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UN: Governments not doing enough to combat hunger

Tuesday, October 16, 2012    

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ROME, Italy (AFP) — Governments are not doing enough to combat global hunger and "the momentum has been lost", the UN's special rapporteur on the right to food told AFP in an interview yesterday on the eve of World Food Day.

"We do not move forward except when there is a crisis," Olivier De Schutter said on the sidelines of a meeting of the Committee on World Food Security at the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome.

The latest figures show 870 million people in the world — or around one in eight — are suffering from hunger, an improvement from more than one billion in the early 1990s but still "unacceptably high" according to the FAO.

"Every time there is a crisis, we relaunch efforts but do not implement them. It is is difficult to mobilise people when there is no crisis," he said.

The G20 group of leading world economies last year vowed action to keep global food prices in check, but there has been little progress.

"I think the momentum has been lost," said De Schutter, a professor of international law in Belgium who was appointed in 2008.

"Inside the G20 we have great farming powers who believe market reactions will be enough to counter the impact of any crisis and do not see the point in fighting against price volatility," he said.

"I admit I am less hopeful," he said.

Major agricultural exporters in the G20 include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, and the United States, as well as the European Union.

World powers will hold a special ministerial meeting today to discuss food market volatility hosted by French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll at which a French government source said at least 36 ministers are expected.

Global food prices rose by 1.4 per cent in September after holding steady for two months as cereals, meat and dairy prices climbed, according to FAO's Food Price Index, which is still far off the record it reached in February 2011.

While there is currently no crisis like the food price spikes seen in 2007 and 2008, droughts in the United States and Australia are having an impact.

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