World Food Summit: Day 1

Nov 16th, 2009 | By | Category: Student Work

nigerprincess33:10 p.m: While Mali President Amadou Toumani and Seychelles President James Alix Michel addressed dignitaries and heads of state Monday afternoon at the World Summit on Food Security, another kind of presentation was competing for public view.

Beyond the police barricades and legions of international security officers, a group of more than 30 representatives of the People’s Food Sovereignty Forum gathered.  Many were in national dress, hoisting signs, flags and speaking with members of the media.

Their message: In an age where agrobusiness corporations tend to dominate the conversation, remember the small farmer.

The People’s Forum, which is happening at the same time as the World Food Security Summit in Rome, is a civil society conference made up of farmers, indigenous people, women, youth and international non-governmental organizations.

“Small food producers are the solution to the food crisis,” their website proclaims. “With local agriculture and local markets we can cool the planet.”

While police watched from several feet away, representatives spoke in Italian, French, Spanish and English about the importance of small-scale agricultural solutions.

Some of their demands included equal access to land and water for indigenous people, banning genetically modified food, and allowing local populations to decide how land is used and food is produced.

Representatives of individual NGOs also spoke up for their causes.  Abla Mahdi Abdel Moniem of Sudan talked about stopping Israel from uprooting trees on Palestinian land.  One man from the Philippines silently stood in front of the cameras, holding a sign explaining that he was on a hunger strike.  “No to Large Scale Mining, Yes to Food Security,” it read.

“We have great hope that our governments may be able to press upon FAO so that they can really implement the concept of food sovereignty,” said Aichatori Sami, a representative of the organization Plate Forme P, in Niger.

–Alexia Underwood

12:50 p.m.: Pope Benedict just finished addressing the summit. Dressed in a white cassock, the pope spoke about the importance of balancing social responsibility and cooperation in addressing hunger.

He said the problem of food insecurity needs to be addressed with a long-term process that sorts out issues relating to subsidies and eliminates greed so that food is placed on “equal footing just as any other commodity.”

He also implored leaders to redefine the principles governing international relations on food security. He said the response should not be beholden to corporations but rather to the “members of the worldwide human family.”

“If the aim is to eliminate hunger, we need to promote balance and economic growth,” he said, “but also secure new parameters … which are capable of inspiring the cooperation required to create parity between different states in development.”

He also spoke about the importance of addressing climate change in eliminating hunger. He said countries and international organizations have a “moral duty” to protect the environment as a shared goal.

“It is important to remember that the destruction of a nation is connected to the culture that shapes human coexistence,” the pope said.

–Martin Ricard

Jacques Diouf, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization addressed the Summit

Jacques Diouf, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization addresses the summit.

10 a.m.: The United Nations World Summit on Food Security began in Rome this morning. Sirens could be heard throughout the city as delegates and ambassadors made their way to the Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters.

The Honorable Jacques Diouf, director-general of the FAO, addressed his colleagues in a passionate speech that focused on “putting food security at the top of the global agenda.”

Diouf, who called for a day of fasting last week, spoke about food quality and safety standards.  He also thanked the European Union and World Food Program for participation in past programs that helped provide poor farmers in developing countries with otherwise costly seeds and inputs.

The summit will continue through Wednesday, allowing representatives from various countries to address their colleagues. Delegates from Africa include Kgalema Motlanthe, deputy president of South Africa, Fidelia Akuabata Njeze, minister of state for agriculture and water resources of Nigeria, and Jean Ping, president of the Africa Union.

–Shalwah Evans

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