Ideas to Action:

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Food Crisis Requires Sustained Commitment from the G8

June 16, 2008

On the eve of the G8 foreign ministers meeting next week, the Africa Progress Panel issued a report urging international action to deal with the urgent threat of world food prices, while also calling for G8 leaders to take immediate steps to fulfill their previous commitments to Africa.

The Africa Progress Panel states in its report that the world food crisis ”threatens to destroy years, if not decades, of economic progress” as “100 million people are being pushed back into absolute poverty.”

“Unless some way can be found to halt and reverse the current trend in food prices there will be a significant increase in hunger, malnutrition, and in infant and child mortality,” the report warns.

CGD senior fellow Vijaya Ramachandran served as rapporteur to the panel, and drew on her own work as well as the work of several colleagues at CGD to help inform the panel.

“The G8 member countries must continue to focus on economic development and good governance to promote growth in Africa,” said Ramachandran. “I hope the stocktaking of progress made by African governments and civil society will serve as a reminder that Africa is a continent on the move and that the international community must engage constructively on the key issues of food production, climate change, openness to trade, and good governance.”

The eleven-member Africa Progress Panel, which is chaired by Kofi Annan, and includes Tony Blair, Michel Camdessus, Peter Eigen, Bob Geldof, Graca Machel, Linah Mohohlo, Olusegun Obasanjo, Robert Rubin, Tidjane Thiam and Muhammad Yunus, was launched in 2007 as a unique and independent authority on Africa to focus world leaders’ attention on delivering their commitments to the continent. In the report, which assesses the state of the continent in 2008, the panel members highlight six policy areas requiring immediate attention at the forthcoming G8 Summit in Hokkaido, Japan:

The Food Crisis: Measures must be undertaken to increase the quantity of food on international markets and to provide greater financial assistance to international agencies such as the World Food Program and to the governments of affected countries.

Aid Levels and Quality: G8 countries must urgently fund shortfalls against their targets to double assistance to Africa by 2010. These increases must be accompanied by clear timetables and increased transparency in order to improve the quality of aid. The G8 must also focus on innovative efforts to improve the delivery of aid.

Trade: Countries must immediately review arrangements for stockpiling food, while a comprehensive rethinking of trade policy is needed to boost agricultural production around the world.

Climate Change: The G8 must increase funding for renewable energy and invest in adaptation and the prevention of deforestation.

Infrastructure: In surveys, private firms cite inadequate infrastructure as the most serious constraint they face, strategies to connect farmers to markets must be developed in conjunction with efforts to increase access to water and improve sanitation.

Good Governance: While there has been significant success in improving governance, the resolution of current crises requires greater and more consistent efforts by the African Union, individual African governments and the international community as a whole.

On the emergence of new trading partners with Africa such as China, India and the United Arab Emirates, the report states that China and other new entrants have brought the continent “new dynamism and significant new resources”, creating “greater opportunities for Africa’s development.” However, it counsels that “if Africa’s development is to stay on track, it is crucial for both old and new actors to comply with agreed-upon principles of co-operation in the areas of aid, trade, development finance, and debt sustainability.” Kofi Annan, the chair of the Africa Progress Panel, says: “Africa has made substantial progress in recent years. However, the current food crisis threatens to reverse many of the hard-fought gains that have been made. With 100 million people on the brink of abject poverty, the cost of food will not be measured in the price of wheat and rice, but in the rising number of infant and child deaths across Africa.”

“The G8 is also off-track. European leaders at the forthcoming European Council Summit must move decisively to fund shortfalls in aid, while Japan must demonstrate clear leadership during its Presidency of the G8, not least by addressing the stockpiling of food. Every G8 country has a critical role to play, by working together to deal with immediate threats and by honoring the longer-term commitments they have already made. The whole international community has a stake in seeing Africa become a secure, stable and prosperous continent. I firmly believe that what is achieved in the months ahead will be more than a test of leadership; it will also determine the very future of the continent.”