World Summit on Food Security ends and one billion people are still hungry

ROME – November 19, 2009 – The World Summit on Food Security is now over and little has changed for the more than one billion people who suffer hunger every day.  Summit delegates adopted a wide-ranging declaration that was short on concrete commitments and provided no clear action plan for coordinated action.

Behind the scenes at the Summit, controversy continued about who controls production and distribution of the world’s food supply.  Much of the debate centred around the establishment of a multi-billion dollar fund for food security fund to be housed at the World Bank.  Critics argue that much, if not all, of the fund would be better managed through the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Canada has contributed $260-million towards the fund, but details on its disbursement have yet to be made public.

Controversy around funding was linked to debates about efforts in the past year to reform and strengthen the FAO’s Committee on Food Security (CFS).  The recently concluded reform process envisions a renewed CFS that would in effect serve as the primary international coordination body for policies to end hunger.  In the fulfilment of its mandate the CFS will include not only the participation of member states, but also other multilateral agencies, business associations and civil society.  However, the potential effectiveness of this new mechanism has been put into question by a lack of funding commitments for its operations exacerbated by placement of the multi-billion dollar fund for food security at the World Bank.

Despite the underlying tensions, the Summit declaration reaffirmed commitments to human rights, recognizing the importance in particular of the human right to food. UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, acknowledged that this was a step forward from Declarations of previous food summits where references to the human right to food were obstructed by some governments. The human rights framework, he said, includes a set of guiding principles that can serve as a checklist for a range of policies and programs while at the same time emphasizing state accountability for the impact of those decisions.

“While large sums of money are being promised by the governments of various developed countries, the proof of their commitment to end hunger lies ahead of us,” said Carole Samdup, Rights & Democracy’s spokesperson at the Summit.  “It is not acceptable that more than one billion people, a sixth of humanity, are hungry every day. The time for talk is over and the time for action has come.”

For more information, please contact Steve Smith (x 255) or Marie-Hélène Bachand (x 240) at Rights & Democracy, 514-283-6073.