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World Food Summit Focuses On Aiding Agriculture In Developing Countries To Fight Hunger

Delegates at the World Summit on Food Security, which kicked off Monday, “rallied around a new strategy to fight global hunger and help poor countries feed themselves,” the Associated Press reports. “So far, helping the world’s hungry has largely entailed wealthy nations sending food assistance rather than technology, irrigation help, fertilizer or high-yield seed that could assist local farmers … Much of this food assistance is purchased from the wealthy nations’ own farmers,” according to the AP. Now the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is advocating for aid to help sustain and empower farmers in the developing world (D’emilio, 11/16).

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened the summit with a call for a “‘single global vision’ to address the plight of the world’s billion hungry people,” Agence France-Presse writes (Doggett, 11/16). Ban said, “Our job is not just to feed the hungry, but to empower the hungry to feed themselves,” the AP reports (11/16). 

Ban “called for a more co-ordinated approach to the issues, saying there ‘can be no food security without climate security,'” and advised the summit to coordinate closely with the U.N. climate meeting in Copenhagen in December, the BBC reports. He said, “We must make significant changes to feed ourselves, and most especially to safeguard the poorest and most vulnerable” (11/16). 

There were concerns ahead of the summit that it would be a “missed opportunity,” Reuters reports. G8 leaders, except for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, “are skipping the food summit, which is looking more like a gathering of Latin American and African heads of state,” the news service writes.

“U.N. officials said those dismissing the summit because G8 leaders are not taking part were wrong, arguing the aim was to get poorer countries on board in the fight against hunger. Still, the absence of many heavyweights means that another divisive issue – who should manage donors’ funds to boost agriculture in poor countries – will not be resolved” (Aloisi, 11/16).

According to Ertharin Cousin, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. agencies in Rome, the summit should be used as an opportunity to “redefine how rich and poor countries work together to boost food production and cut poverty,” Bloomberg reports. “When there is an opportunity, you don’t say ‘it is just another summit,’ you say ‘OK we are having this, how do we make it add value,’ and that was our goal,” she said.

Cousin added, “For us to suggest at the global level that we can have a patterned answer that is going to resolve all the issues on the entire continent of Africa of 54 countries is far too simplistic and very naïve” (Maier, 11/16).

Also Monday, the summit “approved its final declaration during its first hours in a show of broad consensus. Countries pledged to substantially increase aid to agriculture in developing nations,” but “did not commit to a specific figure of $44 billion a year for agricultural aid that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says will be necessary in the coming decades,” according to the AP. In addition, the declaration did not include a deadline to eradicate hunger, instead it “focused on a pledge set nine years ago to halve the number of hungry people by 2015” (11/16).

IBD Pledge; First Ladies Discuss Women’s Role In Fighting Hunger

Ahead of the summit, “[a]s delegates gathered Sunday in Rome, the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) made an early pledge of one billion dollars … for joint projects with the FAO,” AFP reports (11/16). The FAO said, “This agreement comes at a critical moment, when the international community recognizes it has neglected agriculture for many years … Today, sustained investment in agriculture – especially small-holder agriculture – is acknowledged as the key to food security,” the AP/USA Today reports (11/16).

In related news, first ladies of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) met on Sunday “to discuss women’s role in the global fight against hunger,” Xinhua reports. “The NAM first ladies identified a series of steps to address through exchange of national experiences in ensuring women’s access to land and credit” (11/15). “Iran’s first lady made a rare public appearance and even rarer, a speech,” in which, she “described Iran as an example in the fight against hunger, saying her country’s system, following religious teachings, guarantees food security for all families,” the AP/Detroit Free Press reports (D’emilio, 11/16).