WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The world has to act against hunger, which affects 13 percent of the population, if it wants to strengthen global security, a candidate to run the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation said on Tuesday.
Franz Fischler, an Austrian who is former EU agriculture commissioner, said during an interview the whipsaw effect of volatile food prices complicates the effort to expand local production and improve the welfare of subsistence farmers. Prices spiked in mid-2008, plunged in 2009 and hit a record high early this year.
World leaders set a goal in 2000 of halving the portion of the world population that suffers from hunger, reducing it to 7 percent. Some 13 percent are now undernourished, based on latest FAO figures, compared to roughly 14 percent when the goal was set.
“Food security is becoming more and more also an issue of national security,” said Fischler, pointing to unrest in food-short countries and its impact on neighbours.
FAO, with 3,600 workers, is one of three U.N. antihunger agencies. It specializes in longer-term food projects and collects data on agriculture, nutrition, commodities and sustainable development.
Fischler is considered in the leading tier of candidates to succeed FAO Director General Jacques Diouf, along with Jose Graziano da Silva, head of FAO in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Spain’s former Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos. Also running are Indonesia’s natural resources scientist Indroyono Soesilo, veteran Iranian diplomat Mohammad Saeid Noori Naeini and Iraq’s former water resources minister Abdul Latif Rasheed.
FAO’s 187 member nations will elect a new director general during a meeting in late June in Rome for a term lasting three-and-a-half years from January 2012. A second four-year term is allowed.
Complaints of poor management dimmed FAO’s stature in recent years. Some donors, such as the United States, initiated agricultural development projects of their own. FAO has adopted a package of reforms.
Reporting by Charles Abbott; Editing by Cynthia Osterman