Food Summit calls for more investment in agriculture
Poor countries need special assistance to weather food price shocks
6 June 2008, Rome – The Summit on soaring food prices, convened by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), has concluded with the adoption by acclamation of a declaration calling on the international community to increase assistance for developing countries, in particular the least developed countries and those that are most negatively affected by high food prices.
“There is an urgent need to help developing countries and countries in transition expand agriculture and food production, and to increase investment in agriculture, agribusiness and rural development, from both public and private sources,” according to the declaration.
Donors and international financial institutions are urged to provide “balance of payments support and/or budget support to food-importing, low-income countries. Other measures should be considered as necessary to improve the financial situation of the countries in need, including reviewing debt servicing as necessary,” it said.
More funding needed for UN agencies to expand assistance
The final declaration also called on governments to “assure” United Nations agencies “the resources to expand and enhance their food assistance and support safety net programmes to address hunger and malnutrition, when appropriate, through the use of local or regional purchases.”
Speaking about the growing social threat from rising food prices at the opening of the Summit, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said: “What is important today is to realize that the time for talking is long past. Now is the time for action.”
World takes action
FAO Assistant Director-General Alexander Mueller said, “Clearly this Summit has decided to act. It has called for both immediate humanitarian assistance to those hardest hit by the current food price crisis and it has taken actions that in the medium term should go a long way in considering the driving forces of food system fragility to shocks in order to reduce the number of hungry people in the world, helping us to meet the World Food Summit and Millennium Development Goals.”
The Declaration calls for “development partners” to participate in and contribute “to international and regional initiatives on soaring food prices” and “assist countries to put in place the revised policies and measures to help farmers, particularly small-scale producers, to increase production and integrate with local, regional and international markets.”
Also recommended by the Declaration are initiatives that “moderate unusual fluctuations” in food grain prices. “We call on relevant institutions to assist countries in developing their food stock capacities and consider other measures to strengthen food security risk management for affected countries.”
Call for increasing the resilience of world’s food systems to climate change
On climate change, the Declaration said: “It is essential to address question of how to increase the resilience of present food production systems to challenges posed by climate change... We urge governments to assign appropriate priority to the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors, in order to create opportunities to enable the world’s smallholder farmers and fishers, including indigenous people, in particular vulnerable areas, to participate in, and benefit from financial mechanisms and investment flows to support climate change adaptation, mitigation and technology development, transfer and dissemination. We support the establishment of agricultural systems and sustainable management practices that positively contribute to the mitigation of climate change and ecological balance.”
More dialogue on biofuels and their relation to food security
On the contentious issue of biofuels, the Declaration said: “It is essential to address the challenges and opportunities posed by biofuels, in view of the world’s food security, energy and sustainable development needs. We are convinced that in-depth studies are necessary to ensure that production and use of biofuels is sustainable in accordance with the three pillars of sustainable development and take into account the need to achieve and maintain global food security…We call upon relevant inter-governmental organizations, including FAO, within their mandates and areas of expertise, with the involvement of national governments, partnerships, the private sector, and civil society, to foster a coherent, effective and results-oriented international dialogue on biofuels in the context of food security and sustainable development needs.”
Successful Doha development round and improved trade opportunities
According to the Declaration, WTO members reaffirmed their commitment to the rapid and successful conclusion of the Doha development agenda and reiterated their willingness to reach a comprehensive and ambitious result that would be condusive to improving food security in developing countries.
“We encourage the international community to continue its efforts in liberalizing international trade in agriculture by reducing trade barriers and market distorting policies,” said the Declaration, adding that addressing these measures “will give farmers, particularly in developing countries, new opportunities to sell their products on world markets and support their efforts to increase productivity and production.”
One hundred eighty-one countries participated in the FAO Food Summit – 43 were represented by their Head of State or Government and 100 by high-level Ministers. Sixty Non-governmental and Civil Society Organizations were present as well. Overall, 5 159 people attended -- 1 298 of them were journalists covering the event.
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