Early this morning as high-level guests arrived at the Reagan Building for US President Barack Obama's keynote speech at the Chicago Council Symposium, there were distractions of every kind to be found. Vibrant chants from large groups of protesters lined the streets. But perhaps the most important messages of the day were those that were not quite so loud. Here is a re-cap of what we've overheard from today's happenings surrounding the G8 Summit.
Passersby outside the Reagan Building pointed and smiled, saying "brilliant!" as they stopped to snap photos of the activists dressed as the G8 leaders. Oxfam's Big Heads might have been silent, but they didn't need to speak to get the message across. Using band-aids with the logos of big, private companies, G8 leaders tried to fix their broken promises. Three years ago at the G8 Summit in Italy, the leaders made a promise to developing countries: if poor countries came up with good plans to help poor farmers grow more and earn more, rich countries would help make it happen.
So, did the G8 release a bold, new food security initiative on par with their $7.3 billion a year pledge three years ago?
Nope. Instead they arrived with a dinner plate full of broken promises.
During President Barack Obama's speech, he delivered a call for us all to make food security a priority. He said "Food security is not only a moral imperative, it's an economic imperative and a security imperative." He then announced the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which, as we suspected included a large focus on the private sector's role.
Throughout the day activists and thought leaders urged G8 leaders to match this enthusiasm for the private sector with an investment in public sector capacity, by continuing their L’Aquila commitments for an additional three years. Lamine Ndiaye from Oxfam's office in Senegal said "The New Alliance is neither new nor a true alliance. The rhetoric invokes small-scale producers, particularly women, but the plan must do more to bring them to the table.”
Stay tuned for more updates as we continue our coverage of the G8 Summit.