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First day of food summit highlighted by papal plea, naked protesters

fighting for food

Summit 'declares war' on hunger

November 13, 1996
Web posted at: 9:00 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Richard Roth

ROME (CNN) -- As desperate refugees scrambled for food in Zaire, delegates from around the world convened Wednesday at the five-day United Nations World Food Summit to address the problem of global hunger.

"It is my hope that this world food summit will provide the occasion for a new and general mobilization against hunger," U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali said.


Delegates listened to a stirring plea from Pope John Paul II, who warned that the co-existence of poverty with luxury cannot be tolerated by humanity.

"It is often difficult to immediately find solutions to improve such dramatic situations speedily," the pope said. "However, this is something we must seek together."

The pope called for a sharing of resources by countries blessed with abundant food supplies.

"I think the pope was on target -- I think we have to move to close the gap between rich and poor, particularly with respect to self sufficiency and food," said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman.

"But the problems are tricky and tough, and the main answer to this is to teach people how to feed themselves."

naked & painted

Later, the U.S. agriculture secretary had a trick played on his delegation. Demonstrators took off their clothes to protest U.S. support for bio-engineering policies to produce more crops.

"I would like to spread organically produced seeds," said one naked man, as he tossed seeds on the panelists.

It was about the only protest to get by security on opening day. Rome's traffic was clogged as authorities cordoned off the conference site.

Inside, the summit attendees did something the recent global conferences weren't able to -- they agreed to a final text on the first day.


The declaration of action vows to cut in half the number of malnourished people by the year 2015. Delegates stated that everyone has a right to access to food. Currently, some 800 million people worldwide live with extreme hunger.

Despite the declaration of war on hunger, the document is legally non-binding. As is the custom with these U.N. summits, the guests will have to demonstrate the political will in order to achieve the lofty goals set.


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