ROME, ITALY — Global peace and sustainable development cannot be achieved without ending hunger, said United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva told participants on Sept. 25 at a high-level UN meeting in New York, New York, U.S.

"Food security might not always be our first concern, but it should be," said the FAO chief highlighting the link between hunger and conflicts. He was speaking at "Delivering Zero Hunger - Demonstrating Impact" a UN General Assembly side event, co-hosted by the governments of the Netherlands, Ireland and Mexico, FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the UN World Food Program (WFP).

"While world hunger figures have declined, there are still 805 million people who are chronically undernourished," Graziano da Silva said, citing figures from the recently released UN State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI 2014) report.

He noted that globally, the proportion of chronically undernourished people has fallen by around 40% since 1990 and that 63 developing countries have already reached the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) hunger target of reducing by half the proportion of hungry people by the end of 2015.

"With less than 500 days left to achieve the MDGs, there is a sense of urgency and therefore requires a stepping up of efforts," the FAO Director-General said referring to the hunger target's looming deadline.

He also urged countries to take the "extra step" and take up the UN Secretary-General's Zero Hunger Challenge which seeks to eradicate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition worldwide.

This "should not remain a dream. It is a vision that is within our reach," the FAO chief said.

Winning the war against hunger requires "political will" as a "starting point," and must be followed up with coordinated actions at a global, regional and national level, which promote food security through social protection programs and other measures, Graziano da Silva said.

He cited "Brazil´s victory over hunger" by bringing undernourishment rates from over 10% to below 5% between 2002-07 and how success in that country has had a positive impact which helps to explain the progress made in Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole. The region was the first to adopt a zero hunger target back in 2005 and to date is the only one to have reached the MDG hunger target

The FAO Director-General praised efforts in other countries such as Timor Leste which has embraced the UN Secretary-General's Zero Hunger Challenge by launching initiatives on food security and nutrition at a national level. "The international community has the duty to support countries in this process," Graziano da Silva said, adding that the UN agencies, including FAO, would also play their part in helping countries achieve the "hunger-free and sustainable world we want."