See you in Vietnam 2012

Knowledge brokering21 Dec 2010Hans Eenhoorn

“The Conference aimed to develop a roadmap with concrete actions linking agricultural-related investments, policies and measures with the transition to climate smart growth”. This was a most valuable objective and the fact that this conference was organized and attracted so many government delegations , most of them headed by the minister for agriculture, makes it a public relations success. The issues discussed and the “Chair’s Summary” produced, raise awareness for the urgency of solving the interrelated problems of food security and climate change and the inevitable conclusion that agriculture is the key to the solution of the problems. However nothing new was presented and the conference did not produce anything like a useful roadmap and a serious action plan. The action plan presented on Friday is just a list of ideas and most of these ideas are not new, or work in progress. A civil society group present at the conference made that clear, stating: “The Hague conference need not reinvent the wheel”.

A roadmap needs clear milestones and for each milestone a clear commitment on finance and agreement about who is responsible for the necessary action ( including mandate) to achieve the milestone. Without milestones, no roadmap. It was, of all people, the representative of Sudan who pointed this severe shortcoming out to the Conference Chair.

Will action now really take place? That is highly doubtful given the multitude of “high-brow” final declarations of important conferences in the past and the results in practice. Let me give some historic perspective.

At the World Conference in Rome of 1974, the “Final declaration on the eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition” was adopted by all 134 governments represented at the conference. This declaration promised to eliminate hunger by the end of the century (mind you, that was the last century). At the World Food Conference in Rome of 1996, a more modest target was introduced; halving hunger by 2015. This target became part of MDG 1, halving poverty and hunger by 2015, in the Millennium Declaration of 2000. Duly signed by the representatives of 189 governments at the UN General Assembly in New York. The Food crisis of 2007/08 resulted in a flurry of conferences, statements and declarations of which the G-8 statement in 2009 in L’Aguila was notorious in not fulfilling its promises. Thirty billion dollars were promised to make that happen, but two years later only a fraction of that amount is made available.

All these conferences had their roadmaps, action plans, goals and broken promises. This conference in The Hague will not be different, unless Governments and in particular African governments admit that they are poorly functioning (and we all know what that means) and neglecting the rights of the poor in their countries. They have to promise, carved in stone, to take immediate remedial action to improve on that.

Let there be no excuses; the world can easily provide the knowledge and the money necessary to solve the problems of Foodsecurity and Climate change.

My verdict on the conference is therefore that it was a good idea to organize it and that awareness of problems and solutions has increased and that was necessary. In this respect the conference can be regarded as successful. However I fear that after the conference “business will be as usual”. In 2 years time the follow-up conference will be in Vietnam. Good luck!