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11.13.2009 Food summit dilutes hunger and aid targets-draft

By Silvia Aloisi

ROME, Nov 12 (Reuters) - A declaration to be made at next week's world food summit in Rome will not mention a target to eradicate hunger by 2025 nor a commitment to spend $44 billion a year in agricultural aid, according to a final draft seen by Reuters.

The two targets were among the most divisive issues at the centre of pre-summit negotiations, according to diplomats.

World leaders and top government officials at the Nov.16-18 summit will simply reaffirm their commitment to the U.N. Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of hungry people by 2015 -- a target that is unlikely to be reached.

"We commit to take action towards sustainably eradicating hunger at the earliest possible date," said the draft of the declaration, to be adopted on Monday barring last-minute amendments.

According to the draft, the leaders will also commit to "substantially increase the share of ODA (official development assistance) devoted to agriculture and food security based on country-led requests", without setting a target or a timeframe.

The summit, hosted by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation, had aimed to win broad support on the need to boost the percentage of official aid spent on agricultural development to 17 percent -- or around $44 billion a year -- from 5 percent now.

At a news conference on Wednesday, FAO Director General Jacques Diouf reiterated that aim, saying bringing agricultural aid back to the 1980 level was crucial to fight global hunger.

The number of hungry people has topped one billion for the first time since records were established in 1970.

An attempt to include in the declaration a new proposal to eradicate hunger by 2025 was met with scepticism by many who felt that it would amount to giving up on the U.N. target -- subscribed by world leaders in 2000 -- of halving the number of hungry people by 2015.

"There is no point in setting a new target when we have not reached the old one," one diplomat said.

However, with the global financial crisis and food price spikes last year pushing 100 million more people into hunger this year, even U.N. experts say the 2015 deadline is going to be missed -- and the goal may not be reached until mid-2040 at the earliest.