Nations Meet To Negotiate International Food Aid Terms

A group of nations are meeting in London this week to negotiate the Food Aid Convention (FAC), an “international agreement that governs food-aid commitments to hungry countries,” the Globe and Mail reports. Argentina, Australia, Canada, the European Union and its member states, Japan, Norway, Switzerland and the U.S. currently are included in the convention, which was last updated in 1999. Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa also would like FAC membership, according to the Globe and Mail.

“Experts argue that an immediate overhaul of the treaty is critical,” the Globe and Mail writes, noting that even though it is non-binding, it is the “only legal instrument governing international food-aid rules and commitment minimums.” The treaty also ensures that the donor-funded World Food Program, “which distributes more than half of all global food aid,” receives an annual baseline level of donations. 

The absence of new terms has “stalled several new countries from writing their food-aid commitments into the pledge.” The article also addresses why the agreement is seen as outdated and notes that food aid has shifted from being seen primarily as a trade issue and is instead viewed as “an important humanitarian dimension of global politics,” the Globe and Mail notes. In addition, the “FAC’s lack of transparency is also a stumbling block: Recipient countries are not privy to negotiations and there is poor co-ordination between the committee and the large U.N. food agencies on the front lines of global hunger” (Leeder, 2/28).

The Globe and Mail also looks at how changing and broadening views of food aid could affect the terms of the treaty. “The European Union increasingly favours providing cash or vouchers for food aid instead of raw product … But the largest contributor to the FAC – the United States – approaches aid quite differently. Almost all of the food aid the United States donates is in the form of actual food grown in the country by U.S. farmers and shipped out,” the newspaper writes (2/28). A second Globe and Mail article highlights calls for change to the FAC in light of recent food price spikes (Waldies, 2/28).

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