The signatures of over 3 million people calling for urgent action to end world hunger were presented to governments at a ceremony at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Rome headquarters. The petition  — and its accompanying campaign — calls on world leaders to make the elimination of hunger their top priority.
FAO's latest estimates put the number of chronically hungry people world-wide at 925 million. Last year, the global economic downturn and rising food prices pushed the figure past the one billion mark for the first time in history. " People from all over the globe are demanding change, urging political leaders to take action and to tackle the root causes of hunger and food insecurity," said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. "I very much hope that their voices will be heard. Defeating hunger is a realistic goal for our time, as long as lasting political, economic, financial and technical solutions are adopted".
Groundswell of support
The Organization's initial goal was to collect one million signatures. But the success of the campaign has confirmed how strongly people react once made aware of the vast scale of world hunger. Supported by international celebrities, renowned athletes, actors, singers, intellectuals, and European football stars, the petition reached people through live events on all continents and was spread further via the Internet. FAO's goodwill ambassadors and many other personalities joined the campaign and signed the petition. These include actors Susan Sarandon, Gong Li and Raul Bova; athletes Carl Lewis and Roberto Baggio; singers Celine Dion, Gilberto Gil, Dionne Warwick and Anggun; writers Isabel Allende and Andrea Camilleri.
'The 1billionhungry project' gathered steam online as people used social networks to share educational material on hunger, asked their friends to sign at www.1billionhungry.org , and voiced their own personal appeals via social media. On Facebook the campaign has gathered some 70 000 fans and enjoys a strong following on Twitter, Tuenti, Flickr and YouTube. Signatures were also collected at numerous rallies, meetings, parades, workshops and other events.
United against hunger
Growing numbers of political leaders around the world have also been giving their support to the 1billionhungry project. Heads of states such as Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Honduran President Porfirio Lobo and the Prime Minister of Nepal, Madhav Kumar, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, President of Guatemala Álvaro Colóm Caballeros and the President of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernández have all signed the petition, and the list gets longer every week.
The project also enjoyed support from other UN agencies, while numerous media companies have donated free air time and advertising space. Non-governmental organizations, farmer organizations, universities, and city councils are participating as well.
The campaign enters a second phase
"The success of the 1billion campaign lends even greater urgency and meaning to our work. It gives us allies that we did not have before. And this movement will continue, as we are now entering into a new phase," Diouf said.
The next phase intends to keep the hunger problem in the public eye, offer people different ways to get involved, and shine a spotlight on the anti-hunger initiatives that are working.
Country-by-country statistics on the petition are available at www.1billionhungry.org .