With the World Food Summit over, what next for world hunger?

With the plenary rooms at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation emptied out, and the tents at the Civil Society Parallel Forum being packed away, the World Summit on Food Security has come to a close. As delegates make their way home, there is pause to wonder: what was achieved, and what next for world hunger?

Pope Benedict XVI, Colonel Gaddafi and his female entourage, a controversy-laden Silvio Berlusconi and a fasting Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation all coloured the World Summit on Food Security. The actual outcomes of the summit were somewhat less notable.

Oxfam ranks leaders' performance at the summit a paltry 2 out of 10. Much more work is needed if we are to meet the Millennium Development Goal to halve world hunger by 2015, or to eradicate it completely in the future.

What was needed from the summit was greater commitment and accountability from governments in the fight against malnutrition and hunger, especially with ongoing challenges from the rising price of food and climate change.

Outcomes of the summit indicate tentative steps are being made on the way to improved governance of global food security. The summit declaration acknowledged the reform process of the Committee on World Food Security. It remains unclear, however, as to how adequate funding and accountability mechanisms will be ensured in the process. A vigilant civil society will be key in ensuring the reform process actually take place, as acknowledged by the declaration to the summit by the Civil Society Parallel Forum.

The summit was a missed opportunity in terms of agriculture and the fight against poverty and climate change. The civil society declaration has smallholder, agro-ecological farmers as key in this fight. Alternatively, while smallholders were referred to in the summit, there was no concrete language about how these farmers would receive the necessary support to develop, or to adapt to the effects of harmful climate change.

All eyes, then, will be on climate change negotiations at Copenhagen, to see if leaders provide more of a fair deal to smallholder producers than suggested by the World Food Summit. As ever, civil society will be there, to see that they do so.


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