World Summit on Food Security labels food crisis a “wake-up call”

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 17th November 2009

World leaders convened at FAO Headquarters for the World Summit on Food Security overnight and unanimously adopted a declaration pledging renewed commitment to eradicate hunger from the face of the earth sustainably and at the earliest date. The Summit is due to tackle the issue of food security as food price fears continue to bubble and the number of hungry people continues to grow.

Countries also agreed to work to reverse the decline in domestic and international funding for agriculture and promote new investment in the sector, to improve governance of global food issues in partnership with relevant stakeholders from the public and private sector, and to proactively face the challenges of climate change to food security.

Wake-up call

In his address to the Summit, 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.”

“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.”

“Tragic achievement”

Calling the over one billion hungry people in the world “our tragic achievement in these modern days”, FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) Director-General Jacques Diouf stressed the need to produce food where the poor and hungry live and to boost agricultural investment in these regions.

“In some developed countries, two to four per cent of the population are able to produce enough food to feed the entire nation and even to export, while in the majority of developing countries, 60 to 80 percent of the population are not able to meet country food needs,” Diouf advised.

“The planet can feed itself, provided that the decisions made are honoured and the required resources are effectively mobilized,” he added, calling for an increase in official development assistance to agriculture, a greater share of developing country budgets devoted to agriculture and incentives to encourage private investment.

“Eliminating hunger from the face of Earth requires US$44 billion of official development assistance per year to be invested in infrastructure, technology and modern inputs. It is a small amount if we consider the $365 billion of agriculture producer support in OECD countries in 2007, and if we consider the $1,340 billion of military expenditures by the world in the same year,” Diouf said.

“Over the past five years, several countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia have succeeded to substantially reduce the number of hungry people in their territories,” Diouf said. “This means that we know what should be done and how it can be done to defeat hunger.”

“In low-income food-deficit countries, food security programmes and plans exist and are awaiting political will and financing to become operational,” he noted.

Diouf also underlined the fact that food security goes beyond production. “We need protection against pests and diseases of plants and animals which often directly affect human health. We have likewise to face emergency situations resulting from natural disasters and to conserve the national resource base of food production to ensure sustainability.”

Cruel and concrete sign of poverty

“Hunger is the most cruel and concrete sign of poverty,” said His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. “Opulence and waste are no longer acceptable when the tragedy of hunger is assuming ever greater proportions.”

The pope called for greater understanding of the needs of the rural world. “At the same time,” he said, “access to international markets must be favoured for those products coming from the poorest areas, which today are often relegated to the margins. In order to achieve these objectives, it is necessary to separate the rules of international trade from the logic of profit viewed as an end in itself.”