World hunger is ‘great failure of contemporary life’ - Higgins

President tells UN gathering extreme undernutrition is caused by ‘endemic poverty’

President Michael D Higgins, sitting next to Brazilian footballer Kaká, said the elimination of hunger “in our lifetimes” is a “powerful idea”.

President Michael D Higgins, sitting next to Brazilian footballer Kaká, said the elimination of hunger “in our lifetimes” is a “powerful idea”.

 

Extreme hunger is one of the “greatest failures of contemporary life” and an indictment of global polices, President Michael D Higgins has told a gathering at the United Nations.

The President said world hunger – which he said is caused by “endemic poverty” – can be eliminated in our lifetimes.

Mr Higgins was participating in a session called Mobilising Generation Zero Hunger at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Others taking part in the session included Brazilian footballer Kaká.

The assembly saw 193 world leaders commit to 17 Sustainable Development Goals designed to end extreme poverty and hunger, fight inequality and injustice, and combat climate change by 2030.

The President said the elimination of hunger “in our lifetimes” is a “powerful idea”.

“We believe that the source of hunger is not a lack of food, it is in endemic poverty that is sourced in injustice, sustained and deepened by inequality – an inequality that we can have the capacity to address if we build the political will required for a new departure in our global interdependence,” he said.

“This is one of the greatest failures of contemporary life and it indicts our global policies and actions.”

He said Ireland has placed “the fight to end hunger” and undernutrition at the centre of its foreign policy.

“One-fifth of Ireland’s development co-operation budget is directed to hunger reduction and scaling up nutrition. We do this not simply because we remember our own past, but because we feel that none of us should ignore the tragedy that is famine for a people.

“We believe that it is simply unacceptable that 800 million people are hungry in a world of plenty.

“Under-nutrition causes almost half of all child deaths in the world today; on the other hand good nutrition can unlock healthy lives enabling productive work forces to emerge and, above all, maximise the potential of our youth and release their personal and social flourishing as citizens.”

Family farms

Retaining younger people on the land and ensuring family farms have use of proper skills are key to achieving the goal of eliminating hunger, he said.

“Family farms use the skills of all family members to assist in the development of their farm enterprise, but young farmers can play a leading role in the changes and innovation in land use that will be essential to meet the needs of sustainable agriculture, as they often hold the necessary reservoir of the skills, gained through education and training, and innovation.”

The involvement of young women in business and farming decisions can also lead to innovation and diversification, the President added.

“At the level of policy too, our young farmers and researchers, informed and empowered with knowledge about the combined challenges of nutrition and sustainability, will lead the critical work of raising global ambition on issues such as climate change.”