Friday, 6 June 2008

Rome summit: Much more needed says Oxfam

This week’s UN summit in Rome was an important first step in tackling the food crisis but greater action is now needed to resolve the crisis says Oxfam. “Recognizing you have a problem is the first step toward solving it. Leaders of the richest countries have acknowledged the importance of aid to agriculture after 25 years of decline. They have pledged money to provide immediate aid to those that need it. But a crisis like this, with so many contributing factors, needs a wide-ranging plan to resolve it and rich countries can’t continue to ignore their own trade and agriculture policies,” said Barbara Stocking, CEO, Oxfam GB.

The final communique acknowledges that biofuels offer both ‘opportunities and challenges’ and recommends more research into their impact. However, in the meantime, biofuels will continue to have a devastating impact on millions of poor people and recent estimates suggest that demand for biofuels is responsible for 30 percent of the global food price rise. Oxfam is calling on the EU and US to end their compulsory biofuel targets.

The communique also suggests that concluding the current WTO agreement will solve the crisis. Oxfam disagrees and argues instead that current WTO proposals do not give developing countries the flexibility they need to respond to volatile markets and short term rises and falls in prices. “Concluding a trade deal as it is currently framed will hurt poor farmers and consumers, not help them. Trade rules must protect poor people in times of both high prices and low. Developing countries need the ability to feed their people and support the poorest, most marginalized farmers to gain from current high prices. The current crisis illustrates starkly that what we need is not business as usual but deep reform of the international trading system," said Stocking.

The UN Task Force set up to deal with the food crisis must listen to representatives from the developing world’s 400 million small-holder farmers. These farms are not only important in feeding their nations but also providing economic development and must be part of any solution to the crisis. US$6bn has been pledged this week but this is less than half of the $14.5bn that Oxfam estimates is needed to provide immediate assistance to at least 290 million people threatened by rising food prices until the end of 2008. It is unclear whether the US$6bn is new money or comes from existing aid commitments, and what is the time frame for its delivery. (The money pledged this week includes: France €1bn (US$1.5bn), Spain €500m (US$800m), Islamic Development Bank US$1.5bn, World Bank US$1.2bn, African Development Bank US$1bn.)

“The baton of responsibility now passes to the G8 and its finance ministers meeting in Japan next week. As the world’s most powerful countries they must provide more money to deal with the immediate impact of the current crisis but also tackle some of the contributing causes by ending compulsory biofuels targets and providing more long term aid for to agriculture,” said Stocking.

For more information see >>> WDEV Dossier "The New Face of Hunger"

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