Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (June08/05)
10 June 2008
Weak Declaration after lost fight on substance at Food Summit
in SUNS #6492 dated 10 June 2008
7 Jun (Neth Dano) -- The Food Security Summit held at the Food and Agriculture
Organisation ended with a Declaration after several days of wrangling
over some issues, that led to a bland document that said little or left
out the critical issues debated at the plenary and roundtables of the
Declaration was the most disappointing part of the High-Level Conference
on World Food Security: The Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy,
held in Rome
on 3-5 June, which was aimed at galvanizing global action to tackle
the food price crisis as well as to discuss agriculture and climate
change and the effects of biofuels.
FAO Conference attracted more than 3,000 participants, including 43
heads of government and state, many more Ministers of Agriculture, and
hundreds of officials, NGOs and journalists.
the plenary and roundtables, the biggest issue debated, often hotly,
was the factors causing the food price increases, with political leaders
and UN agency chiefs (particularly, the FAO director-general) advancing
often conflicting views on the role of biofuels, financial speculation,
and unfair trade practices, especially the developed countries' huge
victim of this focus was the original major theme of the meeting - the
link between agriculture and climate change. This was the subject of
a roundtable, but was eclipsed in the plenary and the fight over the
four-page Declaration on World Food Security was adopted at 9:30 pm
on 5 June, more than a day past the set schedule and after heated verbal
skirmishes in the Committee of the Whole (COW) on procedural and substantive
issues that went on to almost midnight on 4 June and in several sessions
on the last day.
and critics commented that the Declaration failed to meet the world's
expectations for the international community to urgently respond to
the global food crisis. The compromise language and the intention to
avoid the most controversial issues substantially toned down the urgency
of the responses that the Declaration was supposed to convey to the
example, the human right to food was almost absent from the text, and
only an intervention by Algeria
at the COW enabled this concept to enter the Declaration, but only weakly
and in the Preamble. This most basic principle on which food security
should be based had been more directly treated in the Rome Declaration
on World Food Security in 1996 and the World Food Summit: Five Years
Later in 2002.
current Declaration, however, only mentioned in its Preamble: "recall
the Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the
Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security. The
Declaration also notably evaded dealing with the most controversial
aspects on the role and effects of biofuels, which had dominated much
of the statements of the heads of state and the discussions in the roundtables
and sidelines of the Summit.
heads of state and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon proposed the
adoption of international standards or criteria for the sustainable
production of biofuels. Others, notably Brazilian President Luiz Inacio
Lula da Silva, objected to the unfair criticisms on biofuels.
the only paragraph on biofuels in the Declaration, the challenges and
opportunities of biofuels were recognized as a medium and long-term
measure to address food security, energy and sustainable development
needs. It weakly called for in-depth studies, the need to exchange experiences
on biofuels technologies, norms and regulations, and the need for an
international dialogue on biofuels among the different actors to attain
food security and sustainable developments.
Declaration also did not include reference to unfair trade rules and
imbalances in global trade relations nor the speculation in the commodities
market, which had been raised by many speakers at the Summit. Nor did it refer
to sustainable agriculture or organic farming as an important way forward
to reducing the Greenhouse Gas emissions arising from conventional chemical-based
agriculture as well as a way to promote small-scale farm incomes, which
had been discussed at a roundtable. It also did not propose any important
action to respond to the urgent food price situation or the climate
change challenge or the need to reform the highly subsidized agriculture
of developed countries.
the meetings to negotiate the Declaration, the US and EU proposed to adopt a Chair's
text without amendment. This was objected to by the GRULAC (the Latin
American and Caribbean) group that
raised procedural and substantive issues.
raised the "magic" played by the US in dropping reference to respect
of multilateralism and international laws on not using food as an instrument
for political and economic pressures. Venezuela was adamant in wanting to
make clear reference to UNFCCC as the basis for climate change commitments.
well the need to address "all measures" that could result
to food price volatility instead of just "restrictive measures"
(which had been put there especially by developed countries critical
of export restrictions on food).
countries, supported by GRULAC, registered their strong reservations
on the Declaration, but eventually did not block consensus at 9:40pm
on 5 June. All three said that the Declaration will reinforce the current
injustice in the food system, the domination of the superpowers and
the injustice to developing countries. Argentina
said that the Declaration is based on wrong diagnosis of the problem,
thus the solutions will not really address the root causes of the problem.
US and the EU
appeared to be among the most satisfied with the result. In the debate,
they were most notably quiet, taking the floor to stress that they moved
for the adoption of the draft text without any amendment, except for
factual and technical corrections. In its closing speech, the US even expressed its satisfaction
that the Declaration promotes "further liberalization" and
promises higher investment of agriculture research (by which observers
thought it was referring to biotechnology research). Ecuador concluded that most developing
countries are not at all happy with the Declaration but opted to stay
quiet in the "spirit of consensus".
the dissatisfaction expressed by countries on the resulting Declaration,
the delegates acknowledged that the Summit
provided an opportunity for the global food crisis and the factors behind
it to be highlighted and given a high profile, especially with the attendance
of over a thousand journalists.
conference helped the UN's Rome-based food agencies - the FAO, IFAD
and the World Food Programme - to generate financial pledges for their
projects. FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf, in the final Plenary,
announced some $5 billion worth of pledges which included the $1.2 billion
of the World Bank, $1 billion by the African Development Bank, and $1.5
billion of food aid announced by the US. The Chair,
who is from Congo,
at the final session, said he "hopes that these pledges will result
in financial mechanisms that are affordable and accessible to developing
draft text of the Declaration on which negotiators worked on at the
Summit had been produced by the Co-chairs of the Informal
Open-ended Contact Group from Jordan
and the US.
They had authored the draft in reference to their earlier six-page report
with draft textual language (including some issues within brackets)
which arose from weeks of lengthy negotiations by the Rome-based diplomats.
Chair of the Committee of the Whole (COW) of the Summit, who is from
the Democratic Republic of Congo, presented the draft text at the meeting
of the committee of the whole (COW) in the second evening of the Summit
and appealed to the Delegates to adopt the document "on block",
without amendments. He explained that the urgency of the food crisis
situation requires urgent action from the international community and
the meeting cannot afford to delay the adoption of the Declaration by
opening the discussion to long debates and numerous amendments that
would take up days and nights.
Asia Group, Africa Group, the Near East, North
America, and the EU agreed to adopt the draft text without
amendments. The small island developing states (SIDS) wanted only an
additional paragraph on the Mauritius Strategy for the sustainable development
of the SIDS, and this was later adopted. Argentina, Cuba and Venezuela,
supported by the Group of Latin America and Caribbean
(GRULAC), raised some issues which were the same ones that had been
within brackets in the earlier Co-Chairs' report.
Argentina raised a number of concerns
on the process of discussions on several occasions during the COW session,
pointing out the "lack of information on what's going on"
and the lack of clarity on how to proceed. It proposed to delete the
adjective "restrictive" to describe "measures that could
increase the volatility of international prices" that need to be
minimized, which is one of the Immediate and Short-term measures identified
in the Declaration to address the global food crisis. [The "restrictive
measures" were referring to restrictions on exports of food products.]
Argentina reasoned that such measures
are not limited to restrictive ones since over-liberalized measures
and financial speculation can also result in price volatility. It demanded
for an explanation on the part of regional groupings and countries that
are supposed to be against the deletion of the word "restrictive"
on the reasons behind their position, but received no response from
Chair argued that opening up a debate on a substantive issue in the
COW would further delay the adoption of the Declaration. Argentina then proposed that the word
"restrictive" be at least bracketed since there had been no
country opposed the proposal to delete it.
Cuba questioned the deletion of the
sentence "We reaffirm the importance of international cooperation
and solidarity, as well as the necessity of refraining from unilateral
measures not in accordance with international law and the Charter of
the United Nations and that endanger food security", which had
appeared in brackets in the working draft. It said this sentence is
a mere reiteration of what is already contained in the Rome Declaration
on World Food Security adopted by FAO member-states in 1996 which was
later reaffirmed in the declaration on World Food Summit: Five Years
Later. It blamed the US
co-chair of the contact group for making the sentence "disappear
in thin air, like magic", and lambasted the US
for the decades-long food blockade on Cuba that it said had put at risk
the right to food of the people.
insisted in making reference to the commitments of countries under the
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the lone paragraph
on climate change and food security, reasoning that it will help reinforce
the commitment of the international community, particularly the developed
countries, to address the challenges of climate change that have contributed
to the current food crisis.
the meeting of the COW in the evening of 4 June, GRULAC, led by Mexico, requested
for a 30-minute suspension to allow the group to consult with capitals
and the heads of their delegations, and consolidate their positions
on the draft text. The Chair initially refused the request, explaining
that there is no time since it was already late. Bolivia
and Venezuela appealed
to the Chair to allow the suspension, which the Chair again refused,
prompting some delegates from Latin America
to lose their temper and raise their voices from the floor.
Chair then allowed for a 20-minute suspension of the session. When the
session resumed, GRULAC again presented its concerns on the issues raised
by Argentina, Cuba and Venezuela, and proposed that the discussions
on these be referred back to the open-ended informal contact group.
This was vigorously opposed by Japan
The Chair decided to suspend the session to the next morning.
the final session of the COW, Argentina
explained its reservation, stating that the Declaration had used "wrong
diagnosis of the problems as basis for actions". The text had failed
to take into account the root causes of the global food crisis, namely,
the imbalances in the world trade regime, unfair trade caused by the
trade-distorting subsidies and trade barriers in developed countries,
the conditionalities imposed by the international financial institutions,
and the speculation in the financial and commodities markets that result
in the food price volatility in the global market. It said that these
factors which contribute to increasing the trade deficit and poverty
in developing countries are the reasons why investments in agriculture
have been going down over the past few decades.
explaining its reservation, Cuba
said the text represents a lack of political will of the developed countries
to sustainable development, singling out the US as the only country that is blocking
any reference to the right to food. It said that the document does not
provide an objective analysis of the basic causes of hunger, such as
the trade-distorting agricultural subsidies and monopoly of production
in developed countries, the consequences of financial speculation on
the food crisis, the use of grains as biofuels, and the impacts of the
production and consumption patterns of developed countries.
questioned why other countries refused to include a reference to the
principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and the UNFCCC
in the draft Declaration, and went to attack the "criminal blockade"
imposed by the US
on Cuba which is
a clear violation of the principle of not using food as an instrument
of political and economic pressures.
Venezuela, in its statement, regretted
that the "opportunity is lost" to move forward. The food situation
is rooted to structural problems linked to the unsustainable production
and consumption in developed countries that is the major cause of climate
change that affects developing countries most. It lamented that the
draft text shows a "lack of genuine humanitarian spirit" and
"lack of real commitment" to address the root causes of the
problem. It noted that the text represents a "move backward"
especially on the part of countries that are blocking any reference
to the UNFCCC in the draft Declaration, and criticized "unilateral
domination by one country" in the discussions.
the COW adopted the draft text of the Declaration which was later passed
on to the High-Level Segment Plenary for adoption, Argentina,
Cuba and Venezuela requested
that their reservations on the text be registered in the proceedings
and their explanatory statements be included as annexes to the official
three stated that, despite their reservations on the draft text of the
Declaration, they are not blocking the consensus in adopting it. Nicaragua and Ecuador
threw their support behind the statements made by Argentina,
Cuba and Venezuela. Ecuador stated
that there are actually many countries that have reservations on the
draft text who opted to remain silent in the spirit of consensus, and
their silence should not be taken as full agreement. Germany enjoined other countries to respect the
position of the three countries and to ensure that their explanatory
statements be included as annexes to the final report on the Summit
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