UN official questions world’s hunger commitment

(AP) – The director of a U.N. food agency questioned Wednesday how world powers could commit so much money to fighting the financial crisis and not to feeding the 1 billion hungry.

The three-day summit at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters in Rome ended with little new headway in efforts for a new strategy to help farmers in poor countries produce enough to feed their people.

The director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization said the summit “didn’t go as far” as he had hoped.

“If it has been possible to mobilize trillions of dollars” to stimulate the global economy to combat the financial crisis, the world should be able to come up with resources to solve its hunger problem, Jacques Diouf added at a final news conference.

The summit was labeled a failure at the outset Monday when delegates from 192 nations rejected U.N. appeals to commit themselves to $44 billion annually in agricultural development aid.

The international aid group Oxfam denounced the gathering as a “lackluster” effort that wound up offering what it called “crumbs” for the world’s hungry, estimated at one of every six people on Earth.

Diouf said in his closing speech that countries had taken “important steps” by pledging in the final summit declaration to increase aid to agriculture.

But “alas, I note that this declaration does not contain any quantified objectives, nor any precise deadline,” Diouf said. The United Nations had hoped the summit would commit to eradicating hunger by 2025.

Diouf dismissed a question that Norway had withdrawn from a partnership with FAO over his leadership at an agency seen by many as heavy on bureaucracy. He said he hadn’t heard of such discontent from Norway and added: “I don’t get instructions from any individual government.”

Norway reviewed how around $6 million in aid channeled through FAO for 2008-2009 was spent for a variety of projects and “we find it very hard to see the results,” Norwegian Foreign Ministry official Lars Henie told The Associated Press.

“We feel let down by lack of reform” as well, said Henie, indicating there would likely be no more funding for such projects before 2012.

Oxfam joined many critics who questioned the value of the summit’s outcome.

“A single meeting can’t solve world hunger, but we certainly expected far more than this,” Oxfam spokesman Gawain Kripke said.

Apart from Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who chaired the opening session, no other Group of Eight leaders attended.

“The near total absence of rich country leaders sent a poor message from the beginning. The summit offered few solid accomplishments,” Kripke said.

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