World Bank President Robert Zoellick hosted the CSO Roundtable on Food Price Volatility on April 14, in the run up to the 2011 Spring Meetings. This was the seventh WB – CSO food roundtable since March 2008, and brought together some 80 CSO representatives and senior Bank, IMF, and UN managers to discuss the recent spike in food prices. Global food prices are rising to dangerous levels and are 29 percent above its level a year earlier, and are only 3 percent below its 2008 peak. The Bank estimates rising food prices have pushed about 44 million people into poverty since last June. The purpose of this session was to discuss the impact of food price volatility as well to share initiatives undertaken to address food insecurity in developing countries.
The session was co-chaired by Ray Offenheiser (President, Oxfam/America) and Inger Andersen (Vice President for Sustainable Development, World Bank). ( See agenda) The session included two short videos – “Rising Food Prices - Nearly One Billion Go to Bed Hungry” and “Promoting Food Security in Togo and Rwanda through the GAFSP” – highlighting the impact of food price volatility on citizens of developing countries. See the summary notes for a more detailed account of the session.
Mr. Zoellick (President, World Bank) began the session by highlighting the importance of dialogue and engagement with CSOs to help implement action-oriented agendas geared to producing results. The World Bank Group, Zoellick said, has quickly increased its investments (US$7 billion this year, up from US$4 billion the year before) geared to supporting agricultural production and productivity. He was followed by Agnes Kalibata (Minister of Agriculture, Rwanda) who noted the important results Rwanda has achieved in this area. Primary input such as fertilizer helped address the immediate crisis in 2008, but then investment in activities such as land terracing created additional production space and productivity.
Sam Worthington (President InterAction) began by recognizing Zoellick’s recent speech, on the need to scale up the Bank’s relationship with civil society and noted that CSO participation in government food security programs at the country level is particularly important to improve food security program outcomes. David Nabarro (Special Representative for Food Security and Nutrition, UN) pointed to the evolution of the international response to the food crisis over the past three years which has produced at least three results: showing that promoting food security is the most cost effective means to reduce poverty; it is key to mitigating and adapting to climate change; and, it is vital to the future development and well being of society.
Peter Jeranyama (President, Association of African Agricultural Professionals in the Diaspora) expressed concern about the impact of food price volatility on vulnerable populations and suggested action on the dual fronts of agricultural productivity and value chain. Hugh Bredenkamp (Deputy Director, IMF’s Strategy, Policy and Review Department) stated that while macro-economic effects are more limited this time, the distributional effects are substantial, with repercussions on the social fabric of countries as seen in the Middle East and North Africa. Neil Watkins (Director, ActionAid) provided his perspective on the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), since he is one of three CSO representatives on its Steering Committee. He highlighted the Program’s inclusive governance approach, which includes not only CSOs but also farmer organizations representatives from developing countries, as this allows for more informed funding decisions. Finally, Dr Julie Howard (Deputy Food Security Coordinator, USAID) talked about the ‘Feed the Future Initiative’ and how it is helping to strengthen food and nutrition security in the most vulnerable countries.
In the discussion which ensued, participants brought up a number of common themes: how to reach out and involve the African diaspora in food security efforts; how to effectively engage farmer groups during implementation; and how to partner the private sector. Other questions included whether commodity speculation hastened the food crisis, to which the IMF responded that their data did not show that it was a factor. Another set of questions related to current data aggregators and whether these were adequate to monitor the situation. Panelists indicated that the World Food Program has a good monitoring system, but also highlighted the value of supplemental data provided by CSOs which document the human dimension of food insecurity.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Managing Director, World Bank) closed the session by emphasizing the linkages across development issues and the need for further coordination around food security. She pointed to the fact that the succession of crises has brought key actors together and generated more dialogue and multi-party engagement.
Video Part 1
Video Part 2
Other Food Roundtable Discussions