Monday, May 24, 2010

Does the World Bank control the food security discussion?

Most everyone agrees that we need to help the under-developed world to grow more food, but the debate is on which way to do it. A recent summit in Dublin exposed the divide on how to increase food security as some civil service groups did not participate in the summit.

Those who refused to attend blame the World Bank and the G-8 for the current food crisis. They say that the rich nations and their banks have helped to cause the problem of food insecurity by dumping their surplus grain on the poor nations.

In a commentary from the Huffington Post, Eric Holt Gimenez from the Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy explains the division in food security solutions. Gimenez gives a dizzying away of acronyms of governing bodies in his explanation, so we encourage you to read the full commentary for more background.

Most of the participants in the Dialogue (as well as many of the organizers, and possibly even Dr. Nabarro himself) agreed with the need to curb global markets and prioritize investments in agroecology over GMOs. Most wanted agriculture out of the WTO and believe Southern countries need to protect their farmers from the U.S. and E.U's decades-long policy of dumping surplus grain on their national markets. Everyone is against land-grabbing and the spread of agrofuels. The IAASTD was frequently invoked.

But it became very clear that the Dialogue would not get the High Level Task Force to drop their assumptions. In their view, the global market is the solution rather than the cause of hunger, and prioritize the private sector rather than public institutions. The Task Force has yet to seriously address the rash of land-grabbing and seems unable to come to agreement on how to control the expansion of agrofuels. Despite the Dublin Dialogue, the HLTF is unwilling (or unable) to allow civil society--the thousands of farmers organizations and CSOs actually working on the ground--to play a lead role in the fight against hunger. Everything is up for dialogue, but as it turns out, few things can actually be negotiated.

This is because Mr. Nabarro and the High Level Task Force (a self-admitted team of bureaucrats with no budgetary or decision-making power), for all their good intentions, cannot stray far from the mandates of the World Bank--who was conspicuously absent from the Dialogue. To do so would result in the rejection of the CFA. By whom? Most likely by the GAFSPF--The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program.

The GAFSPF is the multilateral trust-fund being set up by the U.S., Canada and Spain under the leadership of the World Bank to span the gap between the $40 billion a year needed to end hunger, the $20 billion promised by the G-8 countries, and the $14 billion that is actually forthcoming on these promises. The GAFSPF Framework Document of December 2009 is based on the Bank's 2007 World Development Report on Agriculture. In direct opposition to the IAASTD (which the Bank funded but now refuses to support) the 2007 Development Report recommends more global trade and more public money for the spread of new agricultural technologies, simply stated: signing the Doha Round and spreading GMOs across the Global South. It also laments that regions like sub Saharan Africa will need to experience significant "land mobility", which a euphemism for forcing small farmers off the land. Unable to win the Global South's support for these positions at the summits in Rome, Madrid, d'Aquila and Pittsburg, the formation of the GAFSPF reflects a strategic move by the Bank to shift the locus of the war on hunger from Rome and New York to Washington--firmly under the control of the World Bank. In the image of World Bank operations, the GAFSPF will divide support between the public and private sector, with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in charge of long and short term loans, credit guarantees and equity to support private sector activities. In typical World Bank fashion, the results of the GAFSPF will never be directly measured in terms of reducing the number of hungry people or measurable improvements to livelihoods. Rather, success will be measured by the numbers of people participating in GAFSPF-supported programs. The heroic assumption is that doing more of the same--i.e., free markets & technology packages--with more people, will end hunger.

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