ROME (Reuters) - The United States wants a G8 summit this week to commit $15 billion over several years for agricultural development in poor countries to fight food insecurity, according to a draft declaration seen by Reuters.
The declaration said Washington was ready to mobilize $3-4 billion and wanted other partners to match that commitment to reach the $15 billion target.
“The funds...would be earmarked for investment in low income countries to implement agriculture development strategies, to finance agricultural infrastructure, land and water management, risk mitigation actions,” the declaration said.
It said they would be pooled in a global agriculture and food security trust fund managed by the World Bank. It voiced concern for the impact of the economic crisis, food price volatility and under-investment in agriculture on poverty.
The United States is the world’s largest food aid donor, mostly of domestically grown food bought from U.S. farmers.
The European Union has welcomed U.S. President Barack Obama’s pledge for new funds, and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Monday the bloc would commit another $1 billion per year on top of the money it has already promised — estimated at around $7 billion to date.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who will host the G8, said he expected the meeting to slate between 10 and 15 billion dollars for world food security.
But the EU is skeptical about the need for a new mechanism, such as the proposed trust fund.
“There are already plenty of frameworks that can be used for this money and we need to make sure we don’t create extra bureaucracy or barriers to making sure this money is disbursed quickly and effectively,” a European G8 source said.
The EU also wants a reference to funds already disbursed by the G8 — $13 billion between January 2008 and July 2009 according to another draft document — to be highlighted in the final text to show the credibility of previous G8 commitments.
Another issue is the U.S.-led shift in the fight against global hunger from giving emergency aid to helping countries produce more of their own food. Aid groups and some United Nations agencies are worried that the long-term focus could hurt vulnerable people who need help immediately.
The number of hungry people has risen over the past two years and is expected to top 1.02 billion this year, reversing a four-decade trend of declines, the United Nations has said. Meanwhile, global food aid supplies hit a 34-year low in 2008.
“This is not an ‘either or’ game,” said Amir Abdulla, deputy executive director of the U.N. World Food Programme, which provides emergency food assistance.
“We recognize that long-term solutions are required, but if we don’t get the balance right, we will lose many people to hunger while the long-term strategies are put in place. People won’t survive to benefit from the increased supply,” he said.
The WFP has a shortfall this year of more than $4.5 billion, or 70 percent of its budget. It has had to cut food rations and shut some operations in eastern Africa and North Korea.
Abdulla said that conflict, climate change and poverty were reducing access to food even in countries which produced enough of it — and that may not be solved by simply increasing output.
Aid campaigners are also worried about the lack of details about the funds to be pledged by the G8 summit.
“The devil is always in the detail. Is this new money? Are they including loans as well as grants, bilateral as well as multilateral commitments? The G8 needs to be absolutely transparent about what it is doing,” said Oliver Buston of anti-poverty campaign ONE.
(Additional reporting by Darren Ennis)
Editing by Crispian Balmer and Mark Trevelyan