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Need for real leadership over hunger

Heads of states and governments gathered in Rome on Monday, for the third World Food Summit. They unanimously adopted a declaration pledging a renewed commitment to eradicate hunger.

Reservations about the summit and declaration itself had been expressed by those working in development, before it began. It now appears that these reservations were well-founded.

Missing targets

In the lead up to the summit, a steering committee drafted various versions of the declaration. But as the final draft declaration was adopted, one is left wondering where all the targets have gone. The draft commits to "substantially increase the share of official development assistance devoted to agriculture and food security based on country-led requests" but does not set a target or a timeframe for this.

Millennium Development Goals

The target of eradicating hunger by 2025 is also missing. Instead it re-iterates the commitment to reaching the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of hungry people by 2015, a goal which itself is looking out of reach.

Climate change and agriculture

Promisingly, smallholder and women farmers are not forgotten, with the need to support them explicitly expressed. It also acknowledges the impact of climate change and the importance of investing in agricultural adaptation methods. 

"There can be no food security without climate security," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, said in his address to the summit.

Devil in the detail

The need for coordination to reduce and ultimately eliminate hunger, was reaffirmed. There is also a strong focus on the Global Partnership for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, a mechanism promoted by the G8. But how this will work with the recently reformed Committee on Food Security has yet to be clarified. 

The declaration brings a mixture of positive points as well highlighting areas for improvement. The real challenge will be ensuring what has been agreed is translated into concrete actions. 

Commenting on the statement, Tom Arnold, Chief Executive of Concern asked,

How can a civilised world tolerate that one billion of their fellow citizens, almost one sixth of humanity, will go to bed hungry tonight? The Summit could usefully demonstrate an appropriate level of outrage – but then take practical steps to do something about it.