Are Donor Countries Reneging on L’Aquila Promises?

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By Kamaria Greenfield

According to the anti-poverty group The ONE Campaign, the Group of Eight (G8) and other rich nations have donated only a fifth of the US$22 billion promised to impoverished countries in July 2009. This reflects a larger trend of the decrease of foreign aid for agricultural development. Aid was at a high point in the mid-1980s, reaching US$20 billion, but has since declined. In the early 2000s, the number was around only US$3 billion. By 2009, it had crawled back up to around US$9 billion.

Investment in agriculture has significantly declined over the past decade. (Image credit: OECD DAC)

Two years ago, the world’s wealthiest nations gathered at the G8 plus meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, where they committed to “take decisive action to free humankind from hunger and poverty through improving food security, nutrition, and sustainable agriculture”. It was an important move in support of smallholder agriculture, with money going to categories like transportation and storage, food security assistance, and rural development. The L’Aquila Food Security Initiative, as it was named, was backed by 27 countries and 14 international agencies.

In May, ONE specifically targeted Germany, France, and Italy for blame in the US$7 billion shortfall. In July, the organization pointed out the deficits in donations from the United States, United Kingdom, and, once again, France. The US has donated only $73 million of a promised $3.5 billion. The UK government, which has contributed around 30 percent of its pledge, was recently criticized for what some believed was a prioritization of security concerns over aid.

Organizations, including the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) have expressed their doubts about the lack of aid, as well. Having agreed to give annual progress reports, the donor countries have reported projects that have been created since 2009 and are outside the original plans. “This suggests that governments are re-categorising commitments, in order to mask their lack of progress. Moving the goal posts halfway through the game is not fair play,” says a March 2011 accountability report from FANRPAN.

These recent shortfalls are not unanimously accepted as accurate. The UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) says that the country is on track with its spending and that it is additionally giving emergency food relief to approximately 1.5 million people in Ethiopia. The confusion, DfID alleges, is that the figures do not account for the 2010-11 updates, which will be available later in the year.

Meanwhile, ONE has set up an Agricultural Accountability website, which allows viewers to use an interactive “pledge tracker” by scrolling across a world map and clicking on any of the L’Aquila participant nations. Each country’s profile includes statistics of donations, both disbursed and outstanding, and eight categories of non-financial progress. These include comprehensive approach, environmental sustainability, and transparency. The possible grades in the eight categories are On Track, Somewhat On Track, and Needs Improvement.

According to ONE, Canada and Italy are both close to completing their disbursements, with 89 percent and 82 percent given, respectively. The U.S., though significantly behind in donations, has been frank about its shortfall—onee of its three on track grades is for transparency.

There is still a year remaining for the donations to be completed, and the famine in East Africa and pressure for accountability from organizations like ONE will ensure that the much-needed funds are given in full.

Kamaria Greenfield is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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