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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2004 > March

Remarks at World Food Prize Ceremony

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
March 29, 2004

11:45 a.m. EST

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much. It's a great pleasure to welcome you all here today to the State Department. Excellencies, Secretary Veneman, members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen, I join Under Secretary Larson, who has done so much to put this day on, in welcoming you here.

On behalf of the American people, on behalf of President Bush, we gather to thank heaven for the great state of Iowa.


We thank Iowa and John Ruan for sponsoring the World Food Prize, and Iowan Ken Quinn for his leadership of the World Food Prize effort. Most of all, we salute Iowa's own, Norman Borlaug for creating the World Food Prize and for his own prize winning work against hunger.

Al Larson is also from Iowa. (Laughter.) Congressmen King and Boswell, who I believe are here, are also from Iowa. And as any of you who have made any study whatsoever of the American political system know, if you want to be President of the United States, you start in Iowa. (Laughter.)

In this magnificent room that is named for a famous scientist and the father of the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin, it is so fitting that we honor Dr. Borlaug the father of the Green Revolution. Thanks to Dr. Borlaug's pioneering work in the 1960's to develop varieties of high-yielding wheat, countless millions of men, women and children, who will never know his name, will never go to bed hungry.

Dr. Borlaug's scientific breakthroughs have eased needless suffering and saved countless lives. And Dr. Borlaug has been an inspiration to new generations across the globe who have taken up the fight against hunger and have made breakthroughs of their own.

And this year, we celebrate the wonderful achievements of Dr. Monty Jones of Sierra Leone and Professor Yuan Long Ping of China who have received the World Food Prize for their work on high-yielding rice. They have done great honor to their countries and great service to humankind, how apt it is that we recognize their achievements in this, the International Year of Rice.

My friends, these opening decades of the new century are a time of great promise. The scientific and technological advances we applaud today offer an historic opportunity to put food, food on the tables of hungry millions and to lift them out of poverty. Yes, the promise of our time is indeed great, but so is the need. We all know the facts we all know the statistics only too well. Over 800 million people in the world today are severely malnourished, nearly 80 percent of them, women and children, the most needy, the most vulnerable.

Unlike in ages past, in our 21st century, famine is entirely preventable, yet famine still stalks millions, especially in the Horn of Africa. President Bush has called combating hunger and poverty a "moral imperative," and indeed, it is, for all of us. And President Bush is strongly committed to continuing America's tradition of being the world's leading provider of international emergency food aid. He is equally determined to reduce hunger by helping to break the cycle of poverty and expand the circle of prosperity worldwide.

President Bush also recognizes that hunger carries profound implications for stability, for prosperity and for democracy across the globe. The simple fact is that countries that lack basic food security also tend to be unstable themselves and to export that instability to other nations; and citizens weakened by chronic malnutrition, whose every waking moment is spent in a desperate effort to survive, cannot build thriving economies or build vibrant civil societies.

For all of these reasons, President Bush has actively embraced the 1996 World Food Summit goal of cutting in half the number of chronically hungry people in the world by 2015. To meet that goal, the international community must reduce the number of undernourished by an average rate of 22 million people per year. Today the number of undernourished is decreasing by only 6 million people per year.

So we have an enormous challenge yet to meet, and that is why the World Food Prize and all other efforts to focus international attention on the interrelated problems of hunger and poverty are so very, very important.

Developed and developing nations, corporations and faith-based organizations, agricultural associations and financial institutions, scientists and simple tillers of the soil must work in partnership as never before.

We have reason to be optimistic. Experience shows that with the combination of tenacity and technology, good governance and growth-oriented assistance can put tools in hands, bread in stomachs and hope in the heart of millions.

For our part, the United States is helping to reduce hunger in a number of important ways; and let me just touch on a few of them. Beyond our known contributions to emergency assistance, the United States is battling hunger through innovative approaches to development: President Bush's Millennium Challenge Account Initiative, or the MCA, as we call it, is unprecedented in magnitude.

MCA is the most substantial international development assistance effort since The Marshall Plan. Congress has provided $1 billion for MCA this first year, and funding will grow to $5 billion of new money every single year, beginning in 2006. That's a 50 percent increase in core U.S. foreign assistance.

Poor countries that practice good governance, that adopt sound economic policies, and invest in their people and the rule of law will be eligible for MCA funding. Projects for modernizing agriculture and improving agricultural productivity will be prime candidates for MCA money.

The United States also is battling hunger through our work with the world's leading industrial powers, known as the G8. Last year, we helped launch a G8 initiative to end famine and improve food security. This year, the rotating G8 chairmanship has come to us. We are the chair, and we are pressing the action plan forward. The plan will help bring to bear the best science and technology so that farmers in food-insecure countries can produce enough food to allow them to earn a good living, feed their families and feed their communities.

In the 21st century, no man, woman or child should know the agony of hunger. By recognizing the successes of those on the front lines of the fight against hunger, as we do today, we reinforce the message that the fight against hunger is a fight the world can win. And win, we will. And win, we must.

It is now my pleasure to introduce someone who is totally committed to that battle, my friend and cabinet colleague, Ann Veneman, our 27th Secretary of Agriculture. Ann grew up on her family's peach farm near Modesto, California. I grew up in the Bronx. (Laughter.) Not only did we have no peach trees, we had no trees. (Laughter.)

But today, Ann and I have a lot in common. It is a great pleasure to work with her on a host of humanitarian and development issues where our foreign and agricultural policies intersect. If you'd told me that when I was about to become Secretary of State, that I would have so much to do with agriculture, I would not have believed you. But Ann and I work closely on so many issues because the issues she deals with and my foreign policy concerns are so closely intertwined.

Ann is a passionate advocate against hunger. Her outstanding leadership goes far to ensure that America stands at the forefront of international efforts to build a world free of hunger and a world that is full of hope.

It's my great pleasure to present my friend and colleague, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman.


SECRETARY VENEMAN (USDA): "Thank you very much, Secretary Powell, for that kind introduction. It is truly an honor and a privilege to work with you as well. So many of our issues do intersect, and certainly the issue of hunger is one of them.

I want to add my thanks and welcome to all of the distinguished guests and officials that are here today. And I want to congratulate the 2004 World Food Prize laureates -- Dr. Jones and Professor Yuan. We deeply appreciate the work you have done to improve the quality of life for so many around the world.

Secretary Powell, I echo your eloquent words. You have characterized very well the global hunger crisis that we continue to face. And I am very pleased with the strong partnership that we have between Department of Agriculture and the Department of State as we address this issue.

The global ramifications of hunger are hard to overstate, not just for the people in the least developed countries but also in nations with greater wealth. Persistent hunger causes human suffering and death; it greatly reduces productivity and means unrealized potential across entire nations and regions. It causes political instability, economic stagnation, civil unrest and war; and it limits economic growth and trade opportunities in many countries.

We should all be concerned about hunger out of a sense of compassion for our fellow human beings.

But we should also care about hunger because it is at the core of many of the world's most intractable problems. Hungry kids cannot learn. Hungry people cannot work. Hungry nations are deprived of economic security and freedom as long as hunger persists. If we can solve the problem of hunger, we will be well on our way to solve many other problems.

But at its very heart addressing global hunger means addressing human dignity and restoring hope to millions of individuals all around the world. I was pleased to lead the Administration's delegation to the "World Food Summit: Five Years Later" in 2002 in Rome at which we confirmed our commitment to reducing by half the number of hungry people around the world.

Secretary Powell has spoken of the role of technology can play in addressing agricultural productivity. To help more people benefit from that role, we announced at that conference in Rome that the Department of Agriculture would host a ministerial on agriculture, science and technology.

And that conference was held this past summer in Sacramento, California. It was indeed a historic gathering supported by the State Department and USAID along with USDA, was attended by more than 1,000 people including 119 people at the ministerial level.

Dr. Borlaug also was on that conference, and I can certainly add mine to the welcome to you today.

Later today USDA will be announcing a new fellowship program bearing Dr. Borlaug's name -- to help train others around the world to address hunger in their own countries. That new program is one of the many positive outcomes of the ministerial meeting that we held in Sacramento.

I share Secretary Powell's excitement at the commitment of the global international community to combat hunger and forge partnerships that are forming toward this end. Our goals will take dedication and effort, but they stand to benefit all humanity.

Thank you very much.

Released on March 29, 2004

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