Rome summit ‘important first step’ but much more needed says Oxfam

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 06 Jun 2008

This week’s UN summit in Rome was an important first step in tackling the food crisis but greater action is now needed to resolve the crisis, said international agency, Oxfam, today.
Andrew Hewett the Executive Director of Oxfam Australia said a crisis like this, with so many contributing factors, needs a wide-ranging plan to resolve it. By declaring at the beginning of the week that they will increase aid to agriculture, the Australian Government has made an important first step.
“Recognising the problem is the first step toward solving it. Leaders of the richest countries have acknowledged the importance of aid to agriculture after 25 years of decline and have pledged money to provide immediate aid to those that need it,” he said.
The final communiqué from the Summit acknowledges that biofuels offer both ‘opportunities and challenges’ and recommends more research into their impact. However, in the meantime, biofuels will continue to have a devastating impact on millions of poor people as recent estimates suggest that demand for biofuels is responsible for 30 percent of the global food price rise. Oxfam is calling on the EU and US to end their compulsory biofuel targets.
The communiqué also suggests that concluding the current WTO agreement will solve the crisis. Oxfam disagrees and argues instead that current WTO proposals do not give developing countries the flexibility they need to respond to volatile markets and short term rises and falls in prices.
“Concluding a trade deal as it is currently framed will hurt poor farmers and consumers, not help them. Trade rules must protect poor people in times of both high prices and low. Developing countries need the ability to feed their people and support the poorest, most marginalised farmers to gain from current high prices. The current crisis illustrates starkly that what we need is not business as usual but deep reform of the international trading system,“ said Mr Hewett.
The UN Task Force set up to deal with the food crisis must listen to representatives from the developing world’s 400 million smallholder farmers. These farms are not only important in feeding their nations but also providing economic development and must be part of any solution to the crisis.
AU$6.25 billion has been pledged this week but this is less than half of the AU$15.1 billion that Oxfam estimates is needed to provide immediate assistance to at least 290 million people threatened by rising food prices until the end of 2008. It is unclear whether the AU$6.25 billion is new money or comes from existing aid commitments, and what is the time frame for its delivery.
“The baton of responsibility now passes to the G8 and its finance ministers meeting in Japan next week. As the world’s most powerful countries they must provide more money to deal with the immediate impact of the current crisis but also tackle some of the contributing causes by ending compulsory biofuels targets and providing more long term aid for to agriculture,” said Mr Hewett.
For more information contact:
Melany Markham (Australia) on +61407 515 559,
Alexander Woollcombe (Italy) on +32 473562260,

Note to editors
1. The money pledged this week includes:
– Islamic Development Bank AU$1.56 billion
– World Bank AU$1.25 billion
– African Development Bank AU$1.04 billion
2. The 290m people estimated to be at risk are the poorest people in the 53 most affected countries – the 49 Least Developed Countries, and Tajikistan, Zimbabwe, Occupied Palestinian Territories and Kenya. The figure of AU$15.1 billion is based on these people requiring an average of AU$52 per capita in 2008. The AU$52 required is an estimate, based on Oxfam’s experience and studies around the world, of what people need so they have enough to eat.