G8 promises must be kept

  • July 23, 2009
{mosimage}G8 summits may fade from the headlines faster than invisible ink, but the July 8-10 meeting in Italy is still on the minds of development agencies.

The G8 leaders pledged $19.4 billion over three years to boost agriculture and increase food aid.

Canada Foodgrains Bank executive director Jim Cornelius gives the commitment a thumbs up.

“The devil is always in the details,” he said. “However, from what we’ve seen we think this is progress.”

It’s critical that G8 leaders do more than sign their names to big dollar amounts, said Cornelius.

“Dollars promised by themselves — we’ve seen many of those things before and nothing comes of it,” Cornelius said. “It’s important that people actually live up to those promises. Many commitments are made, and then the money doesn’t actually show up.”

The development community also welcomes a new commitment to listening by the big industrial powers, Cornelius said. By consulting with African governments and NGOs, the G8 is giving recipients a chance to set the aid priorities.

“What is clear is the fact that the donor countries, in consultation with many of the countries in the south and many of the African leaders, have and are giving increased attention to food security and agriculture,” he said.

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is a member of Canada Foodgrains Bank.

CIDSE , the Catholic alliance of development agencies, was more circumspect than Cornelius in its analysis of G8 results. It’s nice that the G8 is talking about small-holder farmers, but it hasn’t put enough money on the table, said CIDSE.

“The G8 sets aside $20 billion for the coming three years, while they have spent $13 billion in just the past 18 months,” said Cordaid policy expert Bob van Dillen in a CIDSE press release. “This simply means $20 billion won’t be enough to feed the world’s one billion hungry.”

Cordaid is the Dutch equivalent of Development and Peace and part of CIDSE.

Since the financial crisis, food security has risen in the agenda for Development and Peace and its 15 sister agencies in CIDSE.

In June the Rome-based Food and Agriculture organization reported 1.02 billion people are undernourished. After declining through the 1980s and into the ’90s, hunger has been on the rise for the past decade, according to the FAO. With post-financial crisis food prices 24-per-cent higher than in 2006, the FAO projects hunger will increase 11 per cent in 2009.

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