The G8 summit gets underway Friday in Muskoka, Canada. While leaders are expected to concentrate on global economic and security issues, they’re also expected to review the status of the Millennium Development Goals.
The 8 goals have a target date of 2015 for big improvements in such issues as poverty, health, gender equality, among others.
The Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute, or IFPRI, is calling on G8 leaders to fulfill their commitments to sharply reducing hunger. Shenggen Fan, IFPRI’s Director-General, is calling on leaders to take a “business as unusual approach.”
“I think the European debt crisis, the appreciation of the Chinese Yuan and the recovery of the global economy are important, but in the meantime do not ignore and neglect food security,” he says. Fan warns, “If we do, it will be too late to fix.”
High prices and shortages marked the food crisis several years ago. There have been improvements since then, but problems remain.
“The food prices have come down mainly due to increased supply from China, India, U.S. and Europe. But food prices remain very high in many parts of the world, particularly in Africa. For example, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda. They’re still facing very high food prices. So the global food crisis is not over yet,” he says.
There’s been much talk since the food crisis began to boost investment in agriculture.
Fan says, “Many donors, many international organizations have committed to increase their funding for global food security. That’s a good trend. But we have to convert this commitment of pledges to real action, real implementation. And we need to monitor which donors, which countries have really met their commitments.”
Implementation and commitments mean money. “That’s right,’ says Fan, “For example, about a year ago during the L’Aquila G8 summit (in Italy), G8 countries committed (US) $22 billion for global food security. It’s not enough, but it’s a good start.”
As part of his “business as unusual” approach, the IFPRI head is calling for social protection as a “core pillar” of his strategy, along with funding agricultural investment.
“In the short run, many poor need to be protected, particularly women and children that do not have access to income, that do not have access to food. They need to be protected. So social protection will provide food for needy people in the short run,” he says.
In the long run, he says, “We have to make sure that these people will be able to move out of social protection. They can really participate in economic growth. So that’s why a combination of productive investment and social protection is needed.”
New players take the field
This year, the G8 and G20 summits overlap. The G8 will be held June 25th and 26th and the G20 summit, also in Canada, is set for June 26th and 27th.
Fan says this allows “new actors” or “new players” to become involved in global development. They include China, India, Brazil and some African countries, such as South Africa.
“The development in these emerging economies can have tremendous impact at a global level. And these countries have really increased their shares in global economy, trade and investment. And their role in global food security is also potentially large,” he says.
IFPRI is also urging the G8 to assist developing nations to take a “country-led bottom-up approach.”
“Country-led really means that a country designs its investment plans, (it’s) not donor driven. Country-led does not mean government-led. It means the local citizens and other stakeholders, private sector should also be involved in developing that strategy,” he says.
He says history shows that large scale successes in reducing hunger have always been country-driven. “For example, the green revolution in Asia, agriculture and rural reform in China and Vietnam and more recently, Africa leaders have made a process to use 10 percent of their national budget to support…agriculture growth,” he says.
He adds, “Country-led means the countries are in the driver’s seat.”
G8 leaders are expected to review progress being made on the eight Millennium Development Goals or MDGs.
“Right now, we are very much off track. And we are dangerously off track. By 2015 we’re supposed to reduce the number of hungry people to less than 600 million. But today we have more than one billion. One billion people who are suffering from hunger. So the situation is very severe,” he says.
However, Fan is not giving up on achieving the goal to reduce hunger.
“I truly believe that if the global leaders are committed we can still achieve cutting hunger by half or even eliminate hunger altogether,” he says.