$13 Billion Pledged to Feed the World's Hungry

NEW YORK, New York, June 6, 2008 (ENS) – The high-level food security summit that ended last night in Rome garnered another.$6 billion in new funding to tackle the global food crisis, the top United Nations relief official said today at UN headquarters.

UN Under-Secretary-General for
Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes
briefs reporters. (Photo
courtesy UN)

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes said the figure of $6 billion is in addition to existing pledges of up to $7 billion that were also announced at the High-level Conference on World Food Security.

The $13 billion amounts to nearly half the $30 billion a year the UN officials said is needed each year to eradicate hunger.

The funding will be going to smallholder farmers who need it most, said Holmes.

“We need to focus both on the immediate needs and on the longer-term issues starting right now and the focus is on the smallholder farmers in developing countries.”

“These are the people who need most help and where there is the most potential for increasing agricultural productivity and production,” he said.

Holmes, who also serves as the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, briefed reporters in New York on the plan reached in Rome to meet the crisis that soaring food prices have created worldwide.

Convened by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, the summit wond up last night with the adoption by acclamation of a declaration, the “Comprehensive Framework for Action.”

It calls on the international community to increase assistance for developing countries, in particular the least developed countries and those that are hardest hit by high food prices.

“There is an urgent need to help developing countries and countries in transition expand agriculture and food production, and to increase investment in agriculture, agribusiness and rural development, from both public and private sources,” state the 181 governments in their joint declaration.

“Clearly this summit has decided to act,” said FAO Assistant Director-General Alexander Mueller.

“It has called for both immediate humanitarian assistance to those hardest hit by the current food price crisis,” he said, “and it has taken actions that in the medium term should go a long way in considering the driving forces of food system fragility to shocks in order to reduce the number of hungry people in the world, helping us to meet the World Food Summit and Millennium Development Goals.”

The final declaration calls on governments to “assure” United Nations agencies “the resources to expand and enhance their food assistance and support safety net programmes to address hunger and malnutrition, when appropriate, through the use of local or regional purchases.”

A few of the 250,000 people in locations
around the world who participated in
the World Food Programme’s walk to
end child hunger. June 2, 2008. (Photo
by Joseph Agcaoili courtesy WFP)

On climate change, the declaration says, “It is essential to address question of how to increase the resilience of present food production systems to challenges posed by climate change.”

The declaration urges governments to enable smallholder farmers and fishers, including indigenous people, in vulnerable areas, to participate in, and benefit from financial mechanisms and investment flows to support climate change adaptation, mitigation and technology development, transfer and dissemination.

On the contentious issue of biofuels, the declaration says, “It is essential to address the challenges and opportunities posed by biofuels, in view of the world’s food security, energy and sustainable development needs.”

“We are convinced that in-depth studies are necessary to ensure that production and use of biofuels is sustainable in accordance with the three pillars of sustainable development and take into account the need to achieve and maintain global food security.”

Joachim von Braun, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute, says that while the declaration affirms the need for investing in agriculture, “a very positive development,” the final document is weak in four other areas – trade, biofuels, safety nets for vulnerable people, and accountability for implementation. “Looking forward, strong action is needed in each of these areas,” he said.

The FAO Food Summit was attended by 181 countries. Forty-three of them were represented by their head of state or government and 100 by high-level ministers. Sixty nongovernmental and civil society organizations were present among the 5,159 people who attended.

Increasing nutritional and other feeding programs, as well as supplying fertilizers, seeds, animal feed and veterinary services to help smallholder farmers in the current planting season, are among the immediate measures proposed in the Framework for Action.

The plan also calls for a reduction in export bans on food commodities, and focuses on the need for much greater investment in agricultural production in the longer term.

Members of the World Trade Organization reaffirmed their commitment to the rapid and successful conclusion of the Doha development agenda and repeated their willingness to reach a result that would be conducive to improving food security in developing countries.

As the conference opened Tuesday, World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick, who is a former U.S. trade representative, said summit participants should commit to helping the 20 most vulnerable countries in the coming weeks before soaring food prices push millions more into poverty or malnutrition.

Outlining three priority actions, Zoellick said the agencies and governments at the meeting should commit to getting seeds and fertilizer out to smallholder farmers in the coming planting months and agree on an international call to scrap food export bans and restrictions.

“Globally, we have estimated that this crisis could push 100 million people into poverty – 30 million in Africa alone,” Zoellick told the summit. “This is not a natural catastrophe. It is man-made and can be fixed by us. It does not take complex research. We know what has to be done. We just need action and resources in real-time.”

Zoellick said the World Bank had worked with the FAO and the UN World Food Programme, WFP, to assess the needs of 28 countries with another 15 such exercises still ongoing.

This work has identified 20 countries which require immediate assistance by the time of the Group of Eight meeting of the leaders of the eight largest industrial countries in July.

“This means safety net support, school feeding, food for work, maternal and child programs, conditional cash transfers and budget support,” said Zoellick. “This can be done through the WFP, UNICEF, the FAO, and development banks. After the direct food assistance of the WFP, this is where funding should go.”

To support this agenda, the World Bank last week created a new Global Food Crisis Response Facility to fast-track $1.2 billion to address immediate needs arising from the food crisis, including $200 million of grants for especially vulnerable countries.

Grants have been approved for Haiti, Djibouti and Liberia; operations are being processed for Togo, Tajikistan and Yemen.

Overall, the World Bank Group will expand assistance for agriculture and food-related activities from $4 billion to $6 billion over the coming year.

Commenting on the summit declaration, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, said that the international community needs to address the questions of power and accountability.

“Hunger is man-made,” he said. “What misguided policies have caused, better focused policies can undo.”

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