Call for strategic US approach to the global food crisis

Summary of report1

US Government vessel offloading in the port of Djibouti 42,000 MT of donated food aid in Ethiopia in 2002. The food will reach Ethiopia after a three day journey.

In May 2008, in response to the growing global food crisis, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) launched a task force to assess the rising humanitarian, security, developmental, and market impacts of rising food costs and shortages. The task force convened two high level meetings with members of the United States (US) government and experts in the fields of food supply, energy, bio-fuels, trade, relief efforts and agriculture. The resulting report reflected a strong majority consensus on ways forward.

The authors of the report assert that the crisis poses three fundamental threats: a moral and humanitarian threat, a developmental threat that is endangering the economic gains of the past decades, and a strategic threat resulting in food-related riots and unrest with heavily urbanised nations most at risk.

The report cites a number of root causes of the crisis:

The CSIS Task Force argued that urgent action is needed on two fronts - emergency relief and related safety net programmes, and longer-term efforts to reduce poverty and hunger. The following recommendations were made:

Bagging donated US aid on dock in Ethiopia.

The report concludes that the current crisis is unlike any food emergency the world has faced in the past. It is caused by a web of interconnected forces involving agriculture, energy, climate change, trade, and new market demands from emerging markets. The authors caution that time is of the essence in formulating a response and that the Bush administration, the presidential campaigns, the congressional leadership and the next administration all have a responsibility to move US leadership forward.

Following the CSIS Task Force report, US Senators introduced a bill (S3529) to the US Senate for a Global Food Security Act of 2008. The five year appropriation is asking for over US$ 7.5 billion for actions to address food insecurity, $2 billion for the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) system for research and $1.5 billion for a permanent Board for agricultural education. There is also a $500 million fund for an Emergency Food Assistance Account which can make local and regional purchases of food where appropriate. The legislation would provide USAID with the flexibility to respond to emergencies more quickly, without supplanting other food programmes.

The legislation still requires approval and financing. It will complement the existing US support for food and nutrition programmes from the Farm Bill (Title 11 food aid), PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) and the Foreign Assistance Bill.

Show footnotes

1CSIS (2008). A call for a strategic US approach to the global food crisis. Centre for Strategic International Studies, July 2008

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Call for strategic US approach to the global food crisis. Field Exchange 35, March 2009. p7. www.ennonline.net/fex/35/call