In 1979, the Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, an agency of the United Nations, proclaimed an annual World Food Day to unite people in the struggle against hunger, poverty and malnutrition. Every year since 1981, the day has been observed by more than 150 nations on October 16th, the anniversary of the founding of the FAO. This year is the 30th observance of World Food Day. The theme is "United Against Hunger" in recognition of the work by governments, organizations and individuals.
In a famous speech in 1941, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt cited four essential human freedoms: the freedom from want, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom from fear. Two years later, during the darkest days of World War II, Roosevelt arranged a conference at Hot Springs, Virginia, where 44 nations committed to founding a permanent organization that would work to ensure the world's population would not want for food. The result was the FAO, established in 1945 as part of the newly chartered United Nations.
Today, in the United States, some 450 organizations sponsor projects to mark the day. A 20-year tradition at Colorado State University is Cans around the Oval, a campus-wide event that began with the aim of collecting enough canned food to encircle the central campus area known as the Oval. In 2009, more than 150 campus groups collected 90,000 pounds of food - enough to circle the Oval 45 times - and $27,000 in financial donations for local food banks.
Kids against Hunger, a Minnesota organization that enlists children to package food to send to hungry people in 40 countries, urges its 80 locations to hold World Food Day packaging events. The goal is for each participating center to package 100,000 meals.
The 30th anniversary of World Food Day is especially significant because in 2009 the world reached a tragic threshold. A record number - 1 billion people, almost one-sixth of the human race - were living in hunger in 2009.
To give people worldwide a chance to express moral outrage at the extent of hunger, the FAO launched a yearlong online petition drive. Visitors to social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are urged to log onto www.1billionhungry.org and sign a petition calling on governments to make elimination of hunger their top priority. The FAO expects to collect more than a million signatures by the close of the campaign at the end of November.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged Kosovo and Serbia to begin a dialogue that leads to the resolution of their differences, and expressed firm support for both Kosovo's sovereignty and Serbia's efforts to integrate with the European Union.
Clinton spoke with youth and civil society leaders October 13th in Pristina, Kosovo, where she said the International Court of Justice's July ruling in favor of Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia had "turned the page" toward wider international recognition of their country's sovereignty. But she also urged Kosovo to continue on its path of economic and political reforms, including the integration of Kosovar Serbs in the north of the country, and to begin a dialogue with Belgrade "as soon as possible."
The United States is working to make the EU-brokered talks between Kosovo and Serbia "a dialogue between equals," and it will play a role in designing the process so that Kosovars will have confidence that their views are being heard and respected by all sides, Clinton said.
Earlier, Clinton met with newly elected mayors of Serb-majority municipalities and visited the Serbian Orthodox Gracanica monastery. In remarks with Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi October 13th, she said the mayors are "pursuing a path of engagement and integration with the national government," which should be "commended and actively supported."
The secretary also met with Serbian President Boris Tadic in Belgrade October 12th and said afterward the United States is committed to working with Serbia as it moves toward greater partnership with the Euro-Atlantic community and strengthens its relations with its neighbors.
Although the Obama administration disagrees with Serbia's refusal to recognize Kosovo's independence, Clinton said the dialogue between the two countries can and will benefit people in Kosovo and Serbia by addressing practical, day-to-day issues and the long-term relationship" as well as improve Serbia's relationships in the region and the international community.
Expressing admiration for Serbia's progress over the past 10 years, Clinton said the United States "values Serbia as a country with not only a tremendous history, but more importantly a vast potential."
Ambassador Luis CdeBaca leads the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the U.S. State Department. He tells us now about how the problem of human trafficking in Africa is being successfully addressed through cooperative law enforcement and political leadership.
Ambassador Luis CdeBaca:
There's been some progress in West Africa on the issue of hereditary slavery, although it's slow in coming. As was reflected in last year's trafficking report, we've seen some people who have been ordered emancipated from their hereditary slave owners, who have received some money settlements. But at the end of the day, we're still talking about a practice, often with the Tuareg community, of controlling people whose families have been enslaved for 500-600 years by the same families. And so, we're working with Mali, Niger, Mauritania and other countries to try to change the cultural practice. But at the end of the day, we have to not only change the cultural practice, we also have to call upon the governments to impose the rule of law and to comply with Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says no person shall be held as a slave. At some point it stops being culture and it starts being a crime. And with slavery, that's not that hard of a decision to make.
We've seen a number of cases in Nigeria over the last year, and I think that we continue to see forward progress. One of the things that seems to be working in Nigeria, the fact that they set up the structure the way they did with police, social workers and prosecutors, not just working in concert, but actually being co-located. So they are colleagues. They expect them to be out doing cases. The ministerial-level working group supports them, so that they can actually go out and get them. So structurally, it's I think a model for most countries in the world as far as how would you set up a national and regional anti-trafficking field program. That was not always the case in Nigeria. Nigeria was well on its way to being on Tier 3 in the report; you know, plagued by, as it is in many circumstances, corruption, weak rule of law, other things that I think people are familiar with. But they worked with the American Bar Association, they worked with UNODC, they worked with us, they aggressively went out and found best practices, and by having this structure where you bring all those actors together and then expect something of them. You've seen successes. So it is something that I'd like to see replicated and scaled outside of just Nigeria. I don't think this is lightning only striking once. I think it's a model that really should be looked at for other countries.
Mauritius - very different scale. Mauritius, you know, is an island country also of Africa; they're the other Tier 1 country in Africa. And a very different legal structure. It's a former French colony, so it has a civil law background, as opposed to what we see in Nigeria, and yet the same thing. You had a country that was on Tier 2 Watchlist, stagnant, and the combination of political will and then a willingness to go out and find law enforcement models that would work there. The difference is, between the two, Mauritius is a more of a destination country, whereas Nigeria is more of a source country, and yet the Maruitians have really unpacked what their trafficking problem is. It's very easy, especially I think, for small island nations to look at the trafficking thing and think that it doesn't apply to them because the numbers are smaller. If you look at the 2009 report, the numbers, when you're talking about these small island countries, you're talking about clusters of victims, or dozens rather than hundreds. And yet, what we've seen is that every country has a responsibility under international law to address this.
For print versions of articles, multimedia, and subscription information, visit www.america.gov. This podcast ( http://stream.state.gov/streamvol/libmedia/usinfo/4770/weekly/2010_10_18_america_gov_weekly.mp3 ) is produced by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Information Programs. Links to other Internet sites or opinions expressed should not be considered an endorsement of other content and views.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)