Food, or a lack of it, has been at the root of many of the pivotal moments in human history - from the French Revolution to the Peterloo massacre to the Irish famine.
2009 will also be a pivotal year. Food prices have dipped to 2007 levels after 12 months in which we have seen the world move from a food crisis to a fuel crisis to a financial crisis.
The recent report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation showed the dramatic increase in food prices last year pushed another 40 million people deeper into poverty and hunger across the globe.
Some of those affected rioted as basic commodities – like wheat – doubled in price. Over 30 countries started to restrict food exports. Such was the “silent tsunami” of the food price crisis.
Today 900 million people around the world still go hungry every day. With population growth set to continue, food security and agricultural development need to be at the top of our agenda in the years ahead.
The Food Security for All Conference in Madrid recently set the year off with an important message – there is the political will and collective commitment to tackling hunger and food vulnerability.
I commend the Spanish Government for the commitment they are showing to food security and poverty reduction for hosting this conference.
The meeting was critical as it reviewed progress against the commitments made at the Rome high level conference on food in June last year.
The Global Partnership for Agriculture and Food Security is a means for richer and poorer countries, international institutions, the private sector, NGOs and other development organisations to work together to achieve a comprehensive and coordinated international response to hunger in today’s world.
The 2008 food price crisis revealed the need for stronger international coordination and effort to make sure people can both access and afford the food they need.
The Global Partnership will deliver a serious and sustained doubling of efforts to tackle hunger and food insecurity. It will mean working together better at the global, regional and country level to boost agricultural production and reduce the vulnerability of the poor to future food price rises.
The Global Partnership also has an important monitoring role to ensure donors, developing countries and other partners are held to account for their promises.
The international landscape is changing. Our dependence on each other for financial, fuel and most of all food security is becoming increasingly evident. Global attention on the livelihoods and food security of the poorest families must and will continue to be a development priority in 2009.