The Rome food summit is a positive step; now world leaders need to follow through on their commitments
By Joachim von Braun, Director General, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
World leaders will gather today in Rome for the “Conference on World Food Security: Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy. As they offer solutions to the crisis of rising food prices, they deserve praise for recognizing the need to act decisively to prevent large-scale increases in hunger.
A high-level summit of this nature is necessary to elicit strong commitments from national governments and the international community. Even before the food prices began to rise precipitously in the last two years, there was scant progress in reducing hunger. Now matters are precarious for many of the poorest people.
Detailed actions plans have been put forward by IFPRI at this link, the World Bank, and others. A consensus is emerging around several key steps to address the current crisis, especially the need to:
- expand emergency aid and social protection for poor
- calm the markets with sound trade, reserve, and regulatory policies
- change the biofuels policies that spur high food prices, and
- invest much more in agriculture, especially to benefit the small farms of the developing world
Now the real issue is implementation. While the background documents for the conference spell out what needs to be done, they are not yet showing a sufficient emphasis on how the necessary actions will be implemented and who the responsible parties are. To be successful, we need clarity on accountability, responsibility, and authority, and this should be made transparent to the global community.
Further, governments need a coordinated strategy of public investment at all levels, not just more commitments to projects. This strategy requires priority setting on a timeline – a key element missing from previous food summits. Additionally, the private sector and civil society need to be involved in planning and implementation.
The capacity to respond effectively will not come cheap. It will require significant investment. However, the cost of not responding – more humanitarian emergencies, increased malnutrition, food price inflation, and destabilization – is much, much higher.
The June Food Summit offers the opportunity to break new ground. The most affected countries and the international community should seize the moment to respond to the current food crisis and to make real headway in the fight against hunger. Significant progress depends not just on good intentions, but primarily on good follow through.
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. IFPRI is one of 15 centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, an alliance of 64 governments, private foundations, and international and regional organizations.