States must ensure that nobody dies of hunger, head of UN food agency says

States must ensure that nobody dies of hunger, head of UN food agency says

The head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today that undernourishment and starvation should not be considered less serious than blatant violations of other human rights.

"The State has the obligation, as an instance of last resort, to ensure that nobody should die of hunger," FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said in a message to an international seminar in Rome. "The international community is called upon to assist those States that do not have the means to ensure minimum access to food for all their people through complementary measures."

"The World Food Summit not only reaffirmed the right to adequate food, but also explicitly recognized the crucial link between food security and democracy and civil and political rights as part of the enabling environment that is necessary for the full enjoyment of the right to food," Mr. Diouf said in the statement that was delivered on his behalf by Hartwig de Haen, FAO Assistant Director-General. "It is well known that in the presence of hunger, the ability to exercise other human rights is severely hampered."

According to FAO, there is enough wealth in the world to ensure a minimum standard of living for everyone and the international community should devote its joint efforts to enable the poor to enjoy a free and dignified life.

Referring to numerous armed conflicts around the globe, the FAO chief said the deliberate starvation of civilians and the use of food as a method of warfare were forbidden under the Geneva Conventions and were an obvious violation of the right to food, as was blocking humanitarian assistance and failing to come to the assistance of people in dire need. "But the failure to address the silent undernourshment of millions of children and adults in peacetime should also be regarded as a violation of the right to food," he said.

Warning that the scandal of hunger merited more outrage than it was getting - not only on moral grounds, but because it is a human rights violation on a massive scale - Mr. Diouf called on agencies and organizations dealing with humanitarian assistance and development to "urgently address and seek to redress violations of the right to food."

Mr. Diouf 's message was delivered at the start of a three-day Jacques Maritain Seminar, which is being held under the patronage of the President of Italy and has the technical support of FAO.