UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened a UN food security summit on Monday calling for a "single global vision" to address the plight of the world's billion hungry people.
"We must craft a single global vision ... to produce real results for people in real need," Ban said at the start of the meeting at the Rome headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organisation.Ban said the issues of climate change and food security are interlinked. "There can be no food security without climate security," he said, adding: "We must help the most vulnerable to adapt."
"The food crisis of today is a wakeup call for tomorrow. By 2050 our planet may be the home of 9.1 billion people... by 2050 we know we will need to grow 70 percent more food, yet weather is becoming more extreme and more unpredicatable," he said.
The Rome "Hunger Summit," next month's UN climate change talks in Copenhagen and next year's UN General Assembly review of the UN Millennium Development Goals must "produce real results... for the people who are hungry today (so that) millions more will not have to suffer when the next blow hits," Ban said.
Pope Benedict XVI was to be among the inaugural speakers at the meeting, formally called the International Summit of Food Security, which was opened by Renato Schifano, Italy's speaker of parliament, on behalf of Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.
To help create a sense of urgency ahead of the summit, FAO chief Jacques Diouf went on a 24-hour fast on Saturday, and Ban followed suit on Sunday.
But the absence of leaders from the world's wealthiest nations apart from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has drawn fire from humanitarian groups.
"Sixty leaders are coming from around the world to this important UN summit, but where are the leaders from all the G8 countries?" asked international anti-poverty agency ActionAid.
"This doesn't signal they are serious about finding global solutions to hunger," said Francisco Sarmento, ActionAid's food rights coordinator.
Togo President Faure Gnassingbe, Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were among the some 60 heads of state and goverment taking part.