By JASON CARSON
Governments can’t solve world hunger problems on their own, a panel asserted at the 14th annual World Food Day Teleconference Thursday.
“Governments cannot do the job alone,” said Antonio Quizon, World Food Day advocate from the Philippines.
Last year, in Rome, world leaders assembled for the World Food Summit to find a solution to world hunger. At the Summit, a goal was set to reduce world hunger by 50 percent by 2015, according to the Summit Report.
Thursday, a panel of advocates from Asia, Latin America and Africa met to report on commitments made by the various leaders at the Summit, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ website.
Members of the panel discussed various tactics to reduce world hunger. They said just feeding people isn’t necessarily the answer.
Rudo Chitiga, Zimbabwe’s advocate, said governments have to generate climates for change.
Quizon said that governments have the most resources to combat hunger.
Kay Killingsworth, director general for World Food Summit follow up, said, although governments have the primary responsibility to combat hunger within their countries’ borders, “these are efforts that we have to undertake together.”
Dan Glickman, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, in an address after the panel discussion, said, nations need to make an effort to take care of their internal needs. Then they can expect help from other countries to fight their hunger problems.
“The change must start from within,” Glickman said.
“It is important to create space for people to solve their own problems,” Quizon said.
Lora Beth Brown, associate professor of food science and nutrition, said people need to be allowed their freedom to feed themselves the way they see fit. We need to allow them their dignity, she said.
“We can’t put the total burden of welfare on the government,” Brown said.
She added that, sometimes, governments make policies that impede the efforts of individuals to feed and otherwise provide for themselves.
Flavio Valente, advocate from Brazil, said some governments are enforcing agricultural policies that are forcing people off their land.
Land distribution is a major concern in southern Africa in the face of market forces, Chitiga said.
Valente said countries making the transition to democracy sometimes struggle in the face of a free market.
“Governments have to create an environment that allows people to be protected from the free market,” Valente said.
He said world hunger is not only a problem faced by southern countries. Some northern countries, such as Canada and France, are also growing short on food, he said.
Killingsworth said governments have held themselves accountable for the commitments they made at the Summit. A special Summit session will be held in 2006 to see if the goal to cut hunger in half can be reached before the 2015 deadline.
Brown said it would be wonderful if the goal is reached, but she is not sure it will happen.
“There’s a lot of talk and progress is slow,” she said, “But there has to be talk in order for progress to occur.”
Valente said all people have to think about how they will help combat world hunger.
Glickman said, “It’s unacceptable. Each of us must … step in and fill the gap between the hungry and the food that’s available to them.”
Glickman encouraged people to act locally by volunteering, donating excess food and encouraging others to do the same.