UN Food Summit Gleans no Firm Funding Commitments

World leaders this week promised not sufficient food, but crumbs to the world's estimated 1 billion hungry people.

This is according to Oxfam International, one of several groups and individuals who have expressed dismay over the resolutions reached at the World Summit on Food Security, held Nov. 16-18 in Rome.

In the summit's final declaration, 60 heads of state and 191 ministers agreed to increase agricultural investments in developing countries and pledged to eradicate hunger around the world at the earliest date possible.

The leaders pledged to help strengthen multilateral organizations and agencies involved in food, food security and agriculture and to implement reforms at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's Committee on World Food Security.

FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf, who was the summit's host, said these resolutions are important steps "towards the achieved of our common objective - a world free from hunger."

But the U.N. official himself was also one of the first to criticize the summit for failing to secure concrete commitments to fight global hunger.

On the first day of talks, delegates from 182 countries turned down a U.N. proposal for aid-giving countries to commit $44 billion annually in order to feed the world's hungry, a group that is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050.

"I am not satisfied that some of the concrete proposals I made were not accepted," Diouf told reporters shortly after the proposal was rejected. "There was no consensus on this and I regret it."

Oxfam, meanwhile, recognized the summit for its proposition to reform the world food security committee, but it called the overall summit declaration vague or conditional or lacking in ambition.

FAO's Assistant Director-General Alexander Mueller provided a potential explanation for the summit's outcome: Governments hesitated to make firm funding commitments because of the economic crisis and the upcoming climate change summit in Copenhagen, he indicated. Most governments are expecting to channel more financial aid to developing countries during the Copenhagen climate talks, he suggested.

The United States, the world's top food donor, said that rich nations should consider the specific needs of each poor country instead of allocating a fixed amount to agricultural aid.

"What this declaration represents is a significant change - not just an acknowledgment of a problem but an articulation of solutions, with a focus on country-led programs and strategies," said Alonzo Fulgham, acting administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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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.