Addressing the first-ever session of the United Nations Social Forum in Geneva today, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, called for urgent action to address hunger and starvation across the world.
In her opening remarks to the Forum, Mrs. Robinson noted that despite some recent progress, “there have been few improvements over the past five years in the implementation of the right to adequate food.”
The High Commissioner said that in order to tackle poverty and hunger, there was a need to promote and respect the rights of women “who play such a critical role in agriculture in developing countries.” She also called attention to the “desperate” need for national improvements in health care, education and improved irrigation systems as well as food safety management.
Globally, Mrs. Robinson said States must ensure that the new round of World Trade Organization negotiations removed obstacles to food imports from developing countries. “While trade liberalization can promote trade in agriculture and the innovation of new food technologies, current barriers to food products from the South and competition faced by local farmers from agro-businesses have not produced the so-called level playing field,” she said.
Mrs. Robinson also called for “a more ethical globalization that promotes non-discrimination and protects the vulnerable, the isolated and the poor, while maximizing economic and development opportunities.”
The two-day Forum promotes dialogue involving a wider range of participants – including grass-roots groups, youth associations and trade unions – than is normally represented at the UN. It was set up to respond to concerns about the effects of globalization on economic, social and cultural rights, as well as the impact of poverty and destitution on the realization of human rights.