Is G8 offering a 'shrinking response' to the growing food problem?

By Jenny Lei Ravelo 21 May 2012

G-8 leaders during a working dinner in Laurel Cabin, Camp David, Md., on May 18, 2012. Photo by: Pete Souza / White House

The group of eight major industrialized nations has announced a new food security alliance and new pledges to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, but failed to address an issue close to nongovernmental organizations: Will they continue their L’Aquila funding beyond 2012?

Under the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, more than 45 companies have pledged to invest at least $3 billion in agriculture across Africa in a span of 10 years. These investments, according to U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah, can come in different forms.

Yara International, for instance, plans to invest $2 billion in building a world-class fertilizer production facility and developing regional fertilizer distribution hubs across sub-Saharan Africa. Vodafone, meanwhile, aims to develop an SMS-based service that will inform small-holder farmers of local market prices.

In addition, the G-8 has committed to secure $1.2 billion in the next three years for the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, a multidonor fund that supports country-led plans.

The group has also agreed to fulfill its remaining L’Aquila Food Security Initiative pledges. Presently, only 58 percent of the $22 billion total pledge has been disbursed, Shah said, according to The New York Times.

In his speech at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security, U.S. President Barack Obama said G-8 countries are going to “sustain” commitments made under the L’Aquila initiative. But the group’s final declaration made no mention of such.

ONE President and CEO Michael Elliott said the group is “disappointed by the lack of firm promise” by the G-8 in maintaining the multibillion-dollar support, which is about $7.3 billion a year. Other NGOs, such as ActionAid and Oxfam, expressed the same sentiments.

Oxfam said the $3 billion private sector investment is a “shrinking response to a growing problem.” The organization said even if companies do deliver on this, the investments still pales in comparison with donor countries’ L-Aquila pledge.

The group made no specific pledges in improving nutrition among children, apart from continuing its support to the Scaling Up Nutrition program and activities by African institutions and civil society in the sector.

As for accountability, the group said it will convene a leadership council that will track progress and implementation of commitments made by all actors in the new alliance, including the private sector. The council will make its report at the next G-8 summit, to be held in the United Kingdom in 2013.

Other initiatives on food security were discussed at Camp David, including the launch of a technology platform, the Scaling Seeds and Other Technologies Partnership and an innovation challenge on extension services at the upcoming African Union summit this July.

Meanwhile, as regards the Deauville Partnership with Arab Countries in Transition, the G-8 plans to create a transition fund that will help strengthen country institutions. The group, together with the World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and other regional partners, will set up the fund with an initial capital of $250 million.

The group will also help facilitate transition countries’ recovery of assets lost to corruption through the Asset Recovery Action Plan, and create a Financial Sector Advisory Corps composed of volunteer experts who will provide technical assistance to the countries and help them develop a strong, stable and transparent financial sector.

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About the author

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Jenny Lei Ravelo@JennyLeiRavelo

Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.


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