US Supports Global Food Sufficiency

Oscar Letoya – Cochabamba, Bolivia, June 6 – The United States is deeply committed to food security and considers combating food insecurity as a moral imperative, an economic imperative, and a security imperative.

Shortly after taking office, President Obama identified addressing global hunger and food insecurity as one of the top priorities of this administration. Over the past three years, the United States has launched an unprecedented effort to forge a strong and swift global response to alleviate the misery of chronic hunger that affects an estimated 1 billion people around the world.

Roberta S. Jacobson, US Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs said Monday, that the global campaign began with the commitments made by President Obama and partners at the G-8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy in July 2009. The United States pledged $3.5 billion over three years to fight global hunger that helped to leverage and align resources from other partners and donors.

Other efforts ultimately mobilized more than $22 billion for a global food security initiative to revitalize investment in the agricultural sectors of poor countries and increase food supply for the neediest amongst world populations.

In May 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched “Feed the Future,” a comprehensive effort by the United States to enhance food security. It has focused on investing in nutrition and agricultural development to reduce hunger, while addressing critical emergency needs through humanitarian food assistance.

At the Camp David Summit last month, President Obama announced the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, a shared commitment to achieve sustained and inclusive agricultural growth in Africa to raise 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years, in partnership with the G-8 countries, Africa’s leadership, and private sector support.

Jacobson told the 42nd General Assembly of the Organization of the American States, that President Obama has described combating food insecurity as a moral imperative, an economic imperative, and a security imperative. In addition, this imperative extends to the Americas.

“Despite marked progress in reducing levels of malnutrition, the stark fact remains that the levels of food security in our hemisphere still do not match our natural abundance. Our region is now a major agricultural supplier to the world, but every day millions of people in the Americas still struggle to put food on the table, and every night too many children still go to bed hungry,” said Jacobson.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, an estimated 53 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean were undernourished in 2010. In addition, the repercussions of food insecurity go far beyond its impacts on health and life expectancy. Food scarcity can deepen social tensions, contribute to levels of crime and violence, and even undermine the quality of democratic governance.

The destiny of nations depends on the manner in which they feed themselves. If the rural poor can be helped to produce more food and sell it in thriving local, regional, and global markets, the world can decrease chronic hunger today and build an ample food supply for tomorrow.

The US flagship “Feed the Future” program targets investments in poor rural areas of three focus countries in the Americas: Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti. Over the next five years, these programs will assist almost one million vulnerable women, children, and family members—mostly smallholder farmers—escape hunger and poverty.

“We have advanced with Brazil our trilateral partnership in Honduras and Haiti, and we salute Brazil’s leadership in our work together to improve health and food security in Africa. This cooperation provides concrete examples of how, working as equal partners, we can seek to spark positive economic growth that allows people and nations to rise from poverty,” noted Jacobson.

Indeed, in addressing the problem of food security, there is need to build on the important policy lessons learned over the past two decades. Governments must create sound policy environments that foster clear property rights and encourage domestic and foreign investment. Farmers need to have access to improved agricultural technology and the training to use it effectively.

Moreover, fighting hunger is not an isolated challenge. Efforts can only be sustainable when based in a strategy to promote socially inclusive economic growth. This will require partnership between donor and partner countries, civil society, international organizations, and the local and multinational private sector.

In contributing to global common goods – on issues as diverse as food security, climate change, or combating transnational crime – common cause does not compromise sovereignty, but safeguards it. Secretary Clinton says, “We must turn the Americas, already a community of shared history, geography, culture, and values, into something greater – a shared platform for global success.”

Jacobson implored the General Assembly; “That is why we must strive to strengthen the underpinnings of our democratic societies – good governance, responsive institutions, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms – that are essential elements of democracy and the founding principles of this Organization. As enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, we are bound to uphold the dignity of all persons by honoring their human, political, and civil rights to participate fully and freely in our societies.”

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