How effective are such gatherings? They undoubtedly deliver finely crafted declarations or statements or resolutions trumpeting how hunger should be banished, that we are making great progress but more work needs to be done. All true. Alas, most declarations are legally non-binding. I have recently compiled a list of food summits since the Second World War. They are heart-warming, but in truth mostly wallpaper. Rich governments can shrug them off or resort to charity. In 1999 there was a UN General Comment on the Right to Adequate Food. Its legal base was the 1966 UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights which said "everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food..." History teaches us that such declarations are no stronger than a society's commitment to implement them. Campaigns or political emergencies are needed to force words into actions. Alas, if you are starving, you are more likely to get fed if your government is unstable or a pawn in a superpower's game or under democratic pressure. Thirteen million people in six countries face famine in southern Africa. Giving our surplus as crisis management is not enough. Entitlements and rights require work and wages. But will the global economy deliver? The US has just increased subsidies to its farmers by $180bn. That's what ought to be addressed at the world conferences and at home. {{NEWS }}