A UN summit on the plight of the planet's one billion hungry opens in Rome on Monday, with activists warning it risks being a waste of time as leaders of the world's wealthiest nations are to be conspicuous by their absence.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is the only leader from the Group of Eight industrialised countries expected to be among the 60 heads of state and government who attend the "Hunger Summit" that runs through Wednesday.
Pope Benedict XVI will be among the inaugural speakers at the meeting at the Rome headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Also expected at the summit are Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Moamer Kadhafi of Libya, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe.
Humanitarian groups warned last week that the summit could be a "waste of time," calling for the commitment of new resources to fight hunger.
"It's a tragedy that the world leaders are not going to attend the summit," said Daniel Berman of Doctors Without Borders (Medecins sans Frontieres -- MSF).
A draft declaration already circulating ahead of the meeting is "just a rehash of old platitudes," said Francisco Sarmento, ActionAid's food rights coordinator.