|Overcoming Global Hunger (WB)|
|Session one: global challenge|
Lewis T. Preston.
Like most of the organizations represented here today, the World Bank through its commitment to poverty reductionhas long been concerned about global hunger. Congressman Tony Hall's fast earlier this year gave renewed and dramatic attention to the issue and sparked the thinking that led to this event. I would like to take this opportunity to commend Congress man Hall on his efforts, and to say how delighted we are that he is here today.
Sense of Perspective.
This conference does not take place in isolation. There have been many other conferences that as you knowhave set ambitious hunger reduction objectives. The actual results, however again, as you know-have too often fallen short of those objectives. We must ensure that our words during the next several days are matched by our actions during the next several years. We need to be realistic and view this conference as a step toward a stronger international effort to address global hunger and as part of a continuing dialogue. That does not mean, of course, that we will necessarily agree on everything, but it is in everybody's interest to be open to different views and perspectives.
The World Bank has convened this conference, but it does not act alone. Hunger can only be effectively addressed through a partnership involving all those concerned. The governments and peoples who face the problem every day are ultimately-the key actors, but the United.
Nations organizations, donor agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and multilateral institutions also have important roles to play It is encouraging to see this partnership strongly represented here today.
Poverty and Hunger
Hunger in the midst of plenty is one of the most difficult development challenges of our time Aggregate food production continues to increase; yet hunger also continues to blight the lives of hundreds of millions of people.
Hunger is sometimes caused by drought, disease, or war, and a strong humanitarian response is always needed in those cases But the more widespread and deep-rooted form of hunger is caused by people having neither the capacity to produce food nor the income to pay for it Fundamentally, hunger is caused by poverty.
Broad Spectrum of Actions
If we want to reduce hunger effectively, we have to reduce poverty, and that requires a broad spectrum of actions, namely:
· Supporting government polices that encourage growth and employment for the poor and removing policies that discriminate against agriculture and peasant farmers
· Investing in people's capacities through education, health, family planning, and nutrition
· Implementing better agricultural technologies and research
· Focusing on the vital link between environmental sustainability and increased food production
· Expanding the participation of the poor in development through increased access to credit, land, and services.
The Bank, working with its partners, is deeply engaged in supporting these efforts, but recognizes that more needs to be done, both by the Bank and by its partners.
Complementary Action at the Grassroots Level
The discussion over the next few days ought to consider how we can complement our ongoing efforts and reach the poorest of the poor more directly.
Micro-level credit schemes, such as those undertaken by Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, the Badan Credit Bank of Indonesia, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, have proven to be highly effective at the grassroots; level. The basic idea behind these schemes is to help people help themselves by starting small scale income generation projects and businesses They are a particularly effective way of reaching women, thereby helping to improve the incomes and wellbeing of their children and families.
The World Bank is willing to work with its partners to expand effective micro-level credit schemes for the poorest of the poor, perhaps by joing other donors who might tee willing to take the lead in establishing a consultative mechanism that could focus not only on funding, but also on the dissemination of best practices.
In the meantime, the Bank is ready to make the concept action-oriented. The Grameen Trust, represented here today by its founder, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, has already initiated a program to provide seed capital to some thirty to forty micro credit schemes in various countries during the next five years. A number of donors have already contributed to this program, and I am pleased to announce that the Bank is also willing to contribute a US$2 million grant to help cover the Grameen Trust's startup needs. As you may know the Bank does not generally provide grants. We are prepared to make an exception in this case because the need is urgent and because, as indicated, we hope it might help to catalyze a broader response from the donor community.
Many other actions can end must tee taken to fight hunger, and I emphasized earlier the importance of embedding our efforts in the context of a broad poverty reduction strategy. The various organizations represented here have different comparative advantages, but we all share the same goal. More collaboration and a more regular, more open dialogue can help us to achieve it If this conference moves us further down that road, it will have served its purpose, and the millions who suffer in poverty and hunger will benefit.