Experts flesh out pros, cons of new food assistance treaty

Food aid for distribution in Harare, Zimbabwe. The Food Assistance Convention document will take effect on January 2013 if ratified by at least five countries by the end of November. Photo by: Kate Holt / IRIN / CC BY-NC-ND

A revised international agreement on food assistance contains significant improvements toward making food aid more effective and transparent, but it is not without criticism.

This is according to Jennifer Clapp and C. Stuart Clark, who in an entry on the Centre for International Governance Innovation blog, analyze some of the changes included in the latest version of the Food Assistance Convention. This document is a revised version of the Food Aid Convention, an international treaty adopted in 1994 and revised in 1999 to guide efforts to improve food security.

“Some of the changes are promising in the direction they signal toward more openness in the operation of the treaty,” Clapp and Clark say. “And some raise concerns about the future predictability of donor commitments to international food assistance.”

Here are some of the changes the two experts described as positive:

  • Change of “food aid” in the document’s name to “food assistance.”

  • The stress on providing food aid as grant that is untied and locally or regionally purchased whenever possible.

  • Explicit calls for accountability on the part of donors, including by encouraging them to “monitor, evaluate and communicate, on a regular and transparent basis,” the outcomes of their programs.

  • The proposal to include other stakeholders in deliberations of the Food Assistance Committee, the treaty’s governing body.

Clapp and Clark did note of new proposals that affect aid predictability and the impact of global price volatility on food aid. The revised text, for one, no longer specifies minimum annual commitments per donor, the two say.

The Food Assistance Convention document will be open for signatures to 34 countries and the European Union from June 11 to Dec. 11. It will take effect January 2013 if ratified by at least five countries by the end of November.

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About the author

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.