000
     Deputy Secretary-General Urges Universal Access
    To "Most Basic Human Right" – Food

     NEW YORK, 18 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the remarks by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette, delivered today, 18 October, to mark World Food Day:

     It gives me great pleasure to join you today for this year's observance of World Food Day.

     Humanity has made great progress over the last decade, from mapping the human genome to instantaneous global communication.  Yet, a great human tragedy continues to afflict our world:  some 800 million men, women and children do not have enough to eat.

     Food is essential to human life.  Without it, nothing happens:  no learning, no business, no art, no literature, no progress.  Hunger is a major constraint on human development.  It is a violation of the right to food.  It not only destroys the lives and hopes of individuals, it damages the peace and prosperity of nations, as well.

     The problem is particularly acute in the developing world.  One in five people in developing countries does not have access to food of sufficient quality.  In Africa, one out of three children suffers from chronic malnutrition.  Worldwide, 6 million pre-school children die every year as a result of hunger.

     To make this new millennium free from hunger, we must act on many fronts -- not just to feed the hungry, but to eliminate the underlying causes of hunger.  And let us be clear:  Ending hunger and food insecurity is not simply a matter of growing more food.  Recent studies have shown that four out of five malnourished children in the developing world live in countries that boast food surpluses.

     In the short term, our challenge is to make sure that food gets into the hands and the mouths of those who need it now, including women and young girls, isolated rural communities, ethnic minorities living on the economic margins of society, and victims of wars and natural disasters.

     But as the Secretary-General has stressed in his message for World Food Day, we must also focus on a wider, long-term strategy.  And at the centre of this strategy must be a move to increase the educational levels of women and girls.  This is a proven and powerful weapon against hunger.  We must strive for a pattern of economic growth that genuinely reduces poverty, especially in rural communities.  We need policies that give more employment opportunities to the poor.  And we need safety nets to protect the most vulnerable.

     This year's observance of World Food Day occurs in the wake of last month's Millennium Summit, at which world leaders pledged to halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of the world's people who suffer from hunger.  Those leaders recognize that we are all impoverished if the poor are denied access to the most basic human right of all:  the right to food.  And they understand that we, as an international community, are better placed than at any time in recent history to win the fight against hunger.

     Now is the time for all to join together:  governments, civil society, the private sector and international organizations alike.  Together, we can build a millennium free from hunger.
     

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