Saturday, November 14, 2009

"the poor cannot eat promises."

Aid organizations and even some arm's of the United Nations are expressing frustration over another missed opportunity. Next week, the World Food Summit will take place at the UN, but the aid groups say that not much action is likely. Most of the heads of state from the G-8 will not attend the meeting. Also, pledges might be made from the summit, but they are unlikely to include new measures or money.

The Food and Agriculture Organization has started an online petition for people to sign to show the summit that the world wants action, to take a look go to

From the IPS, writer Paul Virgo surveys the frustration.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is holding the summit to give fresh impetus to the fight against hunger, a scourge it says now affects over a billion people - almost a sixth of the global population.

United States President Barack Obama is not expected to attend the event, which will run from Monday to Wednesday at the FAO's Rome headquarters, and so far Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is the only leader of a G8 country to confirm his presence.

"It's a tragedy that the world leaders are not going to attend the summit," Daniel Berman of health and humanitarian assistance NGO Medecins sans Frontieres told a news conference.

Many experts are also concerned that, as often happens at such meetings, after lots of fine talk there will be little that ties nations down to taking action at the end of the summit. Indeed, the first such food summit in 1996 set the goal of reducing hunger by half from around then 825 million sufferers at that time by 2015, but instead the world has moved in the opposite direction.

"We may get more good declarations, but what is the substance behind it? I doubt there will be specific financial commitments next week," Markus Giger of the University of Bern's Centre for Development and Environment tells IPS.

"The number of hungry and malnourished people is rising. Countries must do more. We are far from reaching our targets. It's unacceptable."

A draft of the summit declaration contains little that was not stated by the G8 group of the world's leading economic powers at the L'Aquila summit in July.

In L'Aquila the G8 promised to "act with the scale and urgency needed to achieve sustainable global food security", among other things by reducing trade distortions in negotiations at the World Trade Organisation and mobilising 20 billion dollars over the next three years for sustainable agriculture in developing countries.

But diplomatic sources told Reuters news agency that less than a quarter of that eye-catching figure will actually be fresh cash.

"The declaration is just a rehash of old platitudes," said Francisco Sarmento, the food rights coordinator of ActionAid. "It says hunger will be halved by 2015 but fails to commit any new resources to achieve this or provide any way of holding governments to account...Unfortunately the poor cannot eat promises."

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