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Potential Success Of U.N. World Food Summit Questioned

Next week’s World Food Summit in Rome “is not likely to make more than token headway in the fight against hunger, with leaders merely pledging to boost aid to poor countries but setting no targets or deadlines for action,” Reuters/New York Times reports.  

Though the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called the summit “hoping to win a clear pledge by world leaders to spend $44 billion a year to help poor nations feed themselves,” a “final draft declaration … includes only a general commitment,” the news service writes (11/12).

Some observers “condemned the fact that the summit will be attended by only one G8 leader – Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who is hosting the gathering,” the Telegraph writes. All in all, “[m]ore than 60 world leaders are expected, including” the Pope and heads of state from Libya, Venezuela and Zimbabwe (Squires, 11/12).

Congress Daily reports that acting USAID Administrator Alonzo Fulgham “will lead the U.S. delegation to the” summit – “a possible indicator the Obama administration plans to commit more agricultural development assistance rather than food aid to developing countries” (11/12).

Aid groups are billing the summit as “a missed opportunity to tackle malnutrition,” the Telegraph reports. “It’s a tragedy that the world leaders are not going to attend the summit,” according to Daniel Berman of Medecins Sans Frontieres (11/12).

In a joint statement, humanitarian groups ActionAid and Oxfam said the summit “could be a waste of time and money unless world leaders intervene now to salvage it,” Agence France-Presse/Press Trust of India reports (11/13).

However, according to Reuters/New York Times, Ertharin Cousin, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. food agencies in Rome, said “For the first time, instead of setting wishful goals, we acknowledge that there is a goal that exists and affirm a plan to reaching that existing goal” (11/12).

In related news, U.N. FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf has “called for increased input from the private sector to help fight hunger and ensure food security,” Xinhua reports (11/12). Diouf spoke at an “international private sector forum on food security,” according to an FAO press release.

“He also encouraged companies to take the extra step to look into countries where they perhaps have not previously ventured, particularly for input supply, produce procurement and agro-industry development” (11/12).

U.S. Ambassador Cousin said, “Many of these companies have been working in (developing) countries for many years and know better than many of the donor countries what the problems there are,” according to Reuters (Kovalyova, 11/12).

Two Reports Highlight Successful Strategies To Fight Global Hunger


IRIN
examines two new reports that highlight “good news stories on improving food security.” The FAO report, Pathways to Success [.pdf], examines “policy initiatives that have improved food security, and new measures taken in the wake of last year’s global recession,” according to IRIN. The second report, MillionsFed from the U.S.-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, looks “at a mix of food security success stories over a period of years, many of which were driven by NGOs and communities,” IRIN reports (11/12).

According to a second FAO release, “Rising global hunger figures mask the fact that 31 out of 79 countries monitored by FAO have registered a significant decline in the number of undernourished people since the early nineties.” The report focuses on “the progress made by 16 of these countries that have already achieved the [Millennium Development Goal] target of halving the number of hungry by 2015 or are on track to do so” (11/11).

David Spielman, an IFPRI research fellow and one of the editors of MillionsFed, said, “We’re looking at things that have been proven to work, but we’re looking at them from a very different angle than what’s been done in the past. We’re seeing that a combination of factors…need to be brought to bear on agriculture and agricultural development now,” according to VOA News (11/12).

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