President Michael D. Higgins opened the Hunger-Nutrition-Climate Justice conference at Dublin Castle and said that hunger is the grossest of human rights violations and the greatest ethical challenge facing the world. Former president Mary Robinson will address the conference on hunger and climate change on April 16.
Opening the conference, Higgins said, “The source of this hunger is not a lack of food, but the moral affront of poverty, created and sustained by gross inequalities around the world.”
“What is required is a robust regulatory framework which protects our fragile and threatened environment and which respects the rights of small landholders to remain on their land and retain access to water resources.”
Speaking to 350 delegates from 60 different countries, including former vice president Al Gore, Higgins praised the Irish government’s initiatives on hunger and nutrition and lauded similar work done by Irish Aid and Non-government organizations.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore spoke at the conference on the same day about the need for communities to work together. He said, “We live in a world of plenty, but one which is reaching its environmental limits. And we are struggling to feed a rapidly growing population under a changing climate.”
He added, “The effects of climate change on the agriculture and the production of food represents only part of the picture.”
Before the conference, Robinson, president of the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice, urged people to listen to the experiences of vulnerable communities around the world. She said that people from these communities can show from first hand experiences the connection between climate change and hunger. She will address the conference on April 16. About 100 farmers from communities in Africa, Asia and Central America will also speak at the conference.
Robinson said, “The links between hunger, undernutrition and climate change are clear to see once we listen to the experiences of the poorest and the most vulnerable people, who battle through unpredictable weather patterns in their struggle to feed their families. With crops destroyed, food prices surge, pushing millions into poverty and hunger,”
The conference seeks to answer how traditional farming combined with modern science can fight hunger, improve nutrition and adapt to unpredictable weather patterns. Robinson said, “I hope what policy makers hear and learn at this conference can help them to play their part in shaping a new development agenda.”
Ireland spends 20 percent of its overseas aid budget to fight hunger by improving the productivity of smallholder farmers.