Asia-Pacific Countries Lead on Zero Hunger Challenge Campaign

Attending the Launch of the Zero Hunger Campaign in Timor-Leste. Left to Right: H.R.H., Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand; H.E.  Mr. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister of Timor-Leste; Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of UN ESCAP and Special Adviser of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste. Photo Credit: UN ESCAP\Wilasluk Aurtaveekul

Introduction

Allow me to begin by expressing our sincere appreciation to Her Royal Highness for gracing this launch with her participation; and to our host, the President of the National Parliament, for providing us with such a prestigious location for this event.

I wish to also thank His Excellency, the Prime Minister, for his continuing support in championing the cause of the United Nations Zero Hunger campaign.

We are very proud to have the Prime Minister as the Chair of the 69th session of the ESCAP Commission. His Excellency was unanimously elected, after being nominated by India and seconded by Japan. He has shown leadership on inclusive and sustainable development and spearheaded the campaign on Zero Hunger.

His leadership is well-recognized at all levels of the United Nations family. In fact, I received a message yesterday afternoon from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Food Security and Nutrition, Mr. David Nabarro, congratulating the H.E. the Prime Minister, the Government of Timor-Leste, and the National Parliament for this important initiative and for their strong commitment to reducing hunger and improving food security.

Hunger is an unforgivable development failure. It is the single greatest obstacle to creating the inclusive, sustainable, and resilient future we want for all the people of Asia and the Pacific.

This is why the reduction of hunger and poverty was the first of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Working together, we have seen the proportion of the undernourished in Asia and the Pacific decline from almost 25% in 1990-92 to 13.5% in 2011-13.

As we celebrate the start of the new year, we are now less than 725 days to the deadline for achieving the MDGs. Our latest estimates show that, as a region, we can still achieve the MDG target, of reducing hunger by half, by 2015 with a redoubling of our efforts. But, even with these achievements, our region is still home to nearly two thirds of all chronic hunger, and the situation is worst in many of our least-developed countries and communities.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Zero Hunger Challenge Campaign

No level of chronic hunger is acceptable. This is why the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, initiated the Zero Hunger Challenge in June 2012, at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development. The campaign aims for:

• 100 per cent access to adequate food all year around.
• Zero stunted children in less than two years.
• Sustainable food systems.
• 100 per cent increase in smallholder productivity and income.
• Zero loss or waste of food.

The Asia-Pacific launch of the Zero Hunger Challenge was part of the ESCAP Commission session last year – presided over by His Excellency, Prime Minister Gusmão, in the presence of our member States, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, and the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands.

Since the launch, the United Nations agencies in Asia and the Pacific have produced a Guiding Framework for the Zero Hunger Challenge in our region. Unveiled in December, by FAO’s Regional Representative, Mr. Konuma, the Framework suggests a range of specific outcomes for each of the five campaign aims. It also offers guidance and support to our member States in preparing their own national action plans to reach the goal of Zero Hunger – because national-level actions are the only way we will meet this challenge.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Timor-Leste Takes the Lead on Zero Hunger

As the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Timor-Leste, I am very pleased and proud that the first national launch of the Zero Hunger campaign in Asia and the Pacific is being hosted here today in Dili. It is another demonstration of the Government’s commitment to addressing the urgent challenges of hunger in Timor-Leste.

It is clear that the nutritional gaps of the Timorese people are due, in large part, to the legacies of colonial and occupational rule, and these are compounded by the current global economic turbulence and volatility in food and fuel prices.

It is equally clear however that the Government is determined to make hunger history. Actions to implement the National Nutrition Strategy, and the 2010 Comoro Declaration Against Hunger and Malnutrition, have already begun to bear fruit, as the results of the Study on Malnutrition in Timor-Leste have shown.

According to these results, malnutrition rates have been reduced by 6.6%, from about 44.7% in 2010 to 38.1% in 2013, with chronic malnutrition in children younger than 23 months reduced from 49% to 38% in the same period. Much work remains however, as more than 50% of Timorese under-five children (or almost 100,000 children) are still stunted according to UNICEF.

The launch today of the Zero Hunger Challenge in Timor-Leste will be part of building on the progress which has already been made, and accelerating food and nutrition security, especially for women, children, and the poorest Timorese communities.

Global strategies need to be translated into effective actions adapted to the situation of each country. The United Nations Country Team in Timor-Leste will support the efforts of the Government in this area, proposing interventions and policies which address immediate and underlying causes of malnutrition and food insecurity.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Conclusion

In conclusion, ending hunger in our lifetime is possible – but requires us to improve food systems, promote food sustainability, and ensure economic, social, and physical access to food for all.

Let us together show that hunger can be beaten – and that developing countries across Asia and the Pacific, with the support of their development partners, civil society, and communities, can take the lead in making hunger history.

I thank you.