Listen to article

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is teaming up with online game developer Zynga Games to combat global hunger, one of several initiatives announced today during a major gathering of private sector companies at the world body's Headquarters in New York.

“It is crystal clear that we need the ingenuity, power and reach of the private sector in the critical mission to end hunger,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said.

“Only when companies join with government and the civil society with sustainable solutions can we halve the number of people who go hungry every day.”

Zynga Games, whose online games include FarmVille in which players can grow crops and raise animals on their very own farm, will help WFP roll out its latest campaign, “WeFeedback” on 11 October, in the lead-up to World Food Day, which is observed annually on 16 October.

The campaign encourages people online to use the Feedback calculator to turn their favourite food items, such as lattes and sushi, into a donation to feed the hungry, and spread the word by activating their personal networks through popular social websites such as Facebook and Google.

Speaking to reporters at the UN, Ms. Sheeran called the new initiative “the most innovative and wide-reaching grassroots social media campaign ever against hunger,” reaching 215 million people who play Zynga Games each month.

She recalled that during the earthquake crisis in Haiti, Zynga Games mobilized those who play FarmVille to help raise money to reach children with life-saving meals, raising up to 5 million meals online.

“The private sector can be a critical engine in helping UN agencies, governments and NGOs [non-governmental organizations] develop, refine and deploy leading-edge strategies,” said Ms. Sheeran.

“Done responsibly and sustainably, these partnerships can save lives, build livelihoods and help us to ensure that all people have access to the leading edge innovations and technologies that can transform lives.

She stressed the need to “make every dollar count in the battle against hunger and poverty” and to deploy the power of innovation to benefit the poorest of the poor.

Halving the proportion of people worldwide who were hungry in 1990 is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) world leaders have pledged to achieve by 2015.

As leaders meet at a high-level summit at the UN to discuss how to make progress on the MDGs, the UN Global Compact today brought together 300 chief executive officers from around the world to join in partnership to reach the Goals.

“We must invest our resources where they can achieve the greatest impact,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the gathering.

“Government leadership will be crucial. But more than ever before, we depend on the resources and capacities of the private sector to make things happen.

“Business is a primary driver of innovation, investment and job creation. There is no longer any doubt that business plays an integral role in delivering economic and social progress,” said Mr. Ban.

The Global Compact, created in 2000, aims to foster socially responsible business practices and now has more than 8,000 participants worldwide.