Get Adobe Flash player

Daily Archives: May 6, 2008

Senegal president says UN food agency should be scrapped

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has called for the main UN food agency to be scrapped saying it is a "waste of money."
The Food and Agriculture Organisation made no comment yesterday to the comments by the outspoken Senegalese leader that the agency was also to blame for the global food price rise crisis.
The FAO is headed by a Senegalese, Jacques Diouf, but Wade said it was a "waste of money largely spent on doing very little for effective operations on the ground."
Speaking of food price rises which have sparked unrest in several countries, Wade said: "The current situation is largely its failure and the cries of alarm will not help at all."
Nick Parsons, a spokesman for the Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome, told AFP Monday: "As an organisation we have no comment at all."
Parsons was unable to say whether the FAO director general would comment later.
Wade said he had long campaigned for the Rome-based body to be relocated in the world's poorest continent Africa, wracked by food shortages and hunger.
"This time, I'm going further, we must scrap it," he said, saying the agency's work was being "duplicated by others, apparently more efficiently."
The Senegalese leader said several initiatives had been launched after the world suddenly woke up to the food crisis but even these showed the "progressive marginalisation" of the FAO.
He said the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which combats rural hunger and poverty in developing countries through low-interest loans and direct assistance, "could become the new world agricultural assistance fund with its headquarters in Africa."
FAO chief Diouf had recently called for a revamp of the UN system and bemoaned the competing politics of different international organisations for spiking the implementation of FAO policies.
The FAO was the subject of a damning report last year by an independent panel following a three-year review.
The report, commissioned by the UN body, said: "FAO is today on the brink. If the current muddle-through strategy … is continued, the result will be increasingly rapid decline."
It said: "The challenge is to re-invent it before it fades into insignificance."
In November, the UN food agency's 189 member states approved a 13 percent budget increase which Diouf said would help the organisation carry out "urgent" reforms.
The FAO has an annual budget of 433 million dollars and employs more than 3,000 people.
Global food prices have nearly doubled in three years, according to the World Bank, sparking riots last month in Egypt and Haiti, protests in other countries and restrictions on food exports from Brazil, Vietnam, India and Egypt.
Rising use of biofuels, trade restrictions, increased demand from Asia to serve changing diets, poor harvests and increasing transport costs have all been blamed for the price rise.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick has said two billion people across the globe are struggling with high food prices, and 100 million people in poor countries may be pushed deeper into poverty by the crisis.

Polish police storm hotel room to free three Jews

Police yesterday stormed a Warsaw hotel room to free three teenaged Brazilian Jews taking part in a Holocaust memorial event who had been seized by a man of Middle East origin, a police spokesman said.
The man had said he had explosives, but none were found in the operation, Warsaw police spokesman Mariusz Szyndler told AFP. The Holiday Inn hotel was evacuated and searched.
"The man, Mohamed A., 23, whose nationality has not been determined, locked himself in a room with three young Jews. He said he was armed with explosives," Szyndler said.
"The police stormed the room and immobilised the suspect — he had no explosives," he added. "The police managed to quickly release the hostages."
Police were determining the nationality of the hostage-taker, apparently from the Middle East.
"For the moment I can only say that he is not Palestinian," Szyndler told AFP. "The suspect was under the influence of alcohol," he added.
All three hostages were 16-years-old. "Safe and sound, the youths did not seek medical attention," Szyndler said.
Along with thousands of young Jews from across the globe, the three were in Poland as part of the annual March of the Living, a Holocaust memorial event which took place May 1 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau former Nazi German concentration camp.