German development minister Svenja Schulze is travelling to the World Bank Group’s spring meetings in Washington with a clear mission: G7 and donor countries should form a food security alliance to tackle the global food crisis. EURACTIV Germany reports.
On Wednesday (20 April), Schulze said she wants to achieve “stronger coordination of the G7 and other donors and international organisations in the fight against the food crisis” at the conference, which is set to start on Thursday.
The proposal has already been presented to the G7, of which Germany currently holds the presidency. Now, the minister wants to lobby for international support in Washington.
Food prices have hit record highs since war broke out in Ukraine, one of the world’s most important wheat exporters and a major supplier for the UN World Food Programme. Export-dependent countries in Asia and Africa have been hit the hardest.
“We feel it here in Germany in our wallets, but in other parts of the world it is now a matter of securing livelihoods,” the Social Democrat minister added.
According to Schulze’s proposal, the global alliance should help coordinate aid offers from donor countries and adapt them to the needs of those affected by the crisis.
There is already a “great willingness to help” on the part of many countries – Germany has pledged €430 million in addition to the planned development budget. However, it is “important for developing countries that donors and organisations act quickly and with foresight in a coordinated manner,” Schulze said.
Lessons from COVAX
However, administrative structures in less developed countries are almost non-existent – meaning it is often not possible to coordinate aid among many different partners.
In practice, the new alliance is to be modelled on the international COVAX initiative, which was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure equal access to vaccines worldwide.
“What we learned there, we should as a global community now transfer to the effort against the looming food crisis,” said Schulze, adding that the alliance should be open to national governments and organisations like foundations and the private sector.
Similar to the global COVAX campaign, she said the platform should also focus on short-term crisis aid in the supply of food and support affected countries in the long term in building up their own resilient production capacities – in this case, food systems.
Thus, beyond mitigating the now-looming hunger crisis, the aim is also to “ensure that we don’t have hunger crises every year, but build structures that are more resilient.”
But the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot only serve as a model for building an international alliance of supporters. It also shows where the international willingness to provide aid could be hampered: as with the distribution of vaccines, the global supply of food is threatened by the fact that individual countries are hoarding stocks.
Fighting the information war
“We know that China currently has half of the world’s stocks [of wheat],” Schulze said. It is now crucial to keep cross-border trade going and avoid export freezes, she added, as discussions in Europe over such freezes have intensified, with Hungary and Serbia, for example, having temporarily limited grain exports.
In addition to the initiative for a global alliance, Schulze also announced that she will visit Lebanon and Ethiopia after her return from Washington on Sunday.
“Lebanon is almost completely dependent on Ukrainian wheat supplies and was already very vulnerable,” she said. In Ethiopia, too, she said, the Ukraine war was exacerbating an already existing hunger crisis.
In Addis Ababa, Schulze also plans to visit the headquarters of the African Union. Dialogue with governments of the global South is particularly important “in these confrontational times”, she stressed – also to counter targeted disinformation by Russia.
“If the other side spreads the word that the West is to blame for hunger with its sanctions, then we must counter this and say clearly in direct dialogue: Russia’s war of aggression is to blame,” the German development minister also said.
[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]