Aid Watch

Sunday, March 1, 2009

AID WATCH is a research center, information clearinghouse, and early warning system for activists, educators, policy makers, journalists and the general public on humanitarian crisis and international aid operations.

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A new report, The High Food Price Challenge: A Review of Responses to Combat Hunger, released by the UK Hunger Alliance and the Oakland Institute, reveals that the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative launched in July 2009 by the G8 to support food security, nutrition, and sustainable agriculture, has failed. It promised $20 billion worth of investment over three years, however, one year on from the L’Aquila commitments, it is evident that the international response to the food price crisis has been insufficient and often inappropriate, despite rising levels of hungry people.

Based on a thorough review of national and international responses to global hunger and featuring case studies from individual countries and regions that confronted the food price crisis using diverse strategies, The High Food Price Challenge shows that, beyond providing aid money, it is imperative that governments and international institutions rethink their policies to mitigate hunger and it proposes concrete measures.

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“Africa needs investment in agriculture—better seeds and inputs, improved extension services, education on conservation techniques, regional integration, and investment to build local capacity. It does not need policies that enable foreign investors to grow and export food for their own people to the detriment of the local population. I’ll be even bolder—such policies will hurt Africa, fueling conflict over land and water…Africa is not a commodity. It must not be labeled “open for business.”
-– Howard G. Buffett, Foreword, (Mis)Investment in Agriculture

As a major two-day conference on Land Policy & Administration, hosted by the World Bank, gets under way to supposedly “improve land governance” and “contribute to the well-being of the poorest,” the Oakland Institute’s new report, (Mis)Investment in Agriculture: The Role of the International Finance Corporation in the Global Land Grab, exposes the role of the Bank’s private sector branch, International Finance Corporation (IFC), in fueling land grabs, especially in Africa.

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Voices from Africa: African Farmers & Environmentalists Speak Out Against a New Green Revolution in Africa, issues a direct challenge to Western-led plans for a genetically engineered revolution in African agriculture, particularly the recent misguided philanthropic efforts of the Gates Foundation's Alliance for a New Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and presents African resistance and solutions rooted in first-hand knowledge of what Africans need.

The report finds a lack of accountability, transparency, and stakeholder involvement in philanthropic efforts such as AGRA. For instance, a leaked Gates Foundation confidential report on their Agricultural Development Strategy for 2008-2011 actually emphasizes moving people out of the agricultural sector with the intent of reducing dependency on agriculture. The strategy report, however, does not specify where or how this new 'land mobile' population is to be reemployed.

The battle over genetic engineering is being fought across the world, between those who champion farmers' rights to seeds, livelihood, and land, and those who seek to privatize these. While promotional campaigns for technological solutions to hunger regularly feature a handful of African spokespeople who drown out the genuine voices of farmers, researchers, and civil society groups, there is widespread opposition to genetic engineering and plans for a New Green Revolution for Africa. Voices From Africa is based on the essays and statements of leading African farmers, environmentalists, and civil society groups, and brings to light the real African perspectives on technological solutions to hunger and poverty on the continent--and the solutions that the people on the ground believe would bring true development.

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Meet the Authors

Sahel: A Prisoner of Starvation?

A Case Study of the 2005 Food Crisis in Niger

Report cover: Sahel

The Sahel, which stretches over 3,500 km from Mauritania in the west to Chad in the east, is one of the most dangerous places for children. According to the United Nations some 300,000 children under the age of five face the risk of death from malnutrition each year in the region. In light of this ongoing crisis, the Oakland Institute’s new report, Sahel: A Prisoner of Starvation? examines the 2005 food crisis in Niger to explain the cause of this chronic emergency and recommends strategies that can help make hunger in Sahel a thing of the past.

In 2005, Niger’s poverty and widespread hunger hit the world news. Some 230,000 children under the age of five were treated by NGOs–surpassing past records of relief intervention. And despite this effort, thousands of children died of hunger-related causes. While the 2005 crisis has been blamed on locust invasion and drought, Niger did not face an exceptional drop in production in the 2004-2005 agricultural year. Malnutrition remains pervasive even in years of bountiful harvest.

What is the cause of this chronic emergency, if not a natural disaster? How have several decades of development programs failed to eradicate hunger and malnutrition? What needs to be done to end this cycle of poverty and famine? Each Sahelian country has ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which recognizes each person’s right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing, housing, and the continuous improvement of living conditions. What does this widespread hunger, year after year, mean in terms of the right to food in the region? What if any are the obligations of the international community during these food crises? These are the key questions that Sahel: A Prisoner of Starvation? intends to answer.

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Report in the News

Playing Politics With Aid

The Unholy Trinity of Defense, Diplomacy and Development in the War on Terrorism

In light of recent changes in the way U.S. administers foreign aid, the Oakland Institute's new policy brief, Playing Politics With Aid: The Unholy Trinity of Defense, Diplomacy and Development in the War on Terrorism, challenges Bush administration's efforts to bring the administration of aid under the control of the State Department and tie foreign assistance to U.S. strategic military interests.

At a time when the U.S. foreign aid has been made a central team member of the Bush administration's war on terrorism, the policy brief advocates that it is in the interest of the United States to ensure that each dollar of development aid is invested in building self-reliant societies abroad instead of subjecting them to its short-term foreign and military policy goals.

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In a dramatic departure from prevailing thought about international food aid programs, The Oakland Institute’s report, Food Aid or Food Sovereignty? Ending World Hunger in Our Time , recommends food sovereignty as the policy tool to achieve food self-sufficiency.

The report offers a new perspective on the eradication of hunger to inform the debate on food aid at the World Trade Organization.

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Read the U.S. Proposal on Disciplining Food Aid in the WTO

Communication by the U.S. on Food Aid, April 7, 2006

Past Publications