Last week, leaders of the eight major industrialized countries met for their annual meeting. The G8 summit, as it is known, was held in Canada. Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, invited leaders of seven African countries to attend. Food security and progress toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were high on the agenda. The goals for mother and child health were a particular concern.
In 2005, the G8 pledged 25 billion US dollars in aid to Africa. According to the World Bank, only 11 billion has been delivered so far. At its 2009 meeting in L’Aquila, the G8 made a commitment to improving global food security. In April this year, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme was launched. It is hosted by the World Bank, and aims to reduce “global hunger and poverty by focusing on food security and agriculture.”
Before this year’s meeting, global aid agencies called for the G8 to make good on their promises. The United Nations reported that the global economic crisis had “undermined” efforts to cut hunger.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the G8 not to forget the world’s poor. “We are all concerned about rising deficits and public debt,” Mr. Ban told reporters in New York. “But … we cannot abandon our commitment to the most vulnerable.”
In the summit declaration, the G8 reaffirmed its support for previous initiatives to enhance food security and sustainable agriculture. The Muskoka Initiative was launched to address maternal, newborn and child health. Five billion US dollars was promised for this initiative over the next five years.
Aid agencies’ reactions to the outcomes of this year’s summit differ. The International Federation of Agricultural Producers called for farmers to have a greater voice in global food security initiatives. Some groups were skeptical about the reasons for inviting African leaders to the talks. Others claimed that the promises made in 2005 were quietly being forgotten, in the face of concerns about the global recession. The advocacy groups agree, however, that they will keep up their pressure on the G8.