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KIM LAWTON, anchor: Now, back to the global food crisis. Joining me today is Tony Hall, the former Ohio congressman who was also the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations humanitarian agencies in Rome. Ambassador Hall, welcome. When these leaders meet in the summit in Rome next week (June 3-5, 2008) what is it that they need to do? What can they do to address this crisis?
TONY HALL (Former ambassador and congressman): Well, they need to do three things. They need to outline what the problem is, and the problem is immense. Two, they need to make commitments of new resources to the hungry people in the world. And three, they need to follow up on these commitments that they’re going to make there. And the third one is the most important, because I’ve attended these conferences before and we have a tendency to forget the third one when we come back and say, “Well, we committed to this. What are we going to do?”
LAWTON: And they don’t do what they committed?
Ambassador HALL: They don’t do it. And I remember we wanted to cut hunger in half — we want to by the year 2015, and so there’s a series of steps we have to do. We’re not even coming close.
LAWTON: Well, indeed, how immense is the problem right now?
Ambassador HALL: We’ve got about 850 million people in the world today that are near starvation. What’s going on in the world today with the food prices going up is going to add another hundred million. I think you are going to start to see in the next four or five months horrendous stories, more riots. It’s a major, major problem.
LAWTON: And in the U.S. we are also concerned about rising fuel prices, which has contributed to the problem, rising food prices, and people here are worried about hunger might grow here. How does the U.S. balance how much we commit to here, taking care of people here, and how much we commit to these people overseas?
Ambassador HALL: Well, hunger here is important. We’ve got about 37 million people that go to bed maybe two or three days out of every month without food. So it is important. And we commit about $60 billion domestically to those kind of programs — school lunch programs, nutrition programs, food stamps, etc. Overseas, we commit about $5 billion worth of money and food, and that’s to really address this problem of 850-950 million people. So about five percent of our resources that we allocate towards poor people goes overseas.
LAWTON: And you think we should do better?
Ambassador HALL: We can do much better. I think most people in the country believe that it’s about 50-50 — 50 percent stays here, 50 percent goes overseas. But it really is about five percent, and we can do much better.
LAWTON: And for you, what’s the primary ethical issue at stake here?
Ambassador HALL: I think the ethical issue is, as a country and as an individual, are we our brother’s keeper? And I think the answer is yes. I think that — you know, I’m a person of faith. I like to think that, and there’s over 2,500 verses in the Bible that deal with the issue of helping the poor, the sick, the hungry. And I think the way God set it up is that he set it up that we are to address this issue, and that he works through us. His Plan B — well, I don’t know what Plan B is. Plan A is the way he set it up, and that’s the way I want to go, and I think that’s the way we need to go as a country and as an individual.
LAWTON: Okay, Ambassador Tony Hall, thank you very much.
Ambassador HALL: Thank you.
LAWTON: We’ll continue this conversation online on our Web site at pbs.org.