United Nations officials last week called on governments, donors and other stakeholders to set up a global partnership for food security at a high-level meeting convened in Madrid for the end of January.
The meeting, co-chaired by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Rodriguez Zapatero, will seek to help the undernourished, whose number rose to close to 1 billion in 2008 due to volatile food prices, difficulties in accessing food caused by wars and the negative impact of climate change on agriculture, according to UN estimates.
David Nabarro, who coordinates a high-level UN task force on the global food security crisis, urged countries to adopt a “twin-track approach” which would feed the hungry and increase investment in agriculture, markets and social protection systems. He said investment in agriculture had dropped massively over the last thirty years, leaving 420 million or so small producers in difficulty.
The task force, which was established in April 2008, is working on a framework upon which it recommends that nations should base their actions. The strategy pushes for greater food aid and scaled up nutritional support, as well as small-holding farmers to be provided with seed and fertiliser and trade and tax policy to be used more efficiently. It also wants to pay greater attention to biofuels.
“It links together our thinking and action on nutrition, social protection, food security, agriculture, markets and trade. These are all areas in which there are quite major problems in the world today,” said Nabarro.
The World Food Programme has had to raise its budget for 2009 by as much as $2 billion to $5.2 billion to be able to account for the increase in its beneficiaries, which now totals 100 million a year. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, another 40 million people faced hunger last year, as the number of the world’s hungry reached 963 million.
The Madrid summit is a follow-up to the UN Food Summit in Rome last June, which pledged an extra $6 billion in new funding. It intends to take stock of progress made on food security since the last meeting and set up a framework for a global partnership for food security, bringing together governments, regional bodies, civil society, businesses, international agencies, development banks and donors.
Nabarro said that despite the global downturn, most of the countries that made commitments in Rome had followed up on them, although more slowly than had been expected. He said the task force had given “a gold star” to the EU, which had pledged to provide €1 billion food aid for the Third World and delivered on its promise (EURACTIV 05/12/08).