Food summit calls for boost to agriculture

Posted: 18 November 2009

The three-day World Summit on Food Security ended in Rome today after committing the international community to investing more in agriculture and eradicating hunger at the earliest date - but with targets omitted from the Declaration.

FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf
FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf
FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf speaking at the press conference for the closing session of the World Summit on Food Security, 16-18 November 2009, FAO. Photo credit: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano
FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf, who hosted the event, said the Summit marked "an important step towards the achievement of our common objective - a world free from hunger".

But, he declared "to my great regret "the official Declaration adopted by the Summit this past Monday "contains neither measurable targets nor specific deadlines which would have made it easier to monitor implementation..."

In his address to the Summit at the opening session on Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon called the current food crisis "a wake-up call for tomorrow".

"There can be no food security without climate security," Ban said.

"If the glaciers of the Himalaya melt, it will affect the livelihoods and survival of three hundred million people in China and up to a billion people throughout Asia," he said. "Africa's small farmers, who produce most of the continent's food and depend mostly on rain, could see harvests drop by 50 per cent by 2020. We must make significant changes to feed ourselves and, most especially, to safeguard the poorest and most vulnerable."

Undernourishment 2009, by region
Undernourishment 2009, by region
Rising hunger is a global phenomenon. In fact, all world regions have been affected by the increase in food insecurity:Asia and the Pacific, the world's most populous region, is home to the largest number of hungry people (642 million). Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest prevalence of undernourishment relative to its population size (32 percent).The largest percentage increase in the number of hungry people in the developing world occurred in the Near East and North Africa (+13.5 percent).Latin America and the Caribbean, which was the only region in recent years with signs of improvement, also saw a marked increase (+12.8 percent).
FAO had proposed setting a target of 2025 for the total eradication of hunger from the face of the Earth and increasing Official Development Assistance to agriculture to US$44 billion per year for investment in developing country agriculture and rural infrastructure.

Important commitments

At the same time, however, the Summit had produced four important commitments, Diouf said.

1. A firm pledge to renew efforts to achieve the First Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger by 2015 and eradicating it from the world at the earliest date.

2. A pledge to improve international coordination and the governance of food security through a profound reform of FAO's Committee on Food Security (CFS) which would become a central component of the Global Partnership for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition. Broadened to include stakeholders from both the public and private sector and non-governmental organizations, and elevated to ministerial level, the CFS will coordinate international efforts against hunger as well as take rapid and informed decisions on global food issues.

3. A promise to reverse the downward trend in domestic and international funding for agriculture, food security and rural development in developing countries and significantly increase their share in public development aid.

4. A decision to promote new investments in agricultural production and productivity in developing countries in order to reduce poverty and achieve food security for all.

"I am convinced that together we can eradicate hunger from our planet," Diouf declared. "But we must move from words to actions."

"Let us do it for a more prosperous, more just, more equitable and more peaceful world. But above all, let us do it quickly because the poor and the hungry cannot wait," he added.

Graph of malnourished 1971-2009
Graph of malnourished 1971-2009
2009 has been a devastating year for the world's hungry, marking a significant worsening of an already disappointing trend in global food security since 1996. The global economic slowdown, following on the heels of the food crisis in 2006-08, has deprived an additional 100 million people of access to adequate food.
The Summit adopted Five Rome Principles for Sustainable Global Food Security including:

1) invest in country-owned plans channeling resources to well-designed and results-based programmes and partnerships; 2) foster strategic coordination at all levels to improve governance, promote better allocation of resources and avoid duplication; 3) strive for a twin-track approach to food security including both short-term emergency and long-term development measures; 4) work to improve the efficiency, coordination and effectiveness of multilateral institutions; and 5) ensure sustained and substantial commitment by all partners to investment in agriculture and food security and nutrition.

Climate change

The Summit also agreed to "proactively face the challenges of climate change to food security and the need for adaptation of, and mitigation in agriculture... with particular attention to small agricultural producers and vulnerable populations."

In addition to Member Nations and representatives of international and regional organizations, who all addressed the Plenary, meetings were held in the days preceding the Summit to ensure that all voices are heard. A Private Sector Meeting was held on 12 and 13 November in Milan, a Parliamentary Day was organized on 13 November in Rome and a Civil Society Forum took place in Rome from 14 to 16 November. Statements from all three events were read to the Summit Plenary.

Sixty Heads of State and Government and 191 Ministers from 182 countries and the European Community attended the Summit.

NGO criticism

International agency Oxfam gave the World Food Summit a 2 out of 10 overall rating as delegates left Rome today without tackling many of the biggest challenges of food security and agriculture.

The one kernel of optimism was that all countries had at least sanctioned a process to reform global food governance.

"A single meeting can't solve world hunger but we certainly expected far more than this," said Oxfam spokesperson Gawain Kripke. "The result is not commensurate with the problem which is historically huge - a billion people now facing hunger and looming climate change. The near total absence of rich country leaders sent a poor message from the beginning. The summit offered few solid accomplishments."