By Adam Russell Taylor
Adam Russell Taylor currently serves as the Vice President of Advocacy at World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. He formerly served as the Senior Political Director at Sojourners, a Christian organization that integrates spiritual renewal with social justice and as the Executive Director of Global Justice, an organization that educates, trains, and mobilizes students around issues of global human rights and economic justice.
This commentary is cross-posted on the World Vision Blog.
G20 Outlook: Will Food Security Agenda Remain Priority at Cannes Summit?
This weekend, American families will be preparing their Halloween costumes and loading up on last minute candy purchases. On Monday night, most American children will be walking the dark streets in ghoulish costumes and returning home happy with bags full of sweets. For the next few weeks they will consume way more than the minimum calories (1,500 Kcal per day for a child) needed for their development while an estimated one billion people will go to bed hungry. Next week, the G20 Summit in Cannes, France provides a critical opportunity for President Obama to galvanize G20 leadership in addressing the mounting crisis of food security—the lack of reliable, nutritious food for the world’s poorest people.
Every year the Heads of State from the 20 largest economy’s in the world gather to discuss pressing issues facing the global economy. Unfortunately, the escalating financial crisis in Europe risks overshadowing and derailing urgent progress on food security and development issues. While the G20 has made food price volatility and food security key agenda items this year; the re-emergence of rising food prices and price volatility in international markets, the existence of acute food insecurity in some regions such as east Africa, and the continuing slow emergency in child and maternal malnutrition, make bolder leadership imperative. With its significant member resources and political clout, the G20 is in a unique position to ensure that effective continuing mechanisms and strategies are put in place to solve these problems.
The good news is that the G20 has developed a plan and with US leadership has begun the slow process of rolling it out. Financial crisis, the US debt debate, war, famine looming in East Africa and North Korea, and general economic downturn risks under-funding bold, global leadership. The plan must include developing a global strategy and mechanisms that ensure early and effective responses to prevent acute food insecurity and malnutrition; ensure that agriculture and food security policies and programs include improved nutrition outcomes for women and children as a key objective; implement systems and mechanisms that reduce extreme and volatile food prices by increasing market transparency and reducing the impact of biofuels on food prices; and provide increased and better coordinated support for small-scale farmers. These four steps are already reflected in varying degrees in the G20 Communique and G20 deliberations. If these steps are taken in 2011 and progressively built upon over the coming years, then we will see a remarkable improvement in global food security and nutrition. If not, we will see repeated and growing hunger crises like the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, as well as political instability and the continued preventable deaths of millions of children.
The G20 also provides a critical political and media platform for President Obama to affirm existing commitments and leverage greater leadership and accountability from other G20 countries to promises made around food security. In 2009, many G20 countries made a significant commitment to improving longer-term food security in the form of advances in agriculture development to fight global hunger through the L’Aquila Food Security initiative. President Obama can reinforce U.S. commitment to Feed the Future and the Food for Peace programs as both emergency and development efforts to prevent drought from turning into deadly famine.
In light of the currently polarized budget debate, there’s a real danger that both programs may be seriously cut in Congress as budgets are finalized. Americans will spend an estimated $7 billion on candy and costumes to celebrate Halloween this year. Meanwhile, Feed the Future and Food for Peace would help millions at just half that cost: $3.14 billion in FY 2012. This Halloween, a failure of leadership at the G20 Summit to address the escalating global food crisis could result in some real life-and-death horror stories for our world’s most vulnerable.