July 4, 2008

Global action needed on food security

It is in the media today that the World Bank has an unpublished assessment of the impact of biofuels on the price of food. According to the Guardian, the report suggests biofuels have forced up food prices by 75%. See:

The Guardian also states:


Senior development sources believe the report, completed in April, has not been published to avoid embarrassing President George Bush.

"It would put the World Bank in a political hot-spot with the White House," said one yesterday.

The news comes at a critical point in the world's negotiations on biofuels policy. Leaders of the G8 industrialised countries meet next week in Hokkaido, Japan, where they will discuss the food crisis and come under intense lobbying from campaigners calling for a moratorium on the use of plant-derived fuels.

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The fact is that if you are rich you can have your biofuels and eat your food too. But if you are poor, you may end up having neither.

Clearly this is an issue requiring global action. It also shows how cross-cutting global problems are. The Simultaneous Policy approach, by its very nature, envisions a coherent package of solutions, addressing the issues that SP Adopters deem to be important with the policies they have proposed, discussed, developed and approved (to join in, simply go to Simpol's website to sign up, which is free).

But what should be the global policies when it comes to food security? There are some proposals in the book :'Global Obligations for the Right to Food'. I have written a chapter for this drawing on my experience on infant feeding issues. You can order a copy through Baby Milk Action's secure on-line Virtual Shop by clicking the button on the right.

My chapter is about holding corporations accountable with relation to the right to food and the analysis informs the policy proposal I have submitted for inclusion in SP for a World Transnational Corporation Regulatory Authority.

I'll write about that another time. Here I want to quote something from Professor George Kent, the editor of the book:

There have been many global summits and declarations on food and agriculture. However, the dominant view always has been that the problems must be addressed by national governments, with little more than an advisory role for the global community. The World Trade Organization's Agreement on Agriculture has taken steps towards addressing agriculture issues from a global perspective, but without giving adequate attention to trade's implications for food security. These initiatives have not fully grasped the need for new institutional arrangements for the global governance of food and agriculture.

Global problems have been neglected partly because of the unspoken premise that national governments are the only legitimate actors. This preoccupation with the action at the nation-state level has been due, in part, to the system of international relations that has been in place since the middle of the seventeenth century, a system founded on the principle of state sovereignty. As a result, there is little institutional capacity for decision making and action at the global level. While it makes some sense, in legal terms, for states to be the primary authorities for policy making, this may not match the realities in which the problems take form. Global warming for example, clearly is a global problem, and not one that can sensibly be addressed on a nation-by-nation basis.
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The book was produced by a Task Force of the Working Group on Nutrition, Ethics, and Human Rights of the United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition and has a chapter of recommendations that are well worth investigating by any Adopters or anyone else concerned about food security.

Now we are seeing the confluence of climate change and food security with food price inflation, it becomes clearer still there needs to be a global solution.

But are our leaders empowered to deliver it? What can we expect from the forthcoming summit? No doubt maneuvering to protect economic interests which will be as effective in addressing the food crisis as past meetings have been ineffective in addressing climate change.

Camaigners are on the case to push for a joined up approach from our leaders and there will be action we can take to support them. The Guardian states:

"Political leaders seem intent on suppressing and ignoring the strong evidence that biofuels are a major factor in recent food price rises," said Robert Bailey, policy adviser at Oxfam. "It is imperative that we have the full picture. While politicians concentrate on keeping industry lobbies happy, people in poor countries cannot afford enough to eat."
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The Simultaneous Policy campaign surely has to address the issue of food security and can be supported as a parallel strategy. By linking people around the world, it can develop solutions that puts their interests first, not those of industry lobbyists. A coherent package of proposals, to be implemented simultaneous with the backing of the people of the world can deliver the solutions we need. But time is pressing. The number of Adopters and politicians pledging to implement SP needs to be growing at a faster rate. Which means you signing up today.

We can all call on our leaders to pledge to implement SP alongside other governments. This is a key time to do so in the US, with the Presidential election underway. US citizens can reassert their sovereignty by sending a message to the candidates. Other Adopters can support them by also sending a message. See:

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