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U.S. ambassador and RPCV Tony Hall: Challenges and Opportunities in World Food Security
U.S. ambassador and RPCV Tony Hall: Challenges and Opportunities in World Food Security
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES IN WORLD FOOD SECURITY:
THE UNIVERSITY CONNECTION
President Karen Holbrook's Investiture Series: Connections
Ohio State University
College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Address by Tony Hall,
US Ambassador to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture
Thursday, April 17, 2003
Thank you, Madam President. Distinguished members of the Board, the faculty, the student body, and to my many Ohio friends - I say thank you. And, to President Holbrook, my warmest congratulations to you as you lead this great School into an era bursting with both challenges and opportunities. Congratulations as well to the national champion Buckeyes. I was excited and proud when I watched the championship game in Rome and had to explain to my colleagues my connection with the American college football champions.
It is of course a special honor for me to join you today from Rome, and to try to make a contribution to President Holbrook's Investiture theme of "Connections." It is a topic of immense relevance to our lives. I hope I may be able to add some value for you on the international aspect of this theme.
Indeed, my message to you today may remind you that our international connectedness is much closer, and in some instances more disturbing than you had realized. I further hope it will remind you what a supreme challenge we now have before us on global hunger, and what a significant role this community - Ohio State - is playing in meeting that challenge.
Being posted overseas, I do not often have an opportunity to engage with critical audiences at home. Your invitation, however, was compelling for several reasons. First, it is like being home. I hope you know how much your friendship and warm hospitality have meant to me over the years on so many occasions.
Next, my invitation letter from Vice President Bobby Moser observed "We neglect global food and poverty issues to our own detriment." To me that means you understand the significance of your partnership with the developing world. It is a partnership that should be encouraged.
Of course there is another reason I wanted to participate today. Among our nation's universities, Ohio State has one of the richest and most valued histories of contribution to both national and global food security. Yours was a dialogue I wanted to join. Your College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is indeed one of the premier research institutions in America - a "Point of Pride" by any standard.
You also have a long association with the United Nations system on hunger issues. The work going on here in your agricultural research facilities is among the most important anywhere. Your development of new technologies is critical. It will help answer the question why each year we are losing six million of our children under the age of five from night blindness, acute malnutrition, chronic anemia and other preventable diseases. Yes, indeed, Ohio State is at the forefront of our national commitment to alleviate world hunger. God bless you for the work you are doing.
MY PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE AND COMMITMENT
I see many old friends here today who already know my Congressional career as your neighbor in Dayton. And, after such a full and generous introduction, the rest of you now also appreciate that my life's work largely has been directed toward trying to do something about global hunger.
Since I have only recently arrived at my diplomatic post, I thought I might just give you a sense what I see on the screen. Then perhaps we can have a discussion. Let me begin by telling you about our work in Rome. Our US Mission is small - a dozen people - but it could not have a more noble purpose. It is reflected in our slogan: "Putting into action America's commitment to alleviate hunger and build hope in the world". This is a tall order, but one that we take seriously.
After President Bush had appointed me last summer, he called me. He said he wanted me to come talk with him about the problems in the developing world. He wanted my thoughts on what we could do about it. During our discussion the President charged me with essentially a three part mandate, or mission:
1) Find the most urgent pockets of hunger and poverty and draw attention to them so America can respond,
2) Let the world community know what a generous and compassionate people we are,
3) Insure that these UN Agencies are well managed and accountable, because what they deliver in many cases makes the difference in life and death
I promised the President that I would be true to this mission. Let me add that given my lifelong advocacy on global hunger, I was both inspired by the President's challenge, and comforted with what he has asked me to do.
OVERVIEW OF ROME AGENCIES
Let me say a word about our Mission in Rome and its role within the UN System. Rome is indeed the center of International efforts to promote sustainable agricultural development and to combat world hunger. Our Post - the US Mission to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture - is the "link" between these Rome-based international organizations, and the US agencies which collaborate with them. State, USAID and USDA are most prominent. Our Mission's focus is on such issues as emergency food aid, food safety standards, plant protection, fair trade, sustainable agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development.
As the American Ambassador, I am accredited to these three so-called "Food" or "Hunger" Agencies. I should just mention their mandates under the UN. First, because they are critically important to US policy interest, and, second, because frankly they are not well understood by the people who support them.
The oldest, beginning in 1945 at the time the UN was coming into being, is the Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO. It is the largest of all UN specialized agencies, with 180 member countries. Its purpose is "to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, to improve agricultural productivity, and to better the condition of rural populations."
What does FAO do that is important to our country? It oversees international standard setting for food safety and plant protection; it promotes fair agricultural trade; it is a forum for international technical meetings on world hunger issues; it collaborates with other bodies - such as WTO and the World Bank - on technical assistance and capacity building to raise standards of living in developing countries. Another reason you should care is that you - America's taxpayers - cover 22% of the FAO's regular budget.
Next, the World Food Program, whose founding dates back to 1963. It is the UN's frontline agency - the 101st Airborne - in the fight against global hunger. In 2001, WFP fed 77 million people in 82 countries, including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people. I should add that it is a mark of the esteem WFP enjoys that about 36% of all global food aid is programmed through this agency. And, of all food donated to WFP, I am proud to report that the US contributes about 60% of the total. Historically, we have contributed between a half and two-thirds of their voluntary budget.
There are two other special features you should know about WFP. In both their policies and their practices, WFP has a special sensitivity to the critical role of women in food security at the local level. In both its emergency operations and in its development programs, women are on the top of its priority list. Among other reasons, experience shows us that in the hands of women, food aid is far more likely to reach the mouths of needy children.
The second feature is school feeding. The school lunch program in our Country has been an unquestioned success and an article of faith for half a century. We have come to understand the critical link between adequate nutrition and the ability of children to learn. In the developing world, however, this important concept is just taking root, but with some encouraging results. In 2001, WFP fed over 15 million children in schools in 57 countries.
Moreover, WFP requires that girls be included in school meal programs. Why is this important? Because in all of humanity, the hammer of discrimination strikes hardest on young girls in developing countries. They are the most excluded, the most left behind, and the most malnourished.
The results of these school feeding programs, and particularly for girls, are dramatic. We have seen improvements in nutrition and health, class attendance, social acceptance, family cohesion, pregnancy rates and almost all other indicators. Our government strongly supports these initiatives, especially through the George McGovern-Bob Dole Food for Education Initiative. They reaffirm our deep commitment to help poor countries build more productive and self-reliant societies.
IFAD is the third agency, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, which grew out of the World Food Conference of 1974. With a mission to work towards "enabling the rural poor to overcome their poverty" IFAD essentially finances agricultural development projects primarily for food production in developing countries. It also initiates income-generating activities to support the landless poor. Remember, when you look at global poverty - about 80% is in rural areas, and agricultural lending has fallen dramatically in recent years. So, although IFAD is one of our smallest UN agencies, its importance lies in the fact that last year it provided nearly half as much agricultural lending as did the entire World Bank.
THE CONDITION OF GLOBAL HUNGER
So what is the condition of world hunger? How great is our challenge today? I regret that I must report to you that the situation is staggering - almost beyond words. And - given the unrelenting pressure from the root causes - conditions in many places are getting worse.
Last summer the World Food Summit: Five Years Later met in Rome. At that time the United Nations estimated that there were about 840 million hungry people in the world. It is particularly discouraging is that this number is not much lower than when an earlier World Food Summit met in 1996. True, there have been some notable success stories, brought about by more enlightened government policies and the "green revolution". China and India are prominent examples.
But, at the same time other areas of our world - notably sub-Saharan Africa - have been marked by deepening hunger and despair. USDA's Economic Research Service calculates it this way: in 2000 Africa had 44% of the world's hungry; if present trends continue, the number may be 73% by the year 2015. Most of the reasons for this I will touch on later. But I would say here that Rockefeller Foundation President, Gordon Conway, has done an incisive analysis of Africa's plight, in an address at the Woodrow Wilson Center on March 12. It is well worth your attention.
Although Summit delegates from 180 countries - including about 75 Heads of State or Government - reaffirmed the pledge to work to reduce this number to 400 million by 2015, a survey of all the obstacles to global food security brings us quickly to the sobering reality that new commitments, new approaches, and new tools are needed to achieve the progress we have promised.
To better appreciate the magnitude of our challenge, let me cite just one country - Ethiopia. I wish all of you could have witnessed what I experienced on our emergency mission there in February. I was the first Member of Congress to travel in the rural Ethiopian highlands in the Great Famine of 1984 that claimed one million victims. I thought I had seen it all. But this year, I saw an Ethiopia once again faced with famine, with more than 11 million drought victims, requiring about 1.4 million tons of food assistance. My good friend, Congressman Frank Wolf, who also visited Ethiopia recently, strongly concurs.
I was stunned by the sheer numbers of acutely malnourished children. The scenes at feeding cites were ones of despair and tragedy. Mothers had nothing to offer their dying children. You can never really erase from your mind the pleas of desperation, as when you hear a woman say: "Take a good look at us. We're not going to be around in three months." The compassion of the American people for Ethiopia's acute hunger was shown in the release last month of 200,000 tons of wheat from the Emerson Humanitarian Trust, with a total US commitment that will approach one million tons of food.
On Ethiopia, please permit me a personal moment. While we were there, a monument was dedicated honoring the late Mickey Leland and others who died tragically with him on a humanitarian mission to a remote area of western Ethiopia in 1989. Mickey and I served together for a number of years on the House Select Committee on Hunger where he worked tirelessly to make others' lives better. And while Mickey traveled all over the world to assist the hungry poor, he had a special love for Ethiopia. He remains for me, and for all who knew him, a living example of the deep compassion and generosity of America. We will never forget you, Mickey. God bless you.
Let me give you another example of our global challenge. In spite of its substantial progress, one country alone - India - accounts still for one fourth - yes, 25% - of all world hunger. It is particularly ironic that there would be 200 million hungry in a country that currently has a surplus of 48 million metric tons of grain - mostly wheat. In fact, as the World Food Program has observed, there is enough food in the world to feed everyone. But as we see in the case of India, access to food is as important as availability of food. Because whatever the reasons, the result of food deprivation is the same - malnutrition and starvation. And with it of course comes greater social, political and economic instability.
GLOBAL CHILD MALNUTRITION
The overall state of malnutrition in the world is concerning enough. However, when we look at child malnutrition, it is nothing less than alarming, with one out of every three children affected. Here is a snapshot given to me this month by our Food and Nutrition Service and the UN - FAO, UNICEF and WHO:
Of the 840 million hungry, more than 450 million are children
* Some 67 million children are said to be "wasted," or below the weight they should be for their height
* Vitamin A deficiency leads to 500,000 cases of child blindness each year
* Vitamin A deficiency also puts 85 million children at risk for acute respiratory disease and related infections
* 60 million school-age children suffer from iodine deficiency disorders, retarding physical growth and mental development
* 210 million children suffer from iron deficiency, causing fatigue and breathlessness
THE CAUSES OF WORLD FOOD INSECURITY
Why do we have such a disheartening picture of the world? In Rome, our UN Agencies devote much energy analyzing the root causes of global hunger, with the assumption that better understanding allows more effective policy responses. While some of the causal reasons are not so obvious, on others there is really little mystery. Here, I will just give you a capsule of those issues usually identified in our debates. And, I also want to draw your special attention to one particularly menacing cause of food insecurity just beginning to be understood.
Without question, much of the world's suffering could be eased with more responsible and accountable governments, or - as we say in the UN - enabling environments. Imagine a world where citizens of every country had basic rights of empowerment. A free press with an enlightened electorate, an independent judiciary, and a sharing of power as we know it. Or one where every government had a fundamental respect for human rights, an inclination and capacity to have viable programs in childhood nutrition including school feeding, AIDS education, and agricultural development. Or a forward looking environmental policy.
Regarding good governance, we are encouraged with the potential for the New Economic Partnership for African Development, or NEPAD. It is an Africa-initiated program in which its leaders have promised to combine democracy and sound economic policies.
Civil wars should be mentioned. They are prevalent in many parts of the globe, and rob societies of those resources needed for education and nutrition, destroy infrastructure, disrupt agricultural development, and degrade the environment.
I should also include the particularly vicious cycle of poverty and hunger. We have learned that poverty is both a cause and an effect of hunger. Those too weak from malnutrition have little chance to make life better for their families and little hope for the future.
One of the cruelest causes of hunger - as I noted earlier - is the pervasive discrimination against women and children in many parts of the world. It takes many invidious forms related to inheritance rights, land tenure, employment opportunities, exclusion from education systems, and exclusion from nutrition programs. In fact, UNICEF tells us that in countries where women and girls do not have the right to an education and in which women are kept in servitude, child malnutrition rates and infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world.
Environmental degradation is one of the principal causes the world is so hungry. Again, take Ethiopia. Just three generations ago, this country - known for its breathtaking natural beauty - was about 50% covered with forests; today that number is perhaps 5%. The agronomists, foresters, and soil conservationists here today can speak more eloquently than I of the costs of this tragedy.
Liberalizing trading systems and developing the capacity of poor countries to join world trade regimes is also important in this equation. The potential here to alleviate hunger and lift people up is the subject of much collaboration among UN agencies, the WTO and the World Bank. In fact, the Bank issued a report recently concluding that of the 800 million hungry in the world, trade liberalization alone could bring 300 million out of poverty. The US remains strongly committed to successful conclusion of the WTO's Doha Development Agenda.
While we cannot prevent natural disasters - hurricanes, floods, and drought - as a cause of global food insecurity, we can and do try to respond as effectively as possible. These emergencies occur in every part of the world, and I would just say here that the WFP has a well-deserved reputation for responding effectively to them.
A SPECIAL WORD ABOUT HIV/AIDS
There is a new and important dimension in our international understanding of the root causes of global food insecurity. It regards HIV/AIDS. This scourge was for years treated by international organizations, and by governments, as a "health" issue, or a "social" issue, and therefore it was left to other institutions to deal with this disease. In fact people still say to me, "Tony why are you so concerned about AIDS? I thought your mandate was on world hunger?"
Let me answer that question today: By every analysis, AIDS is in the first rank among the causes of world hunger. More than that, in many places in the developing world there is no greater single cause of food insecurity than AIDS. My recent missions to Ethiopia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi - all of which are among the highest HIV-infected country populations - confirmed this grim reality for me beyond any doubt.
The global statistics are alarming:
* Since 1985, just in sub-Saharan Africa, more than 7 million farmers and agricultural workers have died of AIDS (accounting for an estimated 14 million person years of agricultural labor lost)
* Ethiopia, a predominantly rural and agricultural country, has more than one million AIDS orphans today (with a quarter million children under five AIDS positive)
* In South Africa, four of every ten adults now die of AIDS
* In Zimbabwe, the prevalence rate in rural areas equals that of urban areas; 32% of adults are HIV positive
AIDS is devastating in its impact. Its impact on the agricultural labor force; on adults' ability to prepare food for children; on lost farming skills handed down from one generation to the next; on family incomes; on women and their legal right to land; on the loss of biodiversity of crop varieties; and on diminished nutrition. On this last point, some have observed that the first medicine for AIDS is good nutrition. While it cannot cure or prevent the disease, a nutritious diet can make the immune system healthier, which is so necessary for improving the quality of living.
Make no mistake: HIV/AIDS is a global food security issue. And that is the reason our country is determined to deal with this crisis at so many different levels, both bilaterally and multilaterally. The US recently committed an additional $500 million to the global fund to fight AIDS [confirm]. While AIDS was not even mentioned at the '96 Summit, I am encouraged that FAO has started taking this issue seriously. Our further challenge to FAO is to use its considerable influence to gain political commitments of governments, and to be a primary catalyst for collaboration among UN Agencies and other institutions. There is no greater obstacle today to world food security. Whenever and wherever FAO has a forum on the causes of world hunger, we believe HIV/AIDS should be on the agenda.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES: THEIR IMPORTANCE TO WORLD FOOD SECURITY
We are all challenged to do our part in the fight against global hunger, and for those of you in such disciplines as agricultural research and food sciences, it is particularly important that you continue - even redouble - your good efforts. You are examining new technologies, which may provide answers for children in Mongolia and Botswana who are anxiously waiting for our help, with open hands and empty stomachs.
Ohio State's work is highly acclaimed on a broad range of scientific endeavor. You enjoy success in areas like integrated pest management, seed biology, plant breeding and genetic engineering. And, some of these more traditional practices are being joined by innovative important frontiers of newer aspects of biotechnology, such as work with tissue culture, genetic markers, genomics and proteomics. The experts advise me that these new fields of research hold enormous potential to enhance food security in the developing world.
In this context, I want to call your attention to a significant event that will take place in Sacramento in late June. It is a bold initiative to support the US commitment to strengthening global food security. Our Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman, is hosting a Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology. Ministers will gather from all over the world to focus on the needs of developing countries in adopting new food and agricultural technologies. There will be a particular emphasis on broadening participants' knowledge and understanding of relevant new technologies, including biotechnology.
I commend the Secretary - and her co-sponsors at State and USAID - for what I believe to be a visionary and creative approach to responding to world hunger. I urge all of you to follow the progress of this Conference. I would expect that Ohio State - with one of the nation's most respected research institutions - will be participating in this important forum.
New technologies - particularly agricultural biotechnology - to enhance global food security, hold a great deal of promise. FAO recognizes biotechnology and other new technologies as powerful tools in the alleviation of global hunger and continually monitors worldwide developments on their potential benefits. Here are a few of the more exciting prospects. Some of course are very close to home:
* The very significant work of Ohio State with transgenic cassava to reduce cyanide toxicity has extraordinary implications for the hungriest children in sub-Saharan Africa. They often depend on this commodity to stay alive.
* Current activity at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines to develop "Golden Rice". The prospect that the staple food for more than half the world's population might be significantly enriched with vitamin A and iron is especially encouraging.
* The research activity in Uganda and neighboring countries to strengthen the nutritional content and disease resistance with important regional staples such as bananas, plantains, and yams.
* The current research in China to develop animal feeds containing vaccines effective in preventing a range of livestock diseases.
* To boost incomes for poor African farmers hurt by post harvest deterioration, successful biotech initiatives to achieve delayed ripening for such important local commodities as tomatoes, papayas and mangoes.
* The effective collaboration between FAO and the International Atomic Energy Agency using irradiation technology to eradicate the tsetse fly on the Island of Zanzibar, and control the Medfly in California. These successes have enormous food security implications.
* The current research on transgenic crops to produce plant derived vaccines against the more virulent diseases of the poor, such as cholera, malaria, and hepatitis B.
* The promising work of the CGIARS, Rockefeller Foundation and others on principal food crops such as rice and wheat, to increase their resistance to drought, salinity and other forms of abiotic stress.
BIOTECHNOLOGY: MYTHS, REALITIES, AND SCIENCE
Let me now focus on for a few minutes, and give you my view from Rome on Agricultural biotechnology and its role in world food security. There is no issue I deal with on a day-to-day basis so critically important as biotech, and yet so deeply misunderstood. It swirls with controversy and confusion. In the public arena, the debate seems to bring in not only science, but politics and political solidarity, religion, trade, animal welfare, ethics, the environment and other issues.
I am - as you might expect - a strong and vocal proponent of a science-based policy on agricultural biotechnology. Such a policy is critically important to our nation's humanitarian mandate, as well as to the viability of our commercial agricultural export markets. For my stand on this question, I am challenged, I am occasionally excoriated, I am called unmentionable names. That part does not bother me. I have been in politics a long time. I can take the heat.
But let me tell you what does bother me - a lot. It bothers me that this widespread - and often intentional - misinformation and confusion about biotech can have and has had some tragic consequences. The recent southern Africa food aid crisis, with famine hovering, and with some 14 million people at risk of starvation, is perhaps the best example of what I mean.
You may recall that last summer governments in some countries refused to accept safe and wholesome US-sourced biotech corn being delivered by the World Food Program. Governments were actually blocking these deliveries of emergency food relief while their citizens were starving. Why? Because of confusion and misunderstanding about the safety and economic impact of these foods, based on repeated, longstanding, misinformation. In some cases the government officials were well intentioned but not well informed, which gives an added dimension to the tragedy.
These charges and misstatements continue to come up in UN Forums, with my diplomatic counterparts, in the international - especially European - media, and in my own mail. So, I thought I might just take a few minutes and - as they say in Washington - set the public record straight. Here are some of the "myths" and the "realities" of our biotech foods. My staff and I get many questions, but these are the ones we hear most often voiced:
1) Why do you try to give these "GM foods" to starving people in Africa when you will not eat them in the United States?
Reality: The food we send to southern Africa - or anywhere else - as food aid is the same food eaten by Americans every day. In fact, more than ¾ of our soybean crop and 38% of our corn crop are now biotech. So whether it is corn-on-the-cob, soy sauce, canola cooking oil or Fritos, we have been consuming bio-engineered foods regularly since 1996 - and, I should add, with no ill effects. WFP estimates that tens of millions of beneficiaries have safely consumed these GM foods through their Program.
2) Why do you try to include in your agricultural trade or food donations these biotech foods that have not been adequately tested for safety?
Reality: Foods that come from commercially produced bio-engineered crops in the US have met rigorous food safety standards - in fact, the most rigorous in the world. The scientific safety assessments are exhaustive, and include examining for allergenicity, toxicity, and nutritional content. All of the scientific evidence has concluded that these foods are as safe as their conventional counterparts. That impressive conclusion was not only agreed to by our own National Academy of Sciences, but also most recently by the European Commission and both the French Academies of Science and Medicine.
I should add, moreover, that our scientific risk analysis guidelines are consistent with those of Codex, the highly respected international food safety standard setting body, overseen by FAO and WHO. The key point we try to make in Rome is to remind the skeptics that - like Codex - our own agencies, USDA, FDA and EPA, employ a science-based risk analysis framework. This analysis - at every stage - is cautious and "science-based". Not based on a politically motivated "precautionary principle"; not on hysteria; not on rumor; and not on poll numbers - but on sound science.
3) Isn't it true that, rather than being an advocate for the hungry, you are really an advocate for multinational companies and the biotech industry?
Reality: This is a particularly unfortunate notion, because - aside from its being misinformed - it shows a failure to understand the critically important role of collaborative agricultural research. These cooperative initiatives among our great Land Grant Colleges, the CGIAR Centers, and Corporate and other private foundations deserve much of the credit for the answers we are finding on crop production and nutrition problems. The viability of this work is a key part of the equation for building capacity and strengthening food security in poor countries.
For instance, as I mentioned, public research is ongoing to improve staple crops such as cassava, potato, and rice with enhanced pest resistance, tolerance to environmental stress or nutritional characteristics. And a classic example is the work Ohio State is undertaking in collaboration with CYMMYT - one of the international agricultural research centers. Your research in Kenya and Uganda on Quality Protein Maize - or QPM - to enhance nutritional content, and related work on multiple disease resistance, is desperately needed in a sub-Continent where, according to FAO, one in seven children will die of hunger and malnutrition before reaching the age of five.
4) If you are really concerned about hungry people in Africa, and since some countries object to GM commodities, why don't you just send them non-GM corn and soybeans?
Reality: What the US sends, both to our commercial trading partners and to beneficiaries through the UN, are safe and wholesome foods that have been rigorously tested through independent scientific assessment. The same foods we eat. Therefore, since there is no health risk different from traditional foods, we do not believe a misunderstanding our food safety regime is justification for burdening our own industry with the costs and delays, which would result from segregating these commodities.
Let me sum it up this way. If I were a newspaper editor there are two headline stories on the heart of the matter in this issue. These two points I ask our critics to remember:
* All scientific evidence concludes that these approved bio-engineered foods are as safe their conventional counterparts
* In years of approving and monitoring UN food aid flows, the UN has never - repeat never - received a single negative health report on any beneficiary consuming GM foods, and there have been tens of millions.
Let me close by putting the issue of world food security in its most human terms. Since I began speaking nearly 45 minutes ago, about 550 children throughout the world have died from hunger. That's the best estimate of the United Nations. This should not be happening.
Although we each have a different role, the fight against global hunger and poverty is for all of us. Not only are our governments and other institutions challenged to recommit ourselves to this purpose, but as individuals - those who make up our institutions - we also must reach inside ourselves to respond with our own talents.
I do not know the personal faith of everyone in this room. But I do know this.
Whatever your faith may be, I am sure that reaching out to those who need your help is one of its cornerstones.
The poet has reminded us that, "no man is an island". So when that bell tolls somewhere in the world - as it does - every five seconds for another child lost to hunger, we remember that the bell is also about us as well.
To President Holbrook, thank you. Thank you for convening a forum that allows us to examine a question of the greatest urgency: What is our connection with a world where half of our people still live on $2 a day and where one of every three children is affected by malnutrition?
As I thank you, I also want to challenge you. I challenge Ohio State to redouble your outstanding efforts in collaborative scientific research with the UN and other institutions toward realizing "our national commitment to alleviate hunger and build hope in the world."
When we think of a dying mother and her starving child in Ethiopia, and what our connection is, perhaps our President put the issue in its truest perspective. In announcing our Monterrey commitment last year, he said: "We cannot leave behind half of humanity as we seek a better future for ourselves. We cannot accept permanent poverty in a world of progress. There are no second class citizens in the human race."
Thank you for inviting me to be with you today. Thank you for caring. Thank you for being involved. And, thank you for joining in the noble purpose we are all about. We have much work to do.
| This Month's Issue: August 2004|
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?
Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."
In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.