G8 food security alliance may be a shrinking solution to a growing problem

Today’s announcement of the "New Alliance to Increase Food and Nutrition Security" focuses too heavily on the role of the private sector to tackle the complex challenges of food insecurity in the developing world.

May 18, 2012

May 18, 2012 — Oxfam warned that today’s announcement of the "New Alliance to Increase Food and Nutrition Security" focuses too heavily on the role of the private sector to tackle the complex challenges of food insecurity in the developing world.

The international organization called instead for G8 leaders to keep the promises they have already made to help developing countries invest in sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty.
"This won't do much to support small-scale farmers, especially women, who are scrambling to feed the hungry in Africa and around the world," said Robert Fox, executive director of Oxfam Canada. "Rather than invest in the priorities set by African governments the G8 have opted to target the private sector."
Three years ago, at the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, President Obama rallied the leaders of the world’s richest countries to pledge $22 billion to poor countries that had good plans to tackle hunger. Seven months away from the end of the L’Aquila initiative, dozens of poor countries have lived up to their end of the bargain, but the G8 is falling down on the job.
One billion hungry
“President Obama deserves credit for focusing the G8’s attention on the fact that one billion people go to bed hungry every night,” said Oxfam’s Gregory Adams.  “We applaud the clear focus on the target of helping 50 million people escape hunger and poverty through agriculture.”
“G8 leaders should join President Obama to commit resources to help developing countries reach this ambitious goal. The pledge to find $1.2 billion for the trust fund to support country agriculture plans is a good start. But the G8 should recommit to the partnership they began at L’Aquila and maintain that level of investments. Otherwise, they’ll be offering a shrinking solution to a growing problem.”
The alliance includes 45 companies from around the world, representing what G8 leaders hope will be the missing link to achieve transformational development in poor countries. While there is a positive role for the private sector in the fight against global hunger, the plan’s top down approach does not reflect what many people in poor countries say they want or need. The average private sector role in existing country food security plans, the basis for the L’Aquila agreement, is about 5%, and most have no role at all.
“This new alliance – is a nice complement at best, a deflection at worst. The role of the private sector is important, but they will not be able to make up for the G8’s broken promises,” said Ndiaye. “Smallholder farmers need the freedom to pursue their own growing strategies, not take overly-prescriptive tips on farming from G8 leaders, or one size fits all technologies from far away CEOs.”
A number of African civil society leaders and groups publicly raised concerns about the path the G8 is taking on food security in an open a letter to the G8 and a declaration signed at a Committee on World Food Security Consultation for African civil society groups in April of 2012.
“Having been developed without African civil society, it’s unclear what role they will play in its execution,” said Ndiaye.
The plan mentions but must do more do address the growing threats of climate change and natural resource constraints. And while the G8’s initiative endorses the United Nations Voluntary Guidelines on Land Tenure, an important step forward in preventing land grabs, they make a misstep in also legitimizing a weaker World Bank standard.
“Unless the G8 reaffirms and continues its L’Aquila pledges, they are passing the buck on global hunger,” said Adams. “The private sector, especially local small and medium enterprises, can play an important role in tackling food security, but G8 leaders have to first deliver on their end of the deal.”
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Oxfam Canada media relations