Global Food Security and the Right to Food
- 2 Posts
- Age 24
The extraordinary rise of global food prices in early 2008 posed a major threat to global food and nutrition security and caused a host of humanitarian, human rights, socio-economic, environmental, developmental, political and security-related consequences. In particular, it presented challenges for low income food deficit countries, and severely affected the worlds most vulnerable. It threatened to reverse critical gains made toward reducing poverty and hunger as outlined in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The soaring prices stemmed from the cumulative effects of long-term trends, like the increasing demand of food due to the growing world population and a decline in agricultural investment, more immediate supply and demand dynamics, including those related to the rapidly increasing oil prices and diversions of maize to ethanol production, and responses like hoarding which exacerbated price volatility. Altogether, the crisis exposed underlying structural problems in the food systems of poorer countries, partly linked to serious distortions in world food markets (associated with production subsidies in rich countries and trade tariffs), that predispose to price spikes and problems with food availability. Climate-related events like droughts, floods and environmental degradation have further negative effects on many developing countries.
Already before the rapid rise in food prices, some 854 million people worldwide were estimated to be undernourished. It is estimated that the current crisis has increased the number up to one billion undernourished people in the world – one in six people. While food prices on world markets have come down in the fall of 2008, the average levels are still higher in 2009 than they were two years ago. At the same time, lower prices on global markets have not fed through to lower prices on local markets within many developing countries. Prices are likely to rise again, and to stay volatile for a while. The global economic downturn has started to further increase the hardships of the most vulnerable as that both formal and informal economies contract, trade volumes decline, and remittances decrease.
The dramatic rise of global food prices and the crisis it triggered led the United Nations (UN) Chief Executives Board in April 2008 to establish a High-Level Task Force (HLTF) on the Global Food Security Crisis. Under the leadership of the UN Secretary-General, the Task Force brings together the Heads of the UN specialized agencies, funds and programs, as well as relevant parts of the UN Secretariat, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Trade Organization. The primary aim of the Task Force is to promote a comprehensive and unified response to the challenge of achieving global food security, including by facilitating the creation of a prioritized plan of action and coordinating its implementation. The Secretary-General appointed Assistant Secretary-General David Nabarro. As coordinator of the Task Force Mr. Nabarro is supported by a small HLTF Coordination Secretariat to help the HLTF pursue its Programme of Work.
In July 2008, the Task Force responded to the request for a plan of action and produced the Comprehensive Framework for Action (CFA). The CFA is a framework that sets out the joint position of HLTF members, and aims to be a catalyst for action by providing governments, international and regional organizations, and civil society groups with a menu of policies and actions from which to draw appropriate responses. It pursues a twin-track approach: It outlines activities related to meeting the immediate needs, like investing in food assistance and social safety nets, as well as activities related to the longer-term structural needs, like scaling up investment in agriculture within developing countries, increasing opportunities for producers, pastoralists and fisher folk to access land, water, inputs, and post-harvest technologies, focusing on the needs of smallholders, and enabling them to realize their right to food, sustain an increase in income and ensure adequate nutrition. In December 2008, the Task Force agreed on its Programme of Work for 2009, focusing on support to effective action in countries, advocacy for funds for both urgent action and long-term investment, inspiring a broad engagement by multiple stakeholders and improving accountability of the international system.
Food Security Crisis in East Africa
The Horn of Africa is currently experiencing a major humanitarian crisis due to drought. About 13.3 million people in the Horn of Africa—Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, and eastern Uganda—have been affected by a devastating drought. This is the region's worst drought since 1995. In some areas, 2010-2011 has been the driest period in 60 years. Soaring local and global food and fuel prices have made the situation worse.
Though rain has started to fall, the effects of a severe drought are gripping East Africa and helping to trigger a food and livelihood crisis that has snared countless people. Hardest hit are northern Kenya, southern Ethiopia, and south-central Somalia, where years of conflict are compounding the crisis for untold numbers of families.
Many of the people who live in this region are herders who depend on their animals —camels, cows, goats, and sheep—for both food and income. The crisis, aggravated by entrenched poverty and years of marginalization, has affected them deeply, and in some parts of Ethiopia more than 60 percent of the herds have died. But farmers, particularly in southwest Ethiopia, are also suffering.
In south central Somalia in July 2011, the price of sorghum had rocketed 240 percent higher than it was a year ago. In Kenya, the price of corn had climbed 40 percent higher in the same period. In northern parts of the country, milk is rarely available— and three times its normal price—leaving Kenyan children with less than a quarter of their usual intake.
In July 2011, more than 9,000 Somali refugees a week were arriving in the Dadaab refugee camp in north-eastern Kenya—the largest refugee camp in the world and severely overcrowded with more than 360,000 people. And the UN is reporting that almost half the Somali children streaming into refugee camps in Ethiopia are malnourished.