Conference Policies against Hunger VIII

Speech delivered by the Federal Minister of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, Ilse Aigner, on 11 June 2010 in Berlin.

Federal Minister Ilse Aigner

Check against delivery!

Ladies and Gentlemen!

We are in agreement and I am delighted about this: we will take the next steps in the fight against hunger together.

This conference has made it very clear that governments, international organisations, civil society, science and industry all need to be brought together around one table in the fight against hunger!

If we all sit around the same table, listen to one another and discuss with one another, then we will achieve good results. Because this is the only way that we will be able to make major progress: by coordinating our strategies and then taking resolute action. The Federal Government sets great store by this. This is why my Ministry is hosting this Conference for the eighth time. It has become a good tradition and has proven its worth once again this year.

We have you, dear participants, to thank first and foremost for this success. It is you, Ladies and Gentlemen, who have turned this event into a successful institution by means of your knowledgeable, committed and lively contributions.

I would like to express my appreciation to you for this.The open discourse helps us to overcome inhibitions and take steps. And steps urgently need to be taken in the face of the alarming number of one billion starving people.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we will only be able to effectively combat global hunger and malnutrition if we join forces. My Ministry sees itself as a driving force for action in this process. I am also truly impressed by the dynamism of the debates held on the podium and in the working groups.

Thank you

  • for the spirit of friendly cooperation that you have displayed over the past few days
  • for the substantial catalogue of recommendations you have just presented me with.

I believe that it will be valuable and helpful for the future work of each and every one of us. We noted during our last conference in November 2008 that the right to food was the most frequently violated human right in the world.

In the Millennium Development Goals we committed ourselves to halving the number of hungry people in the world by the year 2015. Even if the figures send out a completely different message: We in the EU are working flat-out in an attempt to still achieve this objective. But if we want to attain this goal we need to bring about a complete turnaround.

All partners must demonstrate their determination to implement the necessary political changes and to take action. Meeting the global challenges is the joint responsibility of all stakeholders.

We have all used this conference in order to make an active contribution. Now we are all called upon to pass on the outcome of this conference in the forthcoming international meetings.

The G8 states will be meeting at the end of this month in Canada and discussing the implementation of the L´Aquila resolutions in the sections on food security and support for the agricultural sector.

In September, the heads of state and government will be meeting with civil society representatives for a high- level meeting on the millennium development goals at the UN General Assembly.

And in October, the reformed Committee on World Food Security, CFS, will convene and adopt resolutions on the fight against hunger.

What have we learnt from the discussions over the past few days? No global crisis can be solved by individual actors on their own. This was the undisputed starting point of the Conference: Global governance must be improved. The challenges we face are too closely interrelated and too complex:

  • from climate and energy issues and the
  • economic and financial crisis to
  • the food crisis -

we need joint efforts to deal with these challenges.The resolution adopted in October 2009 to reform the CFS provided key impetus to overcoming the food crisis. This reform may represent a unique opportunity to place international cooperation in the field of food security on a new sustainable basis. Working Group 1 has provided some very good ideas.

There is a World Security Council in place in which only a few are represented. But there is also a “World Food Security Council” where there is room for everyone. This ensures that everyone can have their say. In this way we can take on our shared responsibility.

Adopting resolutions in the Committee on World Food Security and taking responsibility for them naturally still lies with the international community of states. But before this stage is reached, international organisations, the business and scientific communities and civil society must be properly involved. I attach great importance to this: The participation of those sections of society that are at greatest risk from hunger and malnutrition must be ensured. It is their right to food that is under threat!

  • smallholder farmers,
  • farm workers,
  • indigenous and nomadic peoples,
  • fishing communities
  • and especially the women in all these groups -

they all should sit around the same table of joint responsibility and have their say as equal partners. This is our vision.Those who are directly affected must be involved! We want the reform of the CFS to be a success.

And I can therefore promise that my ministry will be making a significant financial contribution to ensure that representatives from developing countries are able to take part in the CFS session in October.

The initiatives put forward by the UN High Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, the Standing Committee on Nutrition and all other actors should be pooled and coordinated in the CFS. I would greatly welcome it if this role were able to be acknowledged at the UN high-level meeting on the millennium goals.

The Global Partnership for Agriculture, Food and Food Security is therefore taking shape. Indeed, it is developing an attractive and strong profile.

By reforming the CFS we have to a certain extent laid the cornerstone for "Good Governance" in the field of food security. Now it is a matter of building a solid house on this cornerstone.

We need all of you if we want to achieve this aim: It is the joint responsibility of North and South,

  • of governments and international organisations,
  • of industry, science and civil society.

I would like to call on all those involved to do their bit to make the reform of the CFS a success! The Federal Government expressly supports the CFS as the global platform for the coordination of national, regional and local strategies promoting food security and a healthy diet. We know that there is consensus on this in the European Union. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the EU in our support for a strategic alignment of global food policy. In the FAO we have drawn up guidelines on the right to food.

When national, regional and local strategies are drawn up to promote food security and a healthy diet, we should utilise these guidelines to progress towards the right to food. They may be voluntary. But they were adopted by all of us and therefore constitute a good basis.

It is of prime importance for us that global, national, regional and local strategies and decision-making processes are coordinated with one another. We know that this is possible. You have dealt with successful examples of this during this conference; these examples are encouraging.

My ministry is also initiating and supporting FAO projects in this field, for example in Tanzania, Uganda and Sierra Leone. The right to food is being made into a practical reality at district level in these countries.

This can be achieved

  • by integrating groups affected by hunger,
  • by supporting monitoring processes carried out by civil society; and
  • by improving accountability.

There must be no more cases of several parties inefficiently covering similar ground! Let us strengthen participation, cohesion and coordination! Let us attach greater importance to cooperation and accountability requirements!

I believe the CFS should develop a monitoring mechanism which evaluates the Member States’ efforts to fight hunger. The Voluntary Guidelines on the Right to Food must be used as a standard by which to measure these efforts.

My ministry has carried out a research project to improve monitoring with respect to making the right to food a practical reality. Indicators to assess the situation regarding this legal claim were defined by the University of Mannheim and pilot tests carried out in three countries. The project focused on improving the State reporting procedure before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. I am convinced that these results could be of great benefit for other monitoring processes as well.

Ladies and Gentlemen, one topic which is of concern to many people is that of extensive foreign investment in agricultural land and forest areas. In Africa, foreign investors have purchased between 20 and 50 million hectares of fertile land in the last three years.

The territory of the Federal Republic of Germany covers about 35 million hectares! That gives an idea of the scale of this issue! On the one hand there is the concern that the local
population will be the loser in this development.

We all know examples

  • of worsening conflicts over land;
  • of the relocation and displacement of local populations, and also of
  • rural depopulation.

This must be prevented! On the other hand I am convinced that if we want to promote food security and a healthy diet, we need the private sector. We need more private investment in agriculture and in rural areas. There are significant opportunities for developing countries arising from technology and capital transfer.

The aim is clear: Policymakers must ensure that investments also result in increasing incomes for the poor and marginalised strata of society. Investments made should therefore be in line with the respective national strategies.

We need both:

  • a secure framework for investors and farmers, so that their commitment is worthwhile; and
  • a framework to protect the interests of the local population.

It is for this reason that I welcome the current international initiatives that are establishing guidelines for responsible and sustainable investments in agriculture and food security.
Particular mention should be given in this regard to:

  • The FAO’s work on the “Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of
    Tenure of Land and Other Natural Resources"; and
  • the “Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investments”, which are currently being
    developed jointly by a number of UN organisations.

In my view, particular importance should be attached to the development of "Voluntary Guidelines on Land Access": The guidelines are intended in particular to help poor sections of society to protect their access to land if this access did not exist or could not be enforced in the past due to there being no administrative or legal framework. Through my ministry supporting the work on the Voluntary Guidelines, we are building on the German commitment to the Voluntary Guidelines for the Right to Food.

I would like to emphasise that the new guidelines must be aligned to human-rights standards. This relates for example to protection against displacement and expropriation but also stretches from protection against discrimination to prevention of corruption. We hope that the FAO will present a first draft at the beginning of the coming year, and that this will then be accepted by all Member States as quickly as possible.

With regard to the second process - the principles for responsible agricultural investment - my ministry and the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development are in
agreement that

  • the principles should, in respect of access to land and large-scale investments in land, refer to the FAO guidelines.
  • duplicate processes are to be avoided.

I am therefore delighted that your recommendation on this subject supports our position. With regard to the principles, the main focus should be on the following aspects:

  • the rights of workers in the agricultural sector;
  • the transparency of investments;
  • anticorruption regulations; and
  • the public involvement of local populations.

The principles must also of course be measured according to the yardstick of international human-rights standards, in particular the right to food. We would like to have a transparent procedure and a clear mandate - incorporating all important actors.

I remain convinced thatprivate investments can provide an urgently needed contribution to promoting rural development and to combating hunger. But private investment must be made in a responsible manner! It is important that the business community makes an active contribution, including at the level of global governance.

Ladies and Gentlemen, current strategies to combat hunger often do not go far enough. Indeed, they often cover only the need for an adequate supply of food, and consequently focus on the need to increase food production. But there is one aspect that receives far too little attention: that is the health and care aspects which are part of food security.

We want to make people more sensitive to the need to follow a healthy diet that is suited to their needs. But this is not the only important aspect: think of the large number of mothers with malnourished babies and small children!

Their situation could be significantly improved if the mothers received access to knowledge about quality, safety and hygiene. What is needed is equal access to education and a fair division of labour between the genders. It is only if all these components are brought together that we will truly be able to use the term food security.

We must integrate these health and care aspects into all strategies aimed at fighting hunger. A healthy diet should become an indicator for development.

Improved cooperation between stakeholders’ institutions is also urgently required. And there is one thing we must remember: We need a strong UN Committee on Nutrition. This has my full support.

And we need close coordination with the reformed Committee on World Food Security. The reforms to the CFS have opened the doors for this.

Ladies and Gentlemen, You have engaged in intensive discussions during this conference. I have been told that the corridors were empty and the conference rooms full.

You have stated your views and opinions and drawn up conclusions. Many thanks for this! However, we still have quite some way to go. This conference has shown that it is easier to walk this path together. Together we can overcome obstacles. And together we can make progress ourselves while perhaps moving others to make progress as well. We are all called upon to pass on these recommendations.

I can assure you that I will make every effort to do this in the processes in which I am involved. I am encouraged by the results of this conference. And I am therefore delighted that we will be continuing the “Policies against Hunger” conferences.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this conference was possible only due to the efforts of a large team. My thanks go to Chairman Professor Noori, and to the facilitator Professor Bellows, My thanks also to the facilitators and rapporteurs in the working groups. I would like to thank Minister Mwesigye, Mr. Nabarro, Mr. De Luna, Ms. Wöhrl, Ms. Claas-Mühlhäuser, Mr. Valente and Ms. Christiansen for the stimulating debate in the concluding panel discussion.

And I would like to extend particular thanks to FIAN for their superb support and preparation. Thanks also to the group of advisors which consisted of members

  • of the GTZ,
  • the German Commission for Justice and Peace,
  • Bread for the World,
  • the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations
  • the University of Gießen; and
  • the Welthungerhilfe

And my thanks also to the division competent for global food issues in my ministry for their untiring efforts. I would like to thank the Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food for their excellent organisational work. And not least my thanks also to the interpreters who have ensured that we have always understood each other well.

And finally I would like to thank you all for your committed participation.

Thank you very much!


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