New U.N. food chief says he’ll work to end hunger

Jose Graziano da Silva, the new director-general of the U.N. food agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization, said Tuesday his top priority is eliminating hunger, undernourishment and increasing food security.

Two days after taking office, Graziano da Silva, a Brazilian, said he personally has no time to lose, as his term in office will be only three-and-one-half years.

“FAO will scale up its support on a number of low-income food deficit countries, especially those facing prolonged crisis,” he said.

Nearly one billion people are estimated to suffer from chronic hunger, and many countries are far from achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing that number by 50 percent by 2015.

Graziano da Silva is the eighth person to head the organization since its establishment after World War II, succeeding Jacques Diouf of Senegal who held the post from 1994 to 2011.

“Africa will remain indeed a priority during my mandate, Graziano da Silva said. “I will travel to the continent at the end of January to participate in the African Union summit and visit the Horn of Africa to see the situation and the work being done and firsthand.”

The new Food and Agricultural Organization chief warned that difficult economic circumstances may lead to a reduction in funds for development. He said he would prepare for the organization’s regional conference that he said would be held early this year. Graziano da Silva laid out five strategic priorities:

“Eradicate hunger, move toward a more sustainable system of production and consumption, achieve greater fairness in the global management of food, complete FAO’s reform in pushing for decentralization, and expand south-south cooperation.”

He added that one of the organization’s main challenges is to be more efficient and responsive and promised to look for ways to strengthen the organization’s technical work and reduce administrative costs, while working closer with member countries, U.N. agencies, and the private sector.

Graziano da Silva made it clear that political will translated into action is needed to end hunger, and this requires the commitment of everyone. He said neither the organization nor any other agency or government will win this war alone.

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