For Immediate Release
Matt Grainger, +44(0)7730680837
Lackluster Food Summit Offers Crumbs
The summit failed to increase support for small-holder farmers
WASHINGTON - International agency Oxfam gave the 2009 UN World
Food Summit a 20% overall rating as delegates left Rome today without
tackling many of the biggest challenges of food security and
The one kernel of optimism was that all countries had at least sanctioned a process to reform global food governance.
"A single meeting can't solve world hunger but we certainly expected
far more than this," said Oxfam spokesperson Gawain Kripke. "The result
is not commensurate with the problem which is historically huge - a
billion people now facing hunger and looming climate change. The near
total absence of rich country leaders sent a poor message from the
beginning. The summit offered few solid accomplishments."
Oxfam has ranked the Summit against five key criteria and found that not one was fully achieved,
and all being vague or conditional or lacking in ambition. However,
Oxfam says that sanctioning the reform of the UN's Committee for World
Food Security (CFS) could be an important victory over the course of
time, even if much more needs to be done.
1. Reform of food governance
One of the most important issues was to bring all the fragmented
international efforts to fight global hunger under the single UN roof.
This was a heavily qualified success. The Summit said that the CFS
should be reformed to play a greater coordination role but stopped
short of giving it any way to hold countries to account or to track all
the money. Until that happens, Oxfam says the CFS would remain
relatively weak. "A reformed CFS is the place where all governments,
NGOs and institutions can be heard, so giving it power is worth
fighting for," Kripke said. "Creating a platform for coordination,
accountability and transparency would be a big win for better global
food governance - but there is a lot to work to do for that to happen."
(with possibly more to come)
2. Specific and properly budgeted plans to halve hunger
Countries needed to make specific and properly budgeted plans to
halve hunger by 2015. But they stopped a long way short of insisting on
this at the Summit, making instead only a vague statement to "take
action ... at the earliest possible date". This is the kind of language
that substitutes for real action. On the positive side, the Summit
specified that money must be channelled through country-owned plans and
recognized the need for better coordination. The declaration also set
out the goal for the progressive realization of the right to adequate
food and it committed countries to work "for a world free from hunger".
In Oxfam's experience, this kind of woolly commitment rarely translates
into real action.
3. Ambitious language
Oxfam reviewed the Summit's language around climate change and found
it lacked ambition. Governments should have declared in Rome than any
agreement on a global deal in Copenhagen next month must commit
sufficient resources - over and above existing aid budgets - to
specifically help small-holder farmers to adapt to harmful climate
change. "The Summit simply called for small-holders to be taken into
account, which is wishy-washy at best," Kripke said.
4. New investment in food and agriculture
This Summit could have declared a rescue package for the Millennium
Development Goal to halve hunger by finding sufficient money -
eventually up to $40 billion a year - with half of it going to the
farming, transport and market systems that support small-holder
farmers, and half to a reformed food aid. However, it brought little
new to the table other than to declare "to be ready to increase the
percentage of ODA to go to agriculture" if countries wanted that. "We
heard the platitudes but nothing new was offered to reverse the decline
of agricultural support," Kripke said. "Investing in agriculture is a
critical mechanism to reduce hunger and poverty."
5. Support for sustainable farming
"This meeting had to increase support to the kind of sustainable
farming methods that would help poor farmers to feed their families and
increase their income. That this did not happen taints the 2009 Summit
with arguably its worst failure," Kripke said. The Summit's language on
trade is inconsistent with guaranteeing that all countries have the
right to food security. Meanwhile, the Summit gave a lot of importance
to the role of biotechnology and "new technologies" in increasing
agricultural productivity. "Oxfam believes that technology does have a
role to play in overall global food production - however, there are
more effective ways to help the poorest farmers in the world to feed
their families in a sustainable way," Kripke said. "Low external input,
agro-ecological farming methods not only improve productivity on
marginal and degraded land, but also help to cut carbon emissions."
Despite the Summit claiming to have put small-holder farmers at the
centre of its mission, Oxfam says that it failed to specify the
policies to help the poorest countries to reduce hunger and poverty.
Read the blog: Declaring a vision for world hunger
Learn more about Oxfam's Agriculture campaign
Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change. Oxfam works directly with communities and that seeks to influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them.