Economische missie in India - "Food Security" - New Delhi

  • 22/03/2010
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(Tekst beschikbaar alleen in het Engels)

Distinguished participants

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

All of you are engaged in the fight against world hunger and you find yourselves at a great challenging crossroads. Today, there are still millions of human beings who are hungry and malnourished. This is unacceptable in a world where food is abundant. The big question is: what can be done?

Allow me first of all to thank the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) for giving me the opportunity to participate in this debate on food security with so many distinguished experts around the table. Thank you for hosting this working luncheon and for organising the field visit this afternoon. I am looking forward to it very much.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 Today, the world is having to feed more people than ever before in human history. Consecutive crises - the global food crisis of 2008 followed by the financial crisis - have plunged millions of people below the hunger threshold. As we speak, there are still over one billion undernourished people in the world. This is more than the populations of the USA, Canada and the European Union together. 65% of the world's hungry live in seven countries.

From the 8 targets set in the year 2000 by the UN Millennium Development Goals - the first goal is to reduce by half the proportion of hungry people by 2015. This is proving the most difficult goal to reach. Yet, this goal is crucial to achieving each of the other targets, ranging from universal primary education and empowering women to reducing child mortality and the spread of HIV/Aids.

According to the latest MDG Monitoring Report, Southern Asia has the highest percentage of undernourished children in the world: a quarter of newborns weigh less than 2,5 kilos. 48% of children under five years of age in South-Asia were underweight in 2007. These figures are staggering!

In this context, I would encourage paying special attention to gender inequalities, the need to empower and educate women and girls. The cycle of hunger and malnutrition repeats itself generation after generation. The nutritional status of mothers is indeed closely linked to that of their children. The lack of food, vitamins and minerals hampers healthy growth. I think it is very important that children -especially girls-, go to school. This platform is not only essential in reaching school-age children, but at the same time, their mothers, siblings and even entire communities. Adequate school feeding will encourage girls to attend school and reduces at the same time such atrocities as human trafficking. In my opinion, literacy and access to education are of fundamental importance.

Another major issue is climate change which has a great impact on the poorest and the most vulnerable people on earth. Climate change and natural disasters bring with them more food insecurity and hunger: droughts, hurricanes and floods influence negatively agricultural productivity. Rural households face enormous risks to their crops and livestock.

Hunger is indeed a complex issue. It impairs sustainable development - it renders people incapable of working or learning - it reduces economic development and becomes a vital security issue for the world. Maybe the time has come to go back to basics and to pay more attention to increasing agricultural productivity. More investments in agricultural development will lead - I am sure- to progress in human development.

What should be the answer to all these issues?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Food security has been a global problem for many years. But it has not always been treated with the attention it deserves. However, a renewed interest has emerged and food security is again high on the international agenda.

My own country, Belgium, has supported from the start efforts to overcome world hunger. As recently as January this year, the Belgian Fund for Food Security was established with a budget of 250 million Euros.

And in 2009 Belgium donated a total of €26 million (US$ 37.6 million) to the World Food Programme to help fight hunger worldwide. Belgium strongly supported the "Purchase for Progress" initiative (P4P) enabling local farmers who have little or no access to markets where they can sell their crops. The Purchase for Progress initiative will also promote local food processing projects to provide food of high nutritional value. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Eradicating hunger and malnutrition, assuring access to reliable, affordable and adequate food, and achieving food security are immensely difficult challenges the world is facing today.

You can help make a difference. You can show us the way ahead towards building the next generation.

I am looking forward to hearing your ideas.

Thank you.