Twenty Ninth Lecture - Josette Sheeran

Josette Sheeran

Twenty Ninth Lecture - July 29, 2008

“Confronting the Challenge of the Global Food Crisis in the Americas"

Speaker: Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Program

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, No region in the world better tells the story of progress made against hunger than the Americas.

Today, when we look across the ethnically diverse, economically dynamic and culturally rich nations of the Americas, we see how years of innovative leadership have helped stem the tide of hunger and poverty.

We look to countries like Chile, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Ecuador and others as examples of developing nations who are leading the world toward achieving the first Millennium Development goal to halve the proportion of people living in extreme hunger and poverty by 2015. In the 1980s - just 2 decades ago - I spent much time in Central America, when the region was wracked with violence, retribution, failing economies and human desperation. Today, nations like El Salvador, stand as a beacon of hope of the power of reconciliation, democracy and leadership to heal a nation.

We look at innovative programs like Brazil’s “Zero Hunger” initiative which sets a bold and achievable goal of eradicating hunger. President Lula has said, “where there is hunger there is no hope.” Through the initiative’s Bolsa Familia – the Family Grant Program – young mothers from among the most vulnerable populations in Brazil receive cash for food for their families. This program – thanks to President Lula’s vision and commitment – is providing hope to children and families across Brazil.

We see countries like Mexico who were once recipients of food aid, and are now donors, helping other nations in time of need.

And we see countries like the United States and Canada as models for the types of domestic safety net programs needed to fight hunger and secure nutrition among their citizens. They are also providing important leadership in helping defeat hunger in the region.

There is also progress on the economic front. In the Latin American and Caribbean region, we see a fourth straight year of economic growth above 5 percent. And throughout the region, we see countries with booming agricultural industries exporting food products worth some US$55 billion in 2006.

And we see democracy flourishing throughout the region. Amartya Sen has said: "No famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy." And many nations are leading the way to ensure that democracy is not just about the political elite, and a chance to fill out a ballot, but is about hope and opportunity for each and every citizen, regardless of class, race or ethnic background. This and this alone will ensure that democracy takes full root in the minds and souls of our citizens and fulfills it promise as a bulwark against human suffering.

Full Speech