Tuesday, January 27, 2009

UN summit on food security closes

The United Nations food security summit in Madrid has drawn to a close. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon finished the summit with a speech that asked the world to do more to help the hungry.

Instead of focusing on the Secretary General's comments, our snippet from the BBC story includes reaction from the civic world on the summit. Also, it includes a remark that Jeffrey Sachs made at the conference. David Loyn of the BBC filed this story on the close of the summit.

The most dramatic intervention at the conference was from the UN poverty adviser Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who said that when the finance minister of Kenya phoned him to ask for $80m (£57m) to help Kenya's farmers this year he said "spend the money" in the faith that it would be covered by the World Bank.

This prioritisation of food and hunger is quite new, and has been welcomed by campaign groups like the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), who have recently mobilised millions of people for their cause.

But the co-chair of the movement, Sylvia Borren, said that the international response in Madrid is still lacking urgency.

"It is a consultation and coalition-forming process, but if you look at the plans it will be another year before it gets off the paper, out of the talks into real action.

"What we are concerned about are people who are starving today - women who say to us 'I have to choose which child to feed'."
The amounts of money now being talked about are large - $5bn extra for food aid, and $10bn extra on helping farmers in Africa plant more productive crops.

But they are dwarfed by the trillions now committed to saving the banking system in the developed world.

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