Rome Summit told $30b needed to solve crisis

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 4th June 2008

FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf yesterday appealed to world leaders for US$30 billion a year to re-launch agriculture and avert future threats of conflicts over food.

In an impassioned speech at the opening of the Rome Summit, called to de-fuse the current world food crisis, Dr Diouf noted that in 2006 the world spent US$1,200 billion on arms while food wasted in a single country could cost US$100 billion and excess consumption by the world’s obese amounted to US$20 billion.

“Against that backdrop, how can we explain to people of good sense and good faith that it was not possible to find US$30 billion a year to enable 862 million hungry people to enjoy the most fundamental of human rights: the right to food and thus the right to life?” Dr Diouf asked.

“It is resources of this order of magnitude that would make it possible definitely to lay to rest the specter of conflicts over food that are looming on the horizon.”

Dr Diouf proposed that the resolution to the food shortage could lie in supporting developing countries to increase their output.

“The structural solution to the problem of food security in the world lies in increasing production and productivity in the low-income, food-deficit countries,” he declared. This called for “innovative and imaginative solutions”, including “partnership agreements … between countries that have financial resources, management capabilities and technologies and countries that have land, water and human resources”.

The Director-General said he had alerted public opinion as far back as last September to the risks of social and political unrest due to hunger and that in December he had appealed for US$1.7 billion to help overcome the crisis by facilitating farmers’ access to seeds, fertilizer, animal feed and other inputs.

But the appeal had generally fallen on deaf ears, despite broad press coverage and correspondence with Member Nations and financial institutions. “It was only when the destitute and those excluded from the abundant tables of the rich took to the streets to voice their discontent and despair that the first reactions in support of food aid began to emerge,” Dr Diouf said.

“Important today is to realize that the time for talking is long past. Now is the time for action,” he proclaimed.

Dr Diouf maintained that the decisions of some governments have only exacerbated the problem and brave choices need to be made to counter the current issues. “If we do not urgently take the courageous decisions that are required in the present circumstances, the restrictive measures taken by producing countries to meet the needs of their populations, the impact of climate change and speculation on futures markets will place the world in a dangerous situation,” Dr Diouf warned.

Sustainable and viable global solutions were needed to narrow the gap between supply and demand, he said. Otherwise “whatever the extent of their financial reserves, some countries might not find food to buy”. He also added to the chorus of concern about biofuels by claiming it incomprehensible that subsidies worth US$11-12 billion in 2006 were used to divert 100 million tonnes of cereals from human consumption.

“The problem of food insecurity is a political one, “Dr Diouf concluded. “It is a question of priorities in the face of the most fundamental of human needs. And it those choices made by Governments that determine the allocation of resources.”