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Diouf appeals for new world agricultural order

Proposes 2009 Summit to reform present system, find $30 billion

19 November 2008, Rome - FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf today appealed to world leaders to meet together next year to design a new agricultural order and find $30 billion a year to eradicate hunger from the Earth once and for all.

Addressing a special session of the FAO’s 191-member-nation governing Conference, Diouf declared the World Summit was needed because, “After more than 60 years [since FAO’s foundation] it is essential to create a new system of world food security”.

The Director-General continued: “We must correct the present system that generates world food insecurity on account of international market distortions resulting from agricultural subsidies, customs tariffs and technical barriers to trade, but also from skewed distribution of resources of official development assistance and of national budgets of developing countries”.

The Summit, proposed for the first half of 2009, “should lay the ground for a new system of governance of world food security and an agricultural trade that offers farmers, in developed and developing countries alike, the means of earning a decent living,” he said. “We must have the intelligence and imagination to devise agricultural development policies together with rules and mechanisms that will ensure not only free but also fair international trade.”

Saving humankind from hunger

The Summit should also “come up with $30 billion per year to build rural infrastructure and increase agricultural productivity in the developing world,” he said. Proposing to commit such a sum to save humanity from hunger was not unreasonable given it had taken only few weeks to find more than 100 times that amount to deal with a global financial meltdown. The amount was modest compared to $365 billion of total support to agriculture in OECD countries in 2007 and 1 340 billion in world military expenditure the same year by developed and developing countries.

Late last month at the World Food Day celebration in New York, in the presence of President Clinton and the UN Secretary-General, and earlier this month in his message of congratulations to US President-elect Barack Obama, Diouf suggested that the United States take a lead in convening the Summit.

At the proposed Meeting, State and Government Heads should also agree to create an “Emergency Intervention Fund” to provide rapid-reaction resources to boost food production in poor countries heavily dependent on food imports, Diouf said.

No need for new structures

To boost international food security, Diouf suggested building on the present Committee on World Food Security (CFS) created in 1974 after the World Food Conference to monitor the international food situation. “As an intergovernmental mechanism, the CFS is universal and is open to all Member Nations of FAO and the UN and to representatives of other international organizations, NGOs, civil society and the private sector,” he noted.

Specifically, the CFS’ role would be to prevent international food crises and help develop and implement the necessary policies at national, regional and international levels to ensure food security in the world. It could also act as a forum for debate on the pro-security principles that should govern the international agricultural system.

One of its tasks would be to analyze future risks and needs and formulate appropriate policy recommendations.

It should be enhanced as a system for coherence in the governance of world food security. It should include a “global partnership for food security” building on existing alliances and an international panel of top-ranking experts building on existing external advisory panels of experts in crop, livestock, fisheries, forestry and socio-economic aspects of food and agriculture, possibly along the lines of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Diouf stressed that FAO knew very well what had to be done to eradicate hunger from the world and to double world food production by 2050 to feed a population of nine billion. “Plans, programmes and projects to resolve the problem of food insecurity in the world do exist,” he underlined. Achieving those goals was a political and funding problem rather than a technical one, he noted.

Action Plan

FAO’s governing Conference adopted a three-year Immediate Plan of Action for a wide-ranging reform of the Organization, following an Independent External Evaluation conducted in 2006-07. The main elements of the plan include a stronger focus on the agency’s core objectives and functions; enhanced governance and oversight; and improved performance through leaner and more accountable management procedures.

“The intention is to reform FAO so that it can play a more effective role in world food security,” Diouf said. But, he added, “we need also to change the public finance and policy environment and the international trade system within which FAO operates”.

The Plan of Action is intended to start next year and continue through 2011.