For debate in the Standing Committee
Pour débat ŕ la Commission Permanente
See Rule 47 - Voir article 47 du Rčglement
7 October 1997 Doc. 7943
on food supply in the world
(Rapporteur: Mr Richard Alexander, United Kingdom,
European Democratic Group)
This report is a follow-up to the World Food Summit, organised by the FAO in Rome on 13-17 November 1996. It emerged from the Summit that almost one billion people still suffer from hunger. At the advent of the year 2000, this situation is intolerable.
Poverty and structural problems still remain the main causes of hunger, but political considerations, such as dictatorships in certain developing countries, could also be implicated.
In order to guarantee food security, not only should these countries implement new economic policies and set up democratic regimes, but the industrialised countries and international organisations should also develop and improve the efficiency of international co-operation.
I. Draft recommendation
1. The Assembly refers to the World Food Summit, organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome on 13 to 17 November 1996, and especially to the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action adopted by the Heads of State and Government.
2. It also refers to the Declaration adopted on 15 November 1996 by the Parliamentarians who met in Rome on the occasion of the World Food Summit.
3. The Assembly also recalls its Resolutions 961 (1991) on food aid and food security policies and 1006 (1993) on North-South interdependence and solidarity: Europe and the least developed countries, and its Recommendation 1319 (1997) on the organisation by the Council of Europe of a second European Campaign on North-South interdependence and solidarity in 1998.
4. It further recalls the Vienna Summit of October 1993, when the Heads of State and Government of the member states of the Council of Europe affirmed their "responsibilities regarding North/South interdependence and solidarity".
5. In this respect, the Assembly reiterates its conviction, expressed in paragraph 15 of Recommendation 1324 (1997) on the Parliamentary Assembly contribution to the second Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe, that Europe "should make every effort to help bridge the unacceptable gulf between North and South".
6. The Assembly is aware that in many countries food supply is insufficient because of wrong economic policies pursued by non-democratic regimes and misuse by them of humanitarian aid from abroad, as well as because of armed conflicts.
7. The emancipation of women and their integration into the political life and economy of a country are fundamental factors for the eradication of hunger. Young people also have an important role to play in developing agriculture and great importance should be attached to their education and training.
8. On the other hand, the Assembly is also aware that food aid from abroad may have an adverse effect on developing countries' agriculture. Emphasis must be put on long-term co-operation policies for the sustainable development of these countries' food resources.
9. The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers invite the governments of member states:
i. to devote as quickly as possible 0.7% of their GNP to development aid (the target set by the UN in 1970) and in so doing to pay due attention to the agricultural needs of each beneficiary country;
ii. to help countries which are at present unable to produce the necessary minimum food supply to develop their agriculture to make it capable of meeting at least the basic food requirements of the population;
iii. to set up, under the auspices of the United Nations and in co-operation with the authorities in the beneficiary country(ies), a form of sponsorship and partnership aimed at coordinating development, in particular of a sustainable agriculture, providing advice and at the same time promoting respect for democratic principles in this (these) country(ies);
iv. to pay special attention to the development of local agriculture and family production, so as to conserve arable land and prevent rural emigration, as well as to the training of the rural population, in particular women and young people, in sustainable farming methods;
v. to assist these countries in the development of agricultural structures, in particular at local level, by introducing or modernising production methods, distribution chains and financing systems, by promoting local trade, products and markets and by creating co-operatives, associations and professional organisations;
vi. to associate the professional organisations (farmers' unions, chambers of agriculture, etc) and the voluntary sector (associations, non-governmental organisations, etc) of their own countries with these activities;
vii. to reduce the sale and export of arms to developing countries and to finance development projects in the civil sector, and in particular the agricultural sector.
10. The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers
i. set an example by earmarking 0.7% of the Council of Europe budget for the implementation, with the assistance of the Council of Europe's North-South Centre, of co-operation projects in developing countries;
ii. organise in 1999, on the occasion of the Council of Europe's 50th anniversary and as a follow-up to the 1998 Second European Campaign, a large conference on North-South interdependence and solidarity, bringing together not only government officials and representatives of international organisations and institutions, but also elected representatives, religious leaders, non-governmental organisations, youth organisations, etc, from North and South. The conference should assess the present situation, coordinate existing policies, define new strategies and improve solidarity and co-ordination, in particular concerning food security and aid, as well as to promote democracy and human rights.
II. Draft resolution
1. The Assembly refers to its Recommendation ... (1997) and to the World Food Summit, organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (Rome, 13-17 November 1996).
2. It supports the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action adopted by the Heads of State and Government, and in particular the Declaration adopted on 15 November 1996 by the parliamentarians who met in Rome on the occasion of the World Food Summit.
3. The Assembly fully supports the efforts of international organisations and institutions working for the sustainable development of agriculture, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and its Committee on World Food Security, the OECD and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and their committees on agriculture and the European Union, particularly in the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and in the revision of the Lomé Convention, and encourages them to increase their assistance to developing countries suffering from insufficient food production.
4. The Assembly consequently encourages national parliaments to promote the implementation of the World Food Summit's Plan of Action in accordance with the commitment made by the parliamentarians in the Declaration adopted in Rome on 15 November 1996.
5. Furthermore, the Assembly invites the Food and Agriculture Organisation:
i. to draw up an international convention on the free movement and delivery of food and medicines intended for civil populations, in particular in emergency situations, allowing food and medical aid, under certain conditions, to be exempt from international trade rules agreements;
ii. to set up a World Food Bank to coordinate the collection, management and distribution of food aid and funds provided for this purpose by international organisations and institutions and by States, and to coordinate requests for emergency aid.
6. The Assembly invites the United Nations:
i. to set up a corps of "green helmets", troops made available by national armed forces for countries in need of relief, to facilitate and monitor the delivery and distribution of emergency food and medical aid to civilian populations;
ii. to promote a reduction in, and greater control of, arms sales to developing countries, and promote the financing by states of civilian development projects which give priority to self-sufficiency in food supply and the cultivation of food crops;
iii. to promote a co-operation and development programme in the form of a sponsorship and partnership system between industrialised countries and developping countries, as outlined in paragraph 9.iii. of Recommendation ... (1997)).
7. The Assembly encourages the World Trade Organisation and in particular its committee on agriculture:
i. to continue the follow-up work related to the Final Act of Marrakesh, of April 1994, and in particular to the Decision on measures concerning the possible negative effects of the reform programme on least-developed and net food-importing developing countries, so as to guarantee adequate supplies of basic foodstuffs to these countries;
ii. to continue the implementation of the Agreement on Agriculture, so as to progressively reduce tariff restrictions on trade in food products from or to developing countries, in particular the least developed countries, and to introduce mechanisms for the provision of food aid.
8. The Assembly invites the European Union:
i. to give top priority to co-operation programmes for the reform of agricultural structures and policies in developing countries, with the aim of making these countries self-sufficient in food supply;
ii. to provide and organise, in co-operation with its member states, the collection, storage, transport and, where appropriate, distribution facilities required for the rapid delivery of food aid to the populations of countries suffering from emergency situations;
iii. to implement a genuine common food-aid policy, coordinated with its member states, for the benefit of developing countries, and in particular the least developed countries.
III. Explanatory memorandum
by Mr ALEXANDER
Today we are faced with the paradox that at a time of unparalleled prosperity in the developed parts of the world the extent of famine in the underdeveloped regions is greater than ever before. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) tells us that there may be 800 million undernourished people in the world. The problem will continue, it seems, since by the year 2020, just over 20 years away, the world population will have increased from the present 5.8 billion to 7.6 billion.
There is therefore a huge problem which must surely touch the conscience of us all. The FAO says that unless action is taken many of the current problems of food security will persist; or even get worse.
Accordingly, at the World Food Summit in Rome, from 13 to 17 November 1996, which your Rapporteur attended, FAO member governments affirmed their commitment to the eradication of hunger and the reduction of the number of malnourished people (cf. Appendices 1 and 2 containing the final Declaration of the Summit and the Parliamentarians' Declaration).
Agricultural productivity has improved substantially, often at a faster rate than that of the economy as a whole. Agriculture has become a technologically advanced industry where the labour-intensive practices of the past have been replaced by capital-intensive methods of production, processing and marketing, involving the use of pesticides and fertilisers. It is clear that this is also likely to be the trend in the poorest countries where agriculture is usually a vital sector of the economy.
Where such advances have taken place the proportion of people's disposable incomes spent on food decreases. The OECD says that this share is now less than 20% in many OECD countries, as against 30-35% at the beginning of the 60s. In order to guarantee access to food it is therefore essential to combat poverty and achieve sustainable economic growth in the countries concerned. The following paragraphs suggest ways in which this might be done.
1. It is obvious that more sensible policies are required in the countries which are suffering from famine. They need an economic climate in which private investment and free trade can grow and flourish, and hence rapidly create jobs. In all too many countries these conditions are not met.
We have all seen on television the consequences in many countries of the policies of leaders who are indifferent to the starvation afflicting their people, starvation which would not have come about if they had not pursued military aims, if they had not used their armies to settle old tribal conflicts, and if they had not used international humanitarian aid to feed those armies and to implement prestige projects for their own self-glorification. We have seen, particularly in Africa, a frightening series of callous rulers who have plunged their countries and their peoples ever deeper into poverty.
2. It follows that political freedom is the enemy of hunger and malnutrition. The world's hungriest regions are those with the most repressive regimes. There are three particular aspects of this which should guide our thinking:
a. First, even the best intended actions can sometimes result in harm to these countries. They must be given aid, we all agree on that, but donor countries, under the watchful eye of their parliamentarians, need to ensure that aid does not distort either the development of indigenous agriculture, which can be the only long-term solution for these countries, or that of local markets. Donor countries must resolutely decide to give aid which will have lasting benefits rather than aid given simple to assuage their own consciences in the short term but which might be harmful in the long term.
In virtually every African country where it has appeared, famine has been accompanied by military dictatorship. In the past these dictators often received outside support, particularly during the cold war period. The fall of the iron curtain and the introduction of democracy in South Africa will have a salutary influence for the future. This is already happening in Mozambique, for example, which is now capable of developing democratically under its own steam.
b. Second, those countries which have difficulty in feeding their people almost always prevent women from helping to improve the situation in their countries. Countries should recognise the role of women by giving them equal rights and equal responsibilities in improving food policies and in land reform.
It can be no coincidence that countries where there is empowerment of women are less subject to famine. Women bring up the children, and they need the ability within their societies and their families to keep their families at a sustainable size. The problem cannot be solved without women's emancipation. It is also essential to regulate populations to achieve long-term stability in third world countries.
c. Third, the problem of access to food is generally associated with a problem of access to land. People must be able to own the land they cultivate, to have a certain control over what they do and a certain right of ownership over what they get in return. Agriculture is undoubtedly the key to the problem, but it is necessary to go further. A social and political solution is vital too.
3. It is essential that structural adjustment be implemented in agriculture, and also that donors become more aware of the fact that aid can sometimes have an adverse effect on agriculture in the developing countries. This has already been pointed out in the previous paragraphs. It ties in with the need for better policies in these countries. If a government's long-term policy is not based on a genuine desire for improvement, then food aid will have only a short-term effect and famine will persist. Changes are needed first of all in the countries concerned.
4. When developed countries devote part of their resources to food aid for countries afflicted by famine, care must be taken to ensure that this aid is used properly. Where there are tribal conflicts, it happens all too often that international aid intended for starving women and children is diverted for the benefit of armies and civil servants, opening the way for corruption, while the real intended beneficiaries remain hungry. In some conflicts too it is clear that fighters join the refugees when their side is doing badly, then regroup and go back to all-out war once they have regained their strength thanks to international aid.
5. Food aid must be regarded as an expediency in the case of temporary shortfalls in production, not as a permanent source of food supply. Another question which should be considered is whether the food component of aid should not come from the part of the world affected by the shortage, whenever possible, rather than enabling rich countries to dispose of their surpluses. In any event, international aid should be oriented more towards projects implemented by non-governmental organisations, which can monitor their effectiveness, rather than simply being a matter of emergency relief.
The development of sustainable agricultural systems also requires theoretical and practical training in appropriate technologies. It is absolutely essential to teach appropriate techniques for increasing yields and avoiding post-harvest losses. Women and men must have equal access to training in these techniques and systems.
6. Advances in technology will permit higher yields. Together with advances in biotechnology such as the genetic modification of plants to make them more resistant to pests and diseases, they offer substantial scope for lasting increases in yields and in local prosperity.
Biomass, too, if it can be economically harnessed, is likely to make a major contribution to the solution of the problem in the long term . The sun can provide part of the energy, and the residual ash can be used as a safe basic fertiliser. The biomass will have to be taken into account in solving the world food supply problem. It may not play a vital role initially, but it will become increasingly important in the future.
Appropriate economic policies in the countries concerned are absolutely crucial for the medium and long term. All too often countries try to keep prices low for consumers in the towns, but this depresses farmers' incomes and aggravates the food supply problem.
Food supply must never be used as a weapon in conflicts between nations, since it is always the civilian population which suffers.
Unless sensible economic policies are implemented and the objectives outlined in this report adopted, it is unlikely that adequate world food supply can be ensured. A veritable arsenal of appropriate policies is required. If countries get it right they will lay the foundations for a general increase in prosperity and security of food supply. If they get it wrong they will perpetuate the vicious circle in which people who are undernourished do not have the resources to grow their own food or to buy it from others.
These policies need to integrate domestic markets with international ones. This is the aim of members of the World Trade Organisation which recognises that while the reduction of support and protection is a progressive process, it is urgently required. Once all domestic markets are integrated with global markets we will have in place the fundamental infrastructure for achieving global food security.
In the meantime, we must not let allow ourselves to forget the continuing problems afflicting many countries just because they have disappeared from our television screens and newspaper headlines. The political will must be kept alive or the same problems will arise again and again.
Reporting committee: Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.
Budgetary implication for the Assembly: none
Reference to committee: Doc 7552 and Reference No. 2081 of 29 May 1996
Draft recommendation adopted unanimously by the committee on 26 June 1997.
Members of the committee: Mrs Johansson (Chair), Seiler, Figel (Vice-Chairmen), MM. Adamiak, Alexander, Bernardini, Carvalho, _erný, Chulakov, _iupaila, Collavini (Alternate: Rizzi), Connolly, Couveinhes, Diana, Eltz (Alternate: Radi_), Ghesquičre, Ghimpu, Hadjidemetriou, Haraldsson, Hoejland, Holte, Hornung, Jeambrun, Kharitonov, Kiratlioglu, Kitov, Korkeaoja (Alternate: Tiuri), Koulouris, van der Linden, Lord Mackie of Benshie, MM. Penz, Prusak, Rippinger, Mrs Rugate, MM. Rupar, Sainz Garcia (Alternate: Gonzalez Laxe), Scheer, Steolea, Szakál (Alternate: Györiványi), Telgmaa, Tripunovski, Vella.
N.B. The names of those members present at the meeting are printed in italics.
Secretary to the committee: Mr Sixto
1 . by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development