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FAO and EU join forces to fight hunger

EU Commission President Barroso meets with FAO Director-General

Photo: ©EU/Cornelia Smet
EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso receives FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva
11 October 2012, Brussels - Some 870 million people in the world are undernourished, and more than 2.5 million children die each year of malnutrition. Tackling this horrifying situation is a priority for the European Union and the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Today, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso met in Brussels with the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, José Graziano da Silva. They agreed that the EU is a key strategic partner for the FAO and should play a full role in it. They discussed food security including development, resilience and nutrition policies, as well as global governance issues. On Wednesday, Mr Graziano da Silva also met Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Cioloș and Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki.

President Barroso said: "I am very happy to receive Director-General Graziano da Silva here in Brussels today. We are partners in the fight against under-nutrition amongst the world's poorest and in the promotion of global food security. The EU is consistently the largest single source of voluntary funding to the FAO. For the European Commission, food security is a key priority: worldwide, the EU is already the largest donor of aid to fight food and nutrition insecurity and we will step up our efforts in the next Multiannual Financial Framework. The EU remains fully committed to the Millennium Development Goals and to achieving the development aid target of 0,7 % of gross national income by 2015. The European Union will continue to support the on-going FAO reform politically, operationally and financially."

Valued partner

Director-General Graziano da Silva stated: "The European Union is a valued partner of FAO. We are working together at the global and national levels to promote food security and sustainable agricultural development. The new hunger figures show that we are on track to meet the MDG target of halving the proportion of hungry people. But we need to look beyond that and aim for the total eradication of hunger, answering the Zero Hunger Challenge launched by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at the Rio+20 Conference. With hunger, the only acceptable number is zero."

Mr. Graziano da Silva and President Barroso said that governments and the national and international communities have an important role to play. They stressed the need to strengthen global governance mechanisms such as the Committee on World Food Security and the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), and noted that increased market transparency and coordination were helping avoid spikes in international food prices. Mr. Graziano da Silva and Barroso also reaffirmed FAO and EU's commitment to supporting nationally and regionally led efforts and actions to promote sustainable and inclusive growth and mitigate the impact of high food prices in local food security.

In his meetings with Commissioners Piebalgs, Cioloș and Damanaki, Mr Graziano da Silva discussed various issues of EU-FAO cooperation, including the 2014 International Year of Family Farming, as well as rural development, food price volatility, global governance of food security - which FAO wants strengthened - and the need to promote pro-poor long term economic growth, including the importance of resilience building, the creation of enabling environments for the productive sectors, support to small-scale production and the strengthening of social protection.

Background

With a yearly investment of around 1 billion euro, the European Union is by far the largest donor in the world in the fight against food and nutrition insecurity.

The European Union is the largest single source of voluntary funding to FAO, contributing to over € 580 million since 2007. The EU closely cooperates with the FAO to deliver quality programmes throughout the world. Since taking up office on 1 January 2012, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva has taken concrete steps to conclude FAO reform. The current transformational change aims to institutionally strengthen the organization to better deliver at the country level and focus the organization's work in five strategic objectives, at the same assuring best value for money. The European Union, who signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement with the FAO in September 2004, supports the FAO transformational change both politically and financially.

Agriculture, food and nutrition security are key priorities in the EU's reinforced development policy for the period up to 2020, its 'Agenda for Change', which places great emphasis on agriculture as an engine for growth in developing countries.

On 3 October 2012, the European Commission adopted a new Communication, "The EU Approach to Resilience: Learning from Food Security Crises", on helping vulnerable communities in crisis prone areas across the world build resilience to future shocks. Earlier in 2012, the European Commission launched two initiatives, the "Alliance Globale pour l'Initiative Résilience" (AGIR) and the "Supporting Horn of Africa Resilience" (SHARE) Partnerships, that aim to strengthening resilience and breaking the vicious cycle of humanitarian crises in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa regions respectively. Both initiatives will be used to learn from experience and to build upon for future interventions in addressing resilience to food crises.

The EU has also in place sustainability criteria for bio-fuels. These are designed to ensure that no valuable land is converted to produce bio-fuels.

In international fora like the G8 and G20, the EU has always been at the forefront in the area of food security. 2012 is the closing year of the successful G8 L'Aquila Food Security Initiative (AFSI) where the EU did very well on its commitments: not only did the EU make the largest pledge - close to USD 4 billion out of the total USD 22 billion, but it had met this pledge in merely 2 years.

The EU Food Facility, announced by President Barroso at the G8 Summit in Japan in 2008 in response to the crisis triggered by volatility of food prices, has helped to feed 50 million people in 50 countries around the world, through over 230 projects. Three years after the € 1 billion facility was established, 100% of the funds have been committed, with FAO implementing over € 230 million of the total funding.

During the 2012 Summit in Camp David (USA), G8 leaders including the EU agreed on launching the "New Alliance on Food and Nutrition Security" with African partners in order to lift 50 million Africans out of poverty over ten years. The EU has promised to strongly support the New Alliance and has already started to make good on its commitments. Apart from its efforts in the six pilot countries, which will exceed 1 billion US dollars by the end of 2013, the EU has pledged 125 million US dollars in support of the New Alliance's enabling actions.

To better address rising food prices and prevent future food crises, the G20 agreed on the Action Plan on Food Price Volatility and Agriculture, in the framework of which it launched the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS, hosted by the FAO), which includes an Information Group and a Rapid Response Forum (RRF). The European Commission, representing the EU, actively participates in AMIS.

(Joint EU/FAO release)