Progress on reducing hunger has stopped, UN expert on right to food says

30 March 2004

Progress in eliminating hunger and malnutrition has virtually ground to a halt, a United Nations expert on the right to food has told the Commission on Human Rights, with about 36 million people dying every year from hunger.

Presenting his report to the Commission yesterday, Special Rapporteur Jean Ziegler said the food crisis was affecting millions of people, with famine, poverty and hunger combining to leave 840 million people suffering from chronic malnutrition.

It was time to recognize that hunger was not a question of fate but the result of human inaction or action, he said.

Mr. Ziegler cited Sudan, Ethiopia and Afghanistan as among the hardest hit countries and said at least 38 States, mostly African, were seriously affected by the food crisis.

He added that the situation in the Palestinian territory is also badly deteriorating, with more than half of Palestinians dependent on food aid and humanitarian access to the population often restricted.

Mr. Ziegler told the Commission, which is meeting in Geneva for its annual session, that an alternative model for agricultural trade is emerging from developing countries, which see the free trade promises of international trade talks as illusory.

Dubbed "food sovereignty," the concept regards trade as a means to an end rather than an end in itself, and gives more importance to the right to food. Therefore, subsidies would be considered acceptable to sustain small-scale agriculture production but not to support large-scale farming that is used for exports.


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