G8 Leaders Conclude with Pledge to Ease Global Food Crisis

TOYAKO, Japan, July 9, 2008 (ENS) – The leaders of the world’s eight wealthiest countries, the G8, packed their bags and headed home tonight after three days of discussions that dealt with ways to solve the global food crisis and global warming, among other issues.

UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon (Photo courtesy UN)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the G8 statement on climate change, food security and development as “a good start.”

“The discussion here provides initial direction for global efforts that must be accelerated in the coming weeks and months,” Ban said in a statement issued today at the conclusion of the G8 Summit.

Ban was pleased with the “strong commitment” of the G8 to address the global food crisis in a Global Partnership for Food, facilitated and coordinated by the United Nations.

“The sense of urgency displayed by the G-8 in tackling the most immediate food, nutrition, and agricultural inputs needs of tens of millions of hungry people worldwide is encouraging,” the secretary-general said.

The skyrocketing cost of basic foods has touched off riots and demonstrations in at least two dozen countries where people are hungry but cannot afford to buy food or where food is so scarce there is little to buy.

“We are deeply concerned that the steep rise in global food prices coupled with availability problems in a number of developing countries is threatening global food security,” the G8 leaders said in a joint statement today.

“The negative impacts of this recent trend could push millions more back into poverty, rolling back progress made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” said the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The G8 leaders in an informal
moment in Toyako, Hokkaido, Japan.
(Photo courtesy Govt. of Japan)

“We are determined to take all possible measures in a coordinated manner, and since January 2008 have committed, for short, medium and long-term purposes, over US$10 billion to support food aid, nutrition interventions, social protection activities and measures to increase agricultural output in affected countries,” the G8 leaders said.

They called for other donors to join them in funding the necessary measures to increase agricultural production and get food to the starving millions around the world, but made no additional financial commitments in their communique today.

The G8 leaders did agree to reverse the overall decline of aid and investment in the agricultural sector, and to achieve significant increases in support of developing country initiatives, including, in Africa, through full and effective implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme, CAADP.

They welcomed the World Bank’s recent announcement of a new US$1.2 billion rapid financing facility to address immediate needs, but did not respond to World Bank President Robert Zoellick’s plea last week for more donations.

Zoellick said the bank currently has almost $400 million of additional new requests from 31 countries, warning, “These calls for help outstrip our available grant resources.”

The G8 leaders expressed support for CAADP’s goal of 6.2 percent annual growth in agricultural productivity, and the goal of doubling production of key food staples in African countries in five to10 years in a sustainable manner, with particular emphases on fostering smallholder agriculture and inclusive rural growth.

They pledged to support improvement of infrastructure, including irrigation, transportation, supply chain, storage and distribution systems and quality control; and also to assist in the development of food security early warning systems.

The G8 leaders agreed to promote science-based risk analysis “of seed varieties developed through biotechnology.”

They pledged to “support country-led development strategies in adapting to the impact of climate change, combating desertification, and promoting conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, while intensifying our efforts to address climate change.”

They vowed to “ensure the compatibility of policies for the sustainable production and use of biofuels with food security” and accelerate development and commercialization of “sustainable second-generation biofuels from non-food plant materials and inedible biomass.”

Women farm workers in South
Africa (Photo courtesy Sikhula
Sonke/War on Want)

And they promised to accelerate agricultural research and development, and the training of a new generation of developing country scientists and experts focusing on the dissemination of improved, locally adapted and sustainable farming technologies, in particular through partnerships such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, or AGRA, the group headed by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

In a statement today AGRA said, “if Africa is to see more results than promises, the G8 would do well to pay attention to solutions already being pursued in Africa. Farmers, governments, scientists, the private sector, civil society and donors are pursuing a series of initiatives designed to launch a uniquely African Green Revolution.”

The intense focus in Africa today is on programs and policies that ultimately could transform the continent into a bread basket for the world, AGRA said.

“Africans have built a framework and made a political commitment to achieving an African Green Revolution. Supportive national and international policies, and significant reinvestment in agriculture, are central to their success,” said the African organization.

In less than two years, AGRA has committed US$330 million in programs that “address challenges across the agricultural value chain.”

AGRA says concerted reinvestment of an estimated US$10 billion a year is needed from African and donor countries. “Investment should focus on improving conditions for small-scale farmers, the majority women, who are the heart of African agriculture.”

“By seizing on the current crisis to address the long-term causes of food shortages in Africa and participating in partnerships to achieve the above goals, said AGRA, the G8 could help to make today’s emergency tomorrow’s triumph.”

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