World Food Day - Can we end hunger?

Published: 11 October 2012

Statement by Mr Bekele Geleta, Secretary General of IFRC, in the opening of FAO/WFP/IFRC Joint Event celebrating the World Food Day, Palais des Nations, in Geneva.

Statement by Mr Bekele Geleta, Secretary General of IFRC, in the opening of FAO/WFP/IFRC Joint Event celebrating the World Food Day, Palais des Nations, in Geneva.

Excellencies, distinguished guests, dear colleagues.

Thank you for joining us in this celebration of World Food Day. As global food and nutrition insecurity remains prevalent, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies welcomes the opportunity to co-host this event with a focus on ‘Can We End Hunger?’ together with our long-time partners, the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

We are all well aware of the challenges relating to food security, hunger and malnutrition. The World Disasters Report – the IFRC’s flagship publication – provided an in-depth analysis of the causes and effects of this wide-ranging humanitarian crisis last year.

It acknowledged that the complexities of global food security, hunger and malnutrition go to the core of all the major components of the international system. At the World Disasters Report’s launch, all organizations involved in the publication highlighted the need to address world hunger with greater coordination, focusing both on its root causes and on building more resilient communities.

This year’s World Food Day is observed under the theme ‘Agricultural cooperatives – key to feeding the world’. Cooperatives, rural networks and grassroots organizations including national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies have an important role to play in improving food security and contributing to the eradication of hunger.

It is important, therefore, that we have gathered together today to take another step in our combined effort to break the vicious cycle of food insecurity.

To do so, we must endorse the data and research that lights our way; enable communities to become more resilient by creating policies that build productive assets at national and community levels, and urgently invest time and money into solutions that we know can work.

At the Rio+20 Conference on sustainable development held in June, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon launched the Zero Hunger Challenge - a joint vision for the elimination of hunger in our lifetimes. This vision will require all of us to work together for a future where every individual has access to adequate nutritious food, and where all food systems are sustainable and resilient.

The Zero Hunger Challenge seeks renewed commitment by governments, civil society, farmers, unions, scientists, business and the UN – to promises already made. It builds on existing work and encourages greater focus on food and nutrition security by all towards achieving sustainability. The IFRC, alongside FAO, WFP, and IFAD, have backed this vision.

As demonstrated by our joint event today, the IFRC has a strong relationship with both the WFP and FAO. In addition to our engagement with FAO in the Food Security Cluster at the global level, a recent visit by IFRC President Tadateru Konoé with the Director General of FAO has paved the way for further collaboration.

The partnership between World Food Programme and the IFRC and its national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies has resulted in more effective service delivery at different levels. In 2010 alone more than 30 national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies worldwide were working in cooperation with WFP.

Excellencies, dear friends.

The World Economic Forum has convened a multi-stakeholder group, and through the Friends of Rio+20 message, has focused the attention of world leaders on the need for non-traditional partnerships to break the cycle of chronic food insecurity. At the same time, the governance structures of the Committee on World Food Security and components of the Food Aid Convention are currently being re-evaluated and renegotiated.

The Red Cross Red Crescent, alongside the UN and NGOs, recognizes food insecurity an urgent and critical issue that requires deeper involvement and a long-term commitment. There is a unique opportunity to take advantage of the growing interest and momentum on food security to pursue collaborative solutions and together inspire decision makers and opinion leaders to act.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Mexican Government, under whose leadership the G20 named food security as one of the key priorities. I ask that governments, donors and the corporate sector invest in long-term solutions with a focus on food security, nutrition and livelihoods that build community resilience and capacity, and reduce vulnerability.

Investment should address issues at the local, national and global levels, with a strong focus on communities and local action. The Red Cross Red Crescent, with its decades-long experience in disaster management and community-based development, knows that vulnerability to disasters, food insecurity and poverty is reduced where livelihoods are resilient and local coping capacities are strengthened.

In the IFRC, we ensure that food security initiatives build the capacity of smallholder families by giving them access to insurance and financial services, technical support, and disease-resistant crops that help people adapt to climate change.

We are strongly committed to scaling up our community-based disaster risk reduction activities, including food and nutrition security and livelihoods, in at least 140 countries by 2015.

And the IFRC is working towards ensuring up to ten per cent of all our appeal budgets are used for long-term development activities such as disaster risk reduction programming, including livelihoods and food security.

Excellencies, distinguished delegates and colleagues,

A week from now, the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, with support from the Ethiopian Government, is hosing the 8th Pan African Conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Addis Ababa.

The specific theme of this conference is ‘Investing in Africa’, which highlights the importance of development and the alleviation of suffering through meaningful investment of human, material and financial resources into the communities. Food security and sustainable livelihoods intervention will be included in the agenda item concerning building resilience. When the conference resolutions are adopted, we welcome all stakeholders’ collaboration to improve food security in Africa.

In closing, let me reaffirm the IFRC’s commitment to working with partners to improve food security, and ending hunger and malnutrition.

The IFRC accepts the challenge and I ask everyone in this room, to persuade policy makers and opinion leaders in government and aid agencies to implement the policies and programmes that we know will save lives, reduce hunger and promote resilience.

Thank you very much.