A senior United Nations relief official warned today that talks on new food aid rules as part of a global trade pact could reduce its flow – which has already plummeted some 30 per cent in the past year – and increase starvation in poor countries.
James Morris, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), called on members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva to not only grasp the importance of food aid and support it as they negotiated agricultural trade reform, but also to recognize the impact of their talks on the world's poor and hungry.
Rules on food aid – or "disciplines" – are under discussion in the negotiations considered key to the success of the WTO's stalled Doha round, which was launched in 2001 with promises from major economies that it would be shaped to aid development. The WTO co-hosted a mini-summit last week in Paris with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to jump start negotiations towards completing the Doha talks.
Mr. Morris expressed his concern to WTO representatives from Africa and the least developed countries that discussions about food aid disciplines could lead to a further dwindling of such aid or distort local trade by affecting local production of imports.
"The simple truth is that food aid commitments and deliveries are nose-diving, while the WTO is discussing their discipline. Please remember that simple fact and that the world's hungry children are paying the price," Mr. Morris said.
"We do not oppose disciplines, but we favour disciplines on food aid that make it more effective – sound food needs assessments, careful targeting and monitoring," he added. "That kind of discipline can be part genuine agricultural trade reform that eliminates or greatly reduces the subsidies that distort food production and trade."
He also said that agricultural subsidies have greatly harmed developing country's competitiveness and bled the treasuries of the developed world. "Just a week's worth of those subsidies would give WFP and its partners enough money to eliminate child hunger in the neediest countries of the world."