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Last Updated:[18-11-2009 22:56:57 EDT] Zoom in Zoom out Back to Tradenews

UN Urges Online Haves to Chip in to the World Food Basket

tradenews The UN is pinning hopes on its “A Billion for a Billion” campaign, which appeals internet users to donate $1.50 or €1 a week to combat global hunger after the three-day UN food security summit ended on a dismal note. The non-committal from 192 nations about providing $44bn annually in agricultural development aid to the third world countries coupled with opposition over the UN’s proposal for foreign farmland investments sealed the fate of the recently concluded summit on the first day itself.

The World Food Program (WFP) Executive Director Josette Sheeran highlighted the campaign in a statement issued on the second day of the World Summit on Food Security taken place in Rome. She said food security was not only a matter of humanitarian assistance and agricultural development but also of national security, peace and stability.

Sheeran opined that the world it at critical crossroads due to food shortage that could spark off uprising, migration and death. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon too raised similar concerns by saying that it was a vicious cycle that impoverished not only its immediate victims but all people. He was speaking at the backdrop of the political unrest that followed since severe food shortage and famine hit some parts of Africa and Asia.

As aid experts predicted, the summit began with the rejection of annual agricultural development aid. Besides, the participants devoid of G8 heads except the Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi did not commit on any time-frame on the promises they made during the summit.

The resentment was more obvious while the UN literature distributed in the summit calling for FDI in farmlands of poor countries was rejected outright. Libyan leader Muammar al-Gadhafi called it the ‘new feudalism’ and groups representing farmers termed it as ‘land grabs’.

According to some peasant watchdog groups, the ‘land grabs’ are found to be violating the rights of poor farmers, who are either thrown out or evicted by making them farmless and homeless after their plots were taken over for a pittance by foreign investors. Moreover, the produce from these farms are exported directly to the investors' home country without leaving anything for the produced nation. As a result, it is feared, instead of hunger eradication it would only add to the misery by creating more food shortage and political unrest in these countries.

However, Ban informed the meet that more than 1bn people go hungry every day and 6mn children die of hunger every year, 17000 every day. He added the ‘food crisis of today’ was a wakeup call for ‘tomorrow’.

“A Billion for a Billion” slogan was evolved from the idea that more than a billion people go hungry, but more than a billion people are on the internet. The campaign intends to make a link between the ‘on-line haves’ and the ‘offline have nots’.

The WFP will need $1bn to provide food aid in the next six months to famine-hit countries that includes Ethiopia and Somalia. More than half of those hungry are in Ethiopia, and include some 4mn to 5mn children under five.

By Jose Roy

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