The UN must lead way at World Food Summit to cut the 24,000 deaths each day from hunger

The UN could drastically reduce the 24,000 deaths occurring daily around the world from hunger-related causes, provided countries agree that it coordinates all the different initiatives to fight hunger.

International agency Oxfam, in a new report “Bridging the Divide”, says that the World Food Summit beginning Monday (16th) in Rome could fix the fragmented global effort that is currently failing to curb human hunger. Children make up 70% of hunger-related deaths.

“Reforming food governance would be a huge win for this Summit,” said report author Chris Leather. “The UN Committee for World Food Security (CFS) must be empowered to coordinate efforts to fight hunger. Without it, all the different initiatives do not add up to a single effective, coherent and accountable whole.”

However, two big obstacles exist. In what Oxfam says is “a dereliction of duty”, no G8 leaders apart from the host are attending the Summit. “Their disregard is a great concern when more than a billion people are now undernourished and millions more exposed to harmful climate change and volatile global food prices. Developing countries should not be left at this Summit to go it alone,” Leather said.

The other problem is that some key countries – including the US and Spain, which are markedly increasing agricultural aid spending after a decline over 30 years – seem more inclined to look to the World Bank to manage part of the money pledged at the G8 Summit, rather than the UN.

In the past, the World Bank has conditioned its lending upon developing countries liberalizing their economic policies, forcing privatization and market-opening. Oxfam fears this fund could be run similarly. Furthermore, developing countries and civil society are not included in the decision-making body proposed for the World Bank fund – but they would in a reformed CFS.

Money alone will not solve the problem. Oxfam says that developing countries must be allowed to pursue the policies they need to target poor farmers, and to accept accountability for their actions.

“The outcome from this Summit matters a great deal,” says Leather. “Leaders should agree that money must go to support the right policies and programs, and that developing countries and civil society be involved in deciding how it is used. A reformed CFS should oversee a move away from a system which has been primarily serving the interests of rich countries and that has failed to reduce world hunger.”

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