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Another "Failure-as-Usual" Food Summit (World Food Summit 2008).

FromCiao FAO - June 2008
ETC Group Translator

Contrary to the opinion of many, June's Food Summit actually did something. It signaled the beginning of the end for the multilateral system as we know it. Over the next six months the food emergency - and the international institutions designed to address it - could get worse.

The full text offers a line-by-line interpretation of the Food Summit's final declaration.

Issue: During the 3-5 June 2008 World Food Summit, governments patched together sufficient funds to keep the lid on food rebellions for a few months but all the fundamental and long-term institutional and financial problems remain. In Rome, governments opted for a mythical "techno-fix" led by agribusiness in collaboration with the Gates Foundation and other philanthro-capitalists. These "klepto-mandates" are usurping the multilateral system. There is also a clear power shift away from the much-maligned Rome-based agencies to the U.N. in New York and the Bretton Woods institutions in Washington. A series of "High-Level" meetings in the final quarter of 2008 could decisively impact the world's ability to respond to the ongoing food emergency.

Stakes: Failure to redress the failed policies of the past 34 years (since the last major food crisis) is already making a mockery of the Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger by 2015. Instead of reducing the ranks of the hungry to around 415 million, the immediate crisis could grow the numbers from today's 862 million to 1.2 billion by 2025. A new report from Oxfam claims that biofuel policies in OECD countries have already dragged more than 30 million more people into poverty.

On the front lines are 450 million smallholder farmers who are being told by the U.N. Secretary General that food production must increase by 50% by 2030 - while coping with the uncertain perils of climate change. An FAO report released in March 2008 warns that a temperature increase of 3-4 degrees Celsius could cause crop yields to fall by 15-35% in Africa and west Asia and by 25-35% in the Middle East. Nothing that happened in Rome in June changed these figures.

Takes: The real focus in Rome was fuel not food. With even conservative agencies like IFPRI and the International Monetary Fund estimating the impact of agrofuels on food prices around 30%, Brazil's sugarcane companies and Southeast Asia's industrial oil palm producers were as anxious as the U.S. and Europe to protect their green credentials and gross subsidies. The agrofuels industry had to convince poor countries that devoting a growing chunk of the world's arable land to feed cars will have no impact on food security. Shamefully, they succeeded.

Fora: The food emergency moves onto the G-8 in Japan in July and then to the High-Level meeting of the U.N./FAO Food Security Committee in Rome in mid-October and then to the FAO Conference November 17-21. However, along the way, the U.N. Secretary-General's task force reports in September and the third High-Level meeting on Aid-Effectiveness in Ghana in September could also pronounce on the ineffectiveness of the U.N.'s food/agricultural architecture. Finally, Spain's offer to host a follow-up meeting later this year could trump other fora.

Policies: Beyond short-term funding, everything depends on the final restructuring of the U.N.'s food and agricultural system. The experience of the 1974 food crisis shows that fundamental structural change is dangerous in the midst of an emergency. As much as change is vital, governments, farmers' organizations and other CSOs need to come up with their own plan by the mid-October high-level meeting.

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