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NGOs React to Obama's New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, Camp David Declaration

By Michael Elliott on May 21, 2012
© Sojourners

“The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition marks an important step forward in the fight against hunger and extreme poverty in Africa. We thank President Obama for his leadership on this plan and his commitment yesterday to sustain the L’Aquila promises on funding and policy coordination. But we are disappointed by the lack of a firm promise by the G8 today to maintain such support. While some countries appear to have really stepped up to the plate, the G8 collectively missed an opportunity to build the New Alliance at the scale that is needed to get the job done. So while this plan is a bold beginning, it must not be the end of the G8’s ambition on food security and nutrition. The Alliance needs to be built out across the 30 developing countries with plans for agriculture if we are to meet the goals of lifting 50 million people out of poverty and prevent stunting in 15 million children due to chronic malnutrition. As we build on this year’s G8, ONE and our 3 million members will push for action on nutrition as we turn our focus to the African Union, which meets in Malawi this July, and British Prime Minister David Cameron, who will host the G8 Summit next year.

“ONE is disappointed that the Camp David declaration made no mention of the vital importance of transparency in the extraction of natural resources, and we look forward to the G20 in Los Cabos next month renewing its commitment to that important principle.

“The G8 is right to say that official development assistance is vital for poverty alleviation and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. We understand these are tough times for many, but foreign assistance is a tiny proportion of national budgets and a smart investment in everyone’s future. The world’s poorest cannot be passengers on the global economy roller coaster. Country-led agriculture and nutrition programs have the potential to end the cycle of malnutrition and poverty once and for all.”

From World Vision:

Over the course of this weekend’s G8 Summit, President Obama and the other G8 leaders took real strides to improve food security and nutrition for children around the world; the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition set an important target of bringing 50 million people out of poverty in the next 10 years.

This G8 marked a new and more unifying direction as both the public and private sector came alongside civil society groups to fight chronic hunger and malnutrition, but we had hoped for more. In order for the gains at this summit to result in tangible results, World Vision seeks the following:

While we applaud the commitment made by G8 donors toward fulfilling the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative, it is troubling that there is no clear timeline for doing so with the deadline just months away. In addition, we call on the G8 to maintain L’Aquila levels of food security funding beyond 2012.

“The need for urgent scale up of these programs has only grown since 2009, so World Vision calls on the donors to live up to their pledges and disburse the remainder of promised funds,” said Adam Taylor, Vice President for Advocacy with World Vision.

World Vision welcomes the G8’s support for improving nutrition, including endorsing the SUN movement and highlighting the crucial thousand-day window from conception to a child’s second birthday. We also affirm their stated commitment to maintain programs to reduce child stunting.  However, without specific goals and a timeline, we are concerned that nutrition will fail to be placed at the center of the New Alliance’s approach and food security plans. The 170 million children at risk this year of being stunted from chronic malnutrition cannot afford delays.

As these same leaders prepare for the G20 Summit, we continue to call on them to enact these promises to set the bold, achievable target of reducing by 15 million the number of children who are stunted, in high-priority countries by 2015.  G8 leaders must also move quickly to deliver on their Muskoka Initiative child and maternal health promises to ensure meeting the goals for lives saved by 2015.

“The G8 leaders have been very clear that they want to link their investments to nutrition and food security. The measure of success in 10 years cannot just be growth of agricultural production or even economies. It has to be measured by the survival, growth and health of children,” said Chris DH, Vice President for Advocacy with World Vision.

Leading up to the G8, there were indications that the Accountability Report was going to be the strongest the G8 has produced. Unfortunately, as of the end of the Summit, the report has yet to be  released, thus we have no way of assessing the G8's progress against its commitments. This highlights the necessity that future reports be made public well before the Summit takes place to ensure greater transparency and accountability.

“It’s ironic that the G8 has referenced its commitment to transparency and applauded themselves for this year’s accountability report – yet the leaders still haven’t shared it with the people most affected by these issues,” said Adam Taylor, Vice President for Advocacy with World Vision.  “While we applaud the real progress that has been made on food security and nutrition, if we had to give the G8 a grade right now, it would be ‘incomplete.’”

Lamine Ndiaye, Pan Africa Head of Economic Justice at Oxfam:

"The New Alliance is neither new nor a true alliance," Ndiaye said. "The rhetoric invokes small-scale producers, particularly women, but the plan must do more to bring them to the table.” Smallholder farmers, many of whom are women, make up the majority of hungry people in poor countries and are key agents of change in their communities.

Three years ago, at the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, President Obama rallied the leaders of the world’s richest countries to pledge $22 billion to poor countries that had goods plans to tackle hunger. Seven months away from the end of the L’Aquila initiative, dozens of poor countries have lived up to their end of the bargain, but the G8 is falling down on the job.

“President Obama deserves credit for focusing the G8’s attention on the fact that one billion people go to bed hungry every night,” said Oxfam’s Gregory Adams.  “We applaud the clear focus on the target of helping 50 million people escape hunger and poverty through agriculture.”

“G8 leaders should join President Obama to commit resources to help developing countries reach this ambitious goal. The pledge to find $1.2 billion for the trust fund to support country agriculture plans is a good start. But the G8 should recommit to the partnership they began at L’Aquila and maintain that level of investments. Otherwise, they’ll be offering a shrinking solution to a growing problem.”

The alliance includes 45 companies from around the world, representing what G8 leaders hope will be the missing link to achieve transformational development in poor countries. While there is a positive role for the private sector in the fight against global hunger, the plan’s top down approach does not reflect what many people in poor countries say they want or need. The average private sector role in existing country food security plans, the basis for the L’Aquila agreement, is about 5%, and most have no role at all.

“This new alliance – is a nice complement at best, a deflection at worst. The role of the private sector is important, but they will not be able to make up for the G8’s broken promises,” said Ndiaye. “Smallholder farmers need the freedom to pursue their own growing strategies, not take overly-prescriptive tips on farming from G8 leaders, or one size fits all technologies from far away CEOs.”

The Rev. David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World:

“We commend President Obama for his consistent leadership in the fight against hunger and malnutrition,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “We call on  other G-8 leaders to also commit to prioritizing nutrition—especially during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life—as Obama has done this morning.

“This effort to involve international corporations more deeply in African agriculture is an important step forward in lifting millions of poor Africans out of poverty,” said Beckmann. “However, nongovernmental organizations and official agencies will also need to increase their efforts to monitor and collaborate with companies that are doing business in Africa.”

The new initiative comes at a time when the Sahel region in Africa is experiencing its third drought in eight years, largely due to climate change. “Africa has suffered from the lack of investments in agriculture to ensure its long-term food and nutrition security,” said Beckmann. “Reducing hunger and improving nutrition in the world’s poorest nations is not only a moral obligation but is good for U.S. national security.”

Three years ago, President Obama led efforts by the world’s eight richest countries to invest $22 billion to improve agriculture and food security in the world’s poorest countries. The United States is on track to fulfill its commitment.

“This new initiative would not have been possible without the persistent advocacy efforts of Bread for the World members and its partners to urge the U.S. government to prioritize nutrition along with agricultural development,” said Beckmann.

Henry Malumo, Africa Advocacy Coordinator, ActionAid International:

“While the New Alliance touts the role of the private sector, as President Obama said, this must include even the smallest African cooperatives. The real innovators in African agriculture are women smallholder farmers.  Any private sector partnership to improve food security must place them and African civil society at the center.”

Sam Worthington, President and CEO, InterAction:

“A billion people go to bed hungry every day and a challenge of this magnitude requires a new approach. But any partnership with the private sector must not be a substitute for governments meeting previous obligations, such as those agreed in 2009 at the G8 summit in L’Aquila when $22 billion was pledged in agricultural and food security assistance.”

Michael Klosson, Save the Children's Vice President of Policy and Humanitarian Response:

"Save the Children welcomes the G8 'New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition,' but leaders must not allow the Eurozone crisis to derail their leadership needed to fulfill its promise. G8 leaders can't let the economic crisis in Europe cast a dark shadow over the bright promise they rolled out with African leaders this weekend.

"The European economic crisis has taken a toll on development aid levels, and it seems to have tempered the resolve of the G8 to maintain in the future the stepped-up effort it began in 2009.

"While focusing on global economic concerns, G8 leaders did well to underscore the importance of food and nutrition security for Africans. Their new focus on nutrition and bringing new players to the table — particularly the private sector — has reinvigorated the fight against hunger and malnutrition.

"While acknowledging the importance of continued public investment in achieving its goals, the G8's conclusion leaves room for its members to cut back their funding. Save the Children calls on G8 members to not only fulfill any remaining pledges from 2009, but to commit to at least maintaining that level of funding moving forward.

"Save the Children applauds the G8 for a strong accountability report. There is greater detail about whether leaders have kept their promises and the impact of those investments. To promote even greater accountability through public discussion, the report should be released a month before the summit.

"The New Alliance should maintain a high level of transparency and accountability for both public and private partners. The agency also calls on the G8 to ensure strong local civil society participation in the Leadership Council. The people benefitting from this initiative must have a voice in its design.

"Save the Children calls on G8 leaders to quickly expand the New Alliance beyond Ghana, Tanzania and Ethiopia. The scale of the problem – and the potential pay offs – are so huge, that these three countries need to be the starting line, not the finish line."

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