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FAO Head ‘Not Satisfied’ With Omission Of Hunger Eradication Deadline From Summit Declaration

Jacques Diouf, head of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “is not satisfied” that the World Summit on Food Security’s final declaration excludes “exact targets to reduce hunger,” the BBC reports. Diouf “said he was not in the room when negotiators finalised the statement. But he said he regretted the absence of a deadline for the total eradication of world hunger,” according to the BBC. “There was no consensus on this and I regret it,” he said (11/16). 

“While the summit agreed on the need to increase agriculture’s share of international aid, it did not allocate the $44 billion annually – 17 percent of overall foreign aid – the FAO says is necessary to feed a population that is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050,” the Associated Press reports.

In a speech at the summit in Rome, “Pope Benedict XVI decried the steadily worsening tragedy of world hunger,” the news service writes (David, 11/16). According to the AP/Boston Globe, “It was unclear if Benedict was referring directly to the failure to secure money pledges as sought by the U.N. food agencies, but Vatican Radio yesterday called the lack of a firm money commitment ‘disturbing.'” The Pope also “said that financial support for [developing] nations should be ‘inspired by solidarity, enabling them to provide for their own requirements of consumption and development,’ and he said ‘the right to sufficient, healthy and nutritious food’ and water must be upheld” (D’emilio, 11/17).

U.S. delegates “say they believe wealthy nations should follow the specific needs of each recipient country rather than allocate a fixed amount to agriculture,” the AP reports. Alonzo Fulgham, the acting head of USAID, said, “What this declaration represents is a significant change – not just an acknowledgment of a problem but an articulation of solutions, with a focus on country-led programs and strategies” (11/16).

According to Sergio Marelli, “chief of the advisory panel for the parallel forum staged by NGOs from around the world,” the omission of a hunger deadline and commitment to a specific amount of funding for agriculture “render this declaration a document devoid of any concrete instruments to make the fight against hunger effective,” Inter Press Service reports. The article includes additional reactions from political leaders and aid groups (Virgo, 11/16).

Summit Takes Up Direct Foreign Investment In Agriculture

The Globe and Mail examines foreign investment in farmlands, which is a “hot-button issue” at the food summit. Literature given out during this week’s summit calls it “direct foreign investment,” which is “not exactly what the U.N. called it a year and a half ago, when record-high food prices triggered riots in dozens of countries … Then, Jacques Diouf … said the global farmland rush could be interpreted as a form of ‘neo-colonialism,'” the newspaper writes.

The FAO “admits foreign investors’ purchases of farmland in poor countries do not always benefit local farmers and food markets. But they can be ‘win-win’ deals if the fresh capital delivers new technology to raise crop yields, provides employment and improves domestic food security.” According to the Globe and Mail, “Farm protection and watchdog groups … suspect the U.N.’s new position reflects the general belief that the land deals are unstoppable, meaning the U.N. has to learn to work with them instead of against them” (Reguly, 11/17). 

“The FAO plans to draw up guidelines to try to safeguard the sometimes conflicting interests of local farmers and investors for the governance of land and other natural resources, and is consulting companies, farmers and independent experts,” Reuters reports.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi “called for an end to the purchase of African farmland by food-importing nations … describing it as ‘new feudalism’ which could spread to Latin America as well,” according to the news service. Kanayo Nwanze, head of the U.N. International Fund for Agricultural Development, said, “It is a wrong language to call them land grabs. Those are investments in farmland like investments in oil exploration” (11/17). 

In related news, Agence France-Presse looks at Brazil’s “Zero Hunger” program. The program “combines dozens of social programs ranging from the construction of water tanks in dry regions to agricultural loans and food aid.”

“While the country still faces major challenges, including massive economic disparities [the FAO] estimates malnutrition has been reduced by 73 percent in the last six years” and infant mortality has gone down by 45 percent, AFP writes (Marull, 11/17).

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