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Hunger 'grossest rights violation'

President Michael D Higgins has said that hunger crises around the world are created and sustained by gross inequalities.

At the opening of a two day conference in Dublin Castle on tackling the issue, Mr Higgins called on governments to urgently address lack of regulation of transnational land acquisition, transfer of water rights and speculation on food commodities.

"Global hunger in the 21st century represents the grossest of human rights violations, and the greatest ethical challenge facing the global community," he said.

"The source of this hunger is not a lack of food, but the moral affront of poverty, created and sustained by gross inequalities across the world."

Mr Higgins opened the conference, Hunger, Nutrition, Climate Justice, co-hosted by the Government and the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate in front of more than 350 delegates from 60 countries.

President Higgins told the conference that he wants to see international regulation of transnational land acquisitions and water rights.

"What is required is a robust regulatory framework which protects our fragile and threatened environment and which respects the right of small landholders to remain on their land and retain access to water source," he said. "Such regulation needs to be developed collaboratively and transparently involving practitioners from developing countries, such as those here today and which is respectful of, and responsive to, their lived experiences."

President Higgins cited the experience of some African and sub-Saharan nations where land deals have risen from 15-20 million hectares in 2009 to more than 70 million in 2012.

He also raised questions about five companies controlling 90% of the world's grain trade and three companies controlling 85% of the world's tea market.

Mrs Robinson, president of the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice, is one of several high profile figures who will address the Hunger, Nutrition, Climate Justice conference, including former US vice president Al Gore.

PA Media