Uniting for Global Food Security: From shared conviction to global response
The G7 is responding to the worsening global hunger crisis by mobilizing an additional $4.5 billion for this year alone. A key milestone for this in the run-up was the international conference on global food security "Uniting for Global Food Security".
It is not only a novelty for German politics. For the first time, the three federal ministries for foreign affairs, development and agriculture have jointly convened a conference to unite in the fight against the present food crisis. On June 24 in Berlin, 50 representatives from 40 countries debated answers to hunger worldwide, which has been dramatically exacerbated by Russia's war of aggression. They found them.
Two days, then, before the G7 summit in Elmau, the "Uniting for Global Food Security" meeting in the capital marked the start of deliberations by heads of state and government on what to do in the face of the food crisis. Stakeholders from governments, international organizations and civil society outlined the current situation: "47 million hungry people have been added by the Ukraine war alone," Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) said in a video message.
"A hundred more people are suffering every minute because of Putin's actions.", said Samantha Power of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). And Development Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) pointed out that the international community has committed to ending hunger by 2030. "By then, every person should have sufficient and nutritious food. But this goal is moving further and further away," Schulze said. Today's hunger crisis is different from previous ones, he said, "current responses are needed."
That is why the German Development Minister, together with World Bank President David Malpass, launched the Alliance for Global Food Security (GAFS) as a global solidarity platform. Schulze comments: ...
"The alliance aims to avert the worst famine since the end of World War II and make structural changes that will prevent the suffering from being repeated in the future."
A key issue at the meeting was how to end Russia's blockade of sea lanes in the Black Sea - which is causing major shortfalls in grain exports from Ukraine to the rest of the world, with drastic hunger consequences worldwide. "Russia is using food as a weapon," summed up Wopke Hoekstra, foreign minister of the Netherlands. His German counterpart, Baerbock, appealed "to all who can afford it to extend their aid," adding, ...
"We are not in a short sprint, but in a long-distance race."
From the partner countries, many representatives spoke with stocktaking on this race and with suggestions. "We need to promote intra-African trade in food," said Josefa Leonel Correa Sacko, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development at the African Union (AU) Commission. The South African agriculture minister and the United Arab Emirates minister of environment and climate change both promoted more technology in agribusiness: Angela Thoko Didiza called for increased digitization and Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri outlined the positive consequences of investing in innovation. In turn, to bring more grain from Ukraine to the world in the short term, Romania's Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu suggested using the port in Costantza as a hub. Rania Al-Mashat summed up, "Multilateralism is under threat," said the Egyptian Minister of International Cooperation, "That's why our meeting is good."
Several participants already announced during the debate that their countries would increase funding for the World Food Program (WFP) and other humanitarian aid organizations - thus already sending positive signals for the summit in Elmau. At the same time, many in Berlin committed to transforming agricultural and food systems toward better adaptation to climate change and more sustainable production. But who is holding a reins for all of this?
Civil society representatives called for the strengthening of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). Gabriel Ferrero, as Chairperson of the CFS itself, underlined, "It is not only time to act, but it is time to act together. The world's most vulnerable have no time for duplication or lack of coordination in policy action areas." Finally, the conference chair's conclusions state that the role of the CFS "should be strengthened as an inclusive and intergovernmental global platform to ensure food security and nutrition for all." There was also consensus among participants that the Rome-based UN agencies FAO, IFAD and WFP should play a central role.
Financing for food security was also discussed at the conference. "Countries need to be able to lend money to buy food," summed up Italy's Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio. David Malpass said $30 billion has been mobilized in the past 15 months to achieve food security. "We will find a way out of this crisis," the World Bank president said. Qu Dongyu, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) added that local production should be strengthened while food losses and waste should be reduced. And Gilbert F. Huonbo, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), added: "It will be critical to realize financing in rural areas."
It was clear to those involved that a quick response was needed. "The wheel cannot be reinvented," said Matthias Mogge, the chairman of the umbrella organization of development and humanitarian non-governmental organizations (VENRO), adding that there was not enough time. And Vicky Ford, permanent secretary at the U.K. Foreign Office, said, "Early intervention can save lives."
Federal Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) emphasized that the multiple crises could only be mastered if forces were combined. "We hope that this format will create synergy effects." He went on to call for a debate on the use of agricultural products, ...
"... whether as food, fodder or biofuels; I personally can be very clear: Food for people comes first."
Toward the end of the event, Özdemir said, "We have to set the tone for the Elmau meeting." U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed it in this way: "So. Let's get it done."