Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rich Nation vs Poor Nation again at Food Summit

Again the fight between wealthy and poor nations is seen at an international summit. The battle is taking center stage again this week at the UN's World Food Summit taking place in Rome.

Poor nations attending the summit are criticizing agricultural practices of the rich nations. While the rich nations are fighting any concrete deadlines or new funding levels for hunger.

From this story on the summit that we found at the New York Times, writer Neil MacFarquhar describes the battle.

In the hard-fought negotiations over a draft declaration from the three-day talks, richer nations succeeded in removing a goal to end world hunger by 2025 and declined to commit to increasing agricultural aid to nearly 20 percent of all international development aid, where it peaked in 1980 before gradually falling.

Instead, the draft declaration restated the United Nations target of halving world hunger by 2015 and said that eradicating hunger should come “at the earliest possible date.” Diplomats from wealthier countries argued that creating a deadline for eradicating hunger was unrealistic, according to officials involved in the negotiations. The United Nations estimates that the number of people facing hunger around the world rose to more than one billion this year.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations had hoped the meeting would set an agriculture aid target of $44 billion annually toward helping farmers in poorer countries. To meet demand by 2050, agriculture output needs to grow by 70 percent, the organization said.

The draft declaration instead commits to “substantially increase” agriculture aid. Leaders of industrialized nations meeting in Italy last July agreed to spend more than $22 billion on agriculture aid over the next three years, but not all of that constitutes new aid, and the nations have been slow to figure out how it might be distributed.

The Rome conference was prompted by a sharp rise in the price of basic commodities like rice and wheat that incited food riots in many countries in 2008, a crisis that Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, warned could easily be repeated.

The pope decried the “greed which causes speculation to rear its head even in the marketing of cereals, as if food were to be treated just like any other commodity.” Rising demand, weather and supply shocks, and not speculation alone, are considered to be at the root of the food crisis.

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