The Government has signed a three-year deal to provide €21 million to the UN World Food Programme.

The agreement was signed at a major international two-day conference on hunger, nutrition and climate justice at Dublin Castle.

At least €7 million a year will be donated by the Government to the WFP, the world's largest humanitarian agency, over the next three years.

The Executive Director of the World Food Programme Ertharin Cousin said she recognised that this was a time of challenge for the Irish people but the hungry people of the world really needed the money.

"I think working with the developing world and supporting through investment those who are at the country level who are actually performing the work, we actually have the opportunity to take the political will and begin to make a durable change in the lives of those we serve," Ms Ertharin said.

The agreement also sets out shared objectives for humanitarian assistance and includes strict controls to ensure the maximum benefit from the aid donation.

The World Food Programme assists up to 100 million people each year in 70 countries.

President Michael D Higgins officially opened the conference which was jointly organised by the Government and the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice.

The speakers at the opening session included the President and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.

Over 100 people from vulnerable communities in the developing world got the opportunity to tell global leaders and the heads of international organisations just how climate change is causing food shortages, hunger and nutrition issues in their countries.

UNICEF has also launched a major international report at the conference highlighting the problem of stunting caused by malnutrition, affecting one quarter of the world's children aged under five.