Chicago Council on Global Affairs hosts day-long symposium on global hunger & food security

On May 20, 2010, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs hosted a day-long symposium on Agriculture and Food Security. Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, delivered the keynote address and shared the U.S. Government’s implementation strategy for its global hunger and food security initiative, now called “Feed the Future.” Shah noted that last year the number of people suffering from chronic hunger topped 1 billion as a result of the recent food crisis and global financial crisis, and said that “we must hold each other’s feet to the fire,” emphasizing that this really is a global initiative.

Feed the Future demonstrates adherence to key foreign assistance reform principles in accelerating progress toward the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. Administrator Shah said that agricultural development is a springboard for economic development and stated that “through this Feed the Future initiative, we are investing the talents of experts throughout our government, working closely with the State Department, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the USTR and the Peace Corps in this effort.”  He noted that this initiative will be country-led and that we can expect 15 African country investment plans by the end of 2010 with the potential to help 650 million people.

Shah asked that Congress to fully fund the initiative and said their support was needed now more than ever. He thanked Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN), Bob Casey (D-PA), and John Kerry (D-MA) for their leadership on food security. Shah also pointed to the leadership of Ambassador Bill Garvelink , Deputy Coordinator for Development, who will oversee the execution of Feed the Future within USAID and Ambassador Pat Haslach, Deputy Coordinator for Diplomacy, housed at the State Department,  who will “make sure this partnership remains a global priority because we simply won’t eliminate hunger without that.”

Feed the Future has a strong focus on women as they need equal access to services and support. Shah said that “when women control gains in income, they’re far more likely to spend those gains improving their families’ access to health, education and nutrition.” In talking about country-led development, Shah said, “If you’re here representing a partner country, we will follow your lead. Once you commit to a comprehensive plan, we will commit to helping bring the global community together to support you in its execution. We will have a single point of contact in your country to coordinate U.S. government efforts and engage with your leaders.”

On the panel that followed Shah, Cheryl Mills, State Dept. Counselor, said, “We are still determining who the food security coordinator will be, but there will be a single point of contact for the USG.” MFAN believes that in order for Feed the Future to succeed as part of a whole-of-government approach, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – the U.S. government’s lead development agency – needs to be put in charge of the food security initiative and oversee its implementation process.  Feed the Future’s two key objectives for addressing global food insecurity are accelerating agricultural growth and production in developing countries and improving nutritional status, in particular of women and children – both of which are inherently poverty-focused development goals.

In addition to Shah, Thomas Vilsack, U.S. secretary of agriculture; Namanga Ngongi, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa; and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of the Republic of Liberia, delivered remarks at the event. Catherine Bertini and Dan Glickman, cochairs of The Chicago Council’s Global Agricultural Development Initiative, moderated panels.

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