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G8 talk to African leaders on food security funds

July 10, 2009

by Guy Dinmore in L’Aquila, July 10, 2009

Leaders of the G8 club of rich countries were joined on Friday morning by heads of African governments and international institutions to finalise a multi-billion dollar food security fund for agriculture.

The final day of the three-day G8 summit in L’Aquila, central Italy, was expected to conclude with a declaration on food security and pledges totalling some $15bn over three years.

Barack Obama, US president, sat at the same dinner table on Thursday night with Muammer Gaddafi, Libya’s leader invited to the summit by Italy in his role as head of the African Union.

US deputy national security advisor Denis McDonough told reporters that the US contribution to the fund would be about $3bn over three years. Pledges were still “bouncing around”, he said late Thursday.

Aid organisations will be carefully scrutinising the pledges to make sure that the funding represents new money and has not been stripped from existing budgets elsewhere. Also to be hammered out is what agency or agencies will administer the trust fund. The World Bank is a prime candidate.

After the disappointment on Thursday when the world’s main polluting countries failed to agree on a comprehensive climate change package, including targets for emissions cuts, G8 heads were keen to conclude the summit with an impressive deal for the developing world.

They were joined on Friday by the leaders of Ethiopia, Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. UN food agencies also attended.

Japan and the European Union were expected to pledge some $3bn each to the fund.

Aid agencies have skewered some G8 countries, in particular France and Italy, for failing to deliver on their promises to increase development aid that were made at the Gleneagles summit four years ago.

Save the Children said contributions from G8 countries were already $20bn short of the pledges they made and that figure is likely to rise to $25bn next year.

Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s billionaire prime minister, was stung by accusations last week that Italy had cut its aid budget, saying it was a mistake that would be rectified. Despite that assurance, Marcello Fondi, a senior foreign ministry official, later told an aid conference that his ministry’s aid budget would fall by a further 10 per cent in 2010, according to Save the Children spokesman Adrian Lovett.

UN food agencies say more than 1bn people in the world are going hungry. A downward trend over last decades in the proportion of  the world’s population suffering from hunger has been reversed, in part because of soaring food prices.

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