Partnering at the Negotiating Table to Feed the World

By Janeen Madan

At a recent United Nations event about global hunger, held on November 4th, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared partnerships as the key to feeding the world’s hungry.

Initiatives, which foster partnerships at the negotiating table, are an important complement to collaboration on-the-ground. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Although the number of hungry people worldwide has fallen for the first time in 15 years, this progress is not nearly enough. The global food system is still failing to provide the most basic human right to 925 million people who remain chronically hungry.

But, initiatives such as the High-Level Task Force on Global Food Security, launched by the Secretary-General at the height of the food crisis in April 2008, are championing new approaches. In bringing together governments, civil society organizations and private sector groups, this initiative is helping to build important partnerships to improve food and nutrition security.

In a similar effort, the Committee on World Food Security, a special forum within the UN system, was reformed over the past year to make its representation more inclusive. “Farmers’ organizations, research bodies and civil society groups are not just observers on the Committee – they are active participants. The Committee is building a strategy so that we stay united and effective in the fight against hunger,” the Secretary-General said.

United Against Hunger,” the theme of this year’s World Food Day also embodies a more comprehensive approach. From innovative efforts of local farmers’ groups to successful national school lunch programs, the campaign is recognizing the achievements made in combating hunger at the national, regional and international level.

Such initiatives, which foster partnerships at the negotiating table, are an important complement to collaboration on-the-ground.

In their attempt to address long-term inequalities, these initiatives represent a shift away from temporary solutions. By investing in agriculture and rural development, we can attack the root causes of the problem, noted Joseph Deiss, President of the U.N. General Assembly. Although emergency food assistance for victims of floods and famines is essential, we must invest in agriculture to build sustainable, self-reliant food systems.

At the recent Millennium Development Goals summit in New York, for example, some 60 countries joined together to create the Global Dry Land Alliance. This partnership will focus on the long-term food needs of people in dry-land areas where drought-related famines are frequent. (See also Partnering for Food Security in Dry Land Areas.)

And the key to building a sustainable food system will mean addressing the declining levels of funds being devoted to agricultural development. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the share of development assistance going to agriculture projects has fallen from 19 percent in 1980 to 3 percent in 2006, and is currently estimated at 6 percent. Jacques Diouf, FAO Director-General, also called on governments of food deficient countries to allocate 10 percent of their national budgets to agricultural development.

Janeen Madan is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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