The four-day World Food Summit, which came to a close in Rome on Thursday, has placed the urgent issue of fighting hunger at the forefront of the world stage once again.
The conference, organized by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), drew delegates from 183 member countries around the table to review the progress achieved and obstacles met in the war against hunger.
The first UN food summit in 1996 vowed to cut the number of hungry people -- some 840 million -- to 400 million by 2015. The current situation, however, does not look optimistic.
Previous years have witnessed the number of hungry people drop by 8 million annually, far below the annual rate of 22 million required. If the pace continues, an additional 45 years will be needed to attain the goal.
It is under this critical situation that the FAO has hosted the follow-up conference to reaffirm the political will of member countries and give an impetus to the 1996 pledge.
With the fast speed of globalization, it is widely believed that hunger and poverty have ceased to be internal problems of any country, but have become a global challenge for all countries.
It, therefore, requires joint efforts from both rich and poor countries to tackle the hunger problem and ensure the subsistence of every human being on the planet. The declaration adopted by the conference appropriately called for a "closer international alliance against hunger."
The weak economic foundation, heavy debt burden, war and vulnerability to natural disasters have left many poverty-stricken countries in extreme difficulty in ensuring adequate food for their people. Aid and debt reduction by developed countries are a great weight in their fight against hunger.
It is, in fact, not only a moral imperative for developed countries to provide such aid and debt relief to developing countries given that the latter had suffered deeply from the former's colonial rule, but also practical help to serve the interests of developed countries. Poor countries' economic doldrums hinder world economic growth on the whole, and furthermore, hunger and poverty have proved to be the cause of instability and social conflicts.
Rich countries, however, do not seem to have attached due importance to the chance of mapping out blueprints to fight hunger. Heads of wealthy nations were conspicuous by their absence - only hosts Italy and the holder of the EU rotating presidency, Spain, sent a top level delegation. It indicates that hunger-elimination is low on their agenda.
Developing countries have also complained about developed countries' excessive agricultural subsidies, which distort the world trade market and have killed the potential for development in developing countries under the current unfair international economic order.
In a world of plenty, ending hunger should be within our grasp. China, home to nearly 1.3 billion people, has put food security high on its nation's agenda.
Thanks to the unremitting efforts of its government and its people, the capacity of grain production has been greatly improved in the past half century, especially in the past two decades.
By efficiently feeding some 22 percent of the world's population with less than 10 percent of the world's cultivated land, the country will continue to contribute to the fight against hunger. The nation is willing to join hands with the international community to work towards the final realization of the target of hunger elimination.
(China Daily June 14, 2002)