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G8 urged to elevate food security issues
by Staff Writers
Washington (UPI) May 8, 2012

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Anti-poverty activists are urging Group of Eight leaders to give more attention to food security when they hold a summit this month in the United States.

The G8, which includes the world's biggest economies of the United States, France, Britain, Italy, Germany, Canada, Japan and Russia, is scheduled to discuss food security on the second day of its May 18-19 summit at Camp David in Maryland.

The meeting comes as a $22 billion food aid package committed to by the G8 at the 2009 L'Aquila Summit in Italy is expiring and while the developing world is continuing to see food price volatility, extreme weather shocks, famine, civil unrest and armed conflicts.

"The G8 leaders have already agreed to do something about global hunger," said Adam Taylor, vice president of advocacy for the Christian anti-poverty group World Vision. "Now is the time to renew and fulfill those commitments, making life-saving investments in solutions that will improve food security and reduce child malnutrition."

The United Nations reported this year that Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad, northern Cameroon and Nigeria were suffering from a combination of drought, poverty, high grain prices, environmental degradation and chronic under-development, leaving more than 10 million struggling to survive.

Neil Watkins, director of policy and campaigns for the U.S. anti-poverty group ActionAid, said coordinated action by G8 members is needed to help poor countries develop policies that enhance food security.

"The largest L'Aquila donors are making progress on the financial aspect of their pledge, but they're falling far short on their promises to back developing countries' agricultural development plans," he said.

Watkins urged the G8 leaders to "put their money where their mouths are" and support "innovative programs" like the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, which seeks to implement strategic aid plans on the country level with the goal of cutting hunger and poverty by half by 2015.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who is hosting the G8 summit, indicated last week he would put the focus on food security by inviting African leaders to join in the discussions.

Presidents Yayi Boni of Benin, John Mills of Ghana and Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, as well as Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, were extended invitations to attend the Camp David meeting.

"President Obama has majored on agriculture and food security as part of his foreign aid agenda," Gawain Kripke of Oxfam America told the Voice of America. "And he successfully cajoled other G8 leaders and many others to take that agenda up three years ago.

"So our expectation is that President Obama will do the same here in Camp David."

The International Food Policy Research Institute, a Washington food security think tank, last month urged the developed nations to discourage trade restrictions that exacerbate food price swings and to reduce the competition between biofuels and food production.

To fight food insecurity, the group said, the international community should also "consolidate global and regional agricultural growth strategies" and concentrate on the ones that are working, while stressing sustainability and committing to "concrete action on long-term development challenges, including poor nutrition, degraded soils and scarce water."

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