A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
As the G8 Summit comes to a close, we’ve got a bit of a surprise twist in the outcome. There was more movement on food security than we expected and day one of the summit was focused almost solely on that issue, a rarity in recent G8 history. The increased focus was due in part to the stirring outcry from anti-hunger and poverty activists all over the world. Thanks to the publics' countless emails and tweets to the US administration, President Obama put food security at the center of the discussion on Day One.
In his pre-G8 speech at the Chicago Council Symposium on Global Agriculture yesterday, and again in his closing remarks this evening, he mentioned the G8 will set a new goal of helping 50 million men, women and children lift themselves out of poverty through country-led agriculture plans. Since 500 million small farms in developing countries support nearly 2 billion people, supporting those farmers means that their families can earn an income, get an education, and thrive. The goal is spot-on, but the way to achieve that goal doesn’t add up. Though fulfilling their L’Aquila pledges (which were $7.3 billion per year through 2012), the G8 failed to renew their commitments. Instead they’ve invited the private sector to pledge $3 billion over 10 years in a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. This is a shrinking response to a growing problem and, if companies deliver, it still represents 96% decrease in investment than previous levels. At a time when more than 18 million people across West Africa are facing a massive food crisis, we need to recognize that the scale of the problem requires a serious investment that matches the plans from people on the ground. After all, aren’t the world’s small-scale farmers who sell their goods in local markets part of the private sector, too?
On the bright side, G8 countries have made additional pledges of $1.2 billion to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP). Read more about GAFSP here: http://www.gafspfund.org/gafsp We’re happy to see this important mechanism for country ownership get the funding it deserves.
While it’s reassuring that our leaders are making food security a global priority, we must make sure that we hold them accountable to match the scale of the need, and listen to what people in developing countries really need.
Oxfam at the 2012 G8 Summit at Camp David, Maryland