We have enough food to end world hunger, says Bono

U2 singer used to ‘create a stir’ at Expo 15 in Milan and put pressure on states to donate

Bono and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi at Expo 2015 in Milan last night. Renzi acknowledged that Italy could provide more food aid and distribution. Photograph: Reuters/Alessandro Garofalo

Bono and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi at Expo 2015 in Milan last night. Renzi acknowledged that Italy could provide more food aid and distribution. Photograph: Reuters/Alessandro Garofalo

 

“These are big questions: can we face the problem of hunger in the world, can we fix the problem of poverty in the world, can we fix the problem of conflict in the world? With regard to the first two of those three, I can speak with confidence when I say yes, absolutely.

“There is already enough food in the world to feed the world. It is not the lack of food but rather the lack of will to distribute the food that is the problem”.

Bono was the speaker, and he uttered these sentiments at an Expo 2015 event in Milan last night, jointly organised by the Irish and Italian Ministers for Agriculture, Maurizio Martina and Simon Coveney.

In its five months, Expo 2015 will have seen nothing like last night’s crowds, excitement and occasional hysteria as the fans, patrons and tourists gathered to hear the U2 frontman, referred to by Coveney as the “most influential Irish person on the planet”.

Last night’s event, largely, the brainchild of the Irish Minister, was billed as the launch of a campaign to highlight world hunger.

On the platform with Bono were the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi; Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP); and Sudanese ambassador Amira Gornass, future chair of the UN FAO Committee on Food Security.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Coveney described the background to last night’s meeting.

“I was anxious that we try to do something big at Expo. Even if the Irish pavilion here has had a million visitors, the real theme of Expo is about feeding the world, particularly at this moment, when we face the challenges related to the mass movement of people in the Middle East and north Africa, across the Mediterranean and also into the Balkans.

“Feeding large numbers of people represents a really complex challenge.

Pressure

The Minister went on: “What we have tried to do is use the fame of Bono, bring him here, cause a stir and put pressure on [countries to donate]. Ireland is coming here with a big package, namely €60 million over the next three years for the WFP.”

Both Bono and Coveney said out that the WFP – “the world’s largest humanitarian aid organisation” – in effect relies on ad hoc donations, and that it currently feeds more than four million displaced Syrians.

Next winter, however, it may be forced to stop supplying food to up to 250,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan because it has simply run out of money.

“That is something that has to change, globally and collectively,” Coveney said, “and I hope that is the big message that will come out of this evening.”

For his part, the normally verbose Renzi was happy to take a back seat, expressing his thanks to Bono but adding that Italy could do much more.

Pope John Paul II

Renzi recalled Bono’s involvement in a Drop the Debt campaign back in the 1990s, when the singer famously plonked a pair of cool dude shades on Pope John Paul II during a meeting at Castelgandolfo.

Renzi said that the world has not made enough progress in dealing with hunger and debt since then.

The WFP’s Cousin was another to thank Bono for lending his name to the campaign, acknowledging that had it not been for his presence on stage, “all you young people out there” would not be here to hear about the issues.

She said simply that, for many, “without food there is no hope. For these people, a piece of bread is a feast from God. But when you have no hope, you take the desperate measure, you do whatever is required in order to feed your family.”

Cuts to programme

It was Bono, however, who best summed up the meaning of Sunday night’s conscience-raising event.

“To me it seems extraordinary that, in the middle of a refugee crisis, the WFP find themselves having to cut their programme in Jordan, where they are doing extraordinary work. That is politically unacceptable to everybody under this sky this evening.

“This is not good enough, and neither the Italian people nor the Irish people will have it.”