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Two Years On: Is the G8 Delivering on its L'Aquila Hunger Pledge?
March 2011
ActionAid


Following the 2007-08 food crises, donors made an important 'Hunger Pledge' to the worlds poor. At the 2009 G8 Summit in L'Aquila, Italy, donors launched the L'Aquila Food Security Initiative, backed by 27 countries and 14 international agencies. Within this, donors pledged to mobilise US $22 billion over three years in support of country-led plans for agriculture, with a 'coordinated, comprehensive strategy'.

Two years on, with food prices reaching record levels, the world stands on the precipice of another food crisis. With only one year left to deliver, the G8 and other L'Aquila donors have launched their accountability report with a focus on progress towards goals set in L'Aquila on food security and on global health. This is the report where the G8 and other donors are to account for progress on their 'Hunger Pledge'. At face value, the report says that the G8 is broadly on track. However, an analysis of the data reveals that this is extremely difficult to justify with any certainty: because it is nearly impossible to rate countries' relative performance due to inconsistent and erratic reporting methods.

ActionAid believes that the accountability process is severely undermined by a lack of transparency on how much countries have spent and a lack of consistency in measuring progress and timelines. A few donors the EU, Germany and Japan are not even able to account on their expenditure to date and are still only reporting on what they have committed to doing. Moreover, the accountability report shows that around two-thirds through the pledge only 22 percent has actually been spent.

Meanwhile, some countries, such as Italy and Germany, are reporting against progress on projects and items which were outside of their original pledge. This suggests that governments are re-categorising commitments, in order to mask their lack of progress. Moving the goalposts halfway through the game is not fair play.

Accountability also involves transparency and reflection on failures, as well as on achievements. Few donors are openly admitting shortcomings. The US government is one of the few exceptions: not only is the US being clear in its reporting but they are also being transparent about their disbursement delays.

France, who this year is hosting the G8 and G20, appears to be trying to mask their poor performance behind some bad reporting. Following their moderately good L'Aquila pledge to agriculture, they are now failing to deliver it, with less than 50 percent of their commitments being spent two-thirds of the way into the pledge timeline. Not meeting these hunger commitments could undermine President Sarkozy's credibility in championing G20 action on food price volatility and food security this year.

But perhaps of greatest concern is the lack of concrete evidence of progress towards achieving several of the core components of the pledge: increasing aid to agriculture, through support of country-led agriculture plans that target the needs of small holder farmers. Progress on the pledges of aid to agriculture are by far the most off-track; with delivery being particularly slow compared to spending on other categories of aid for food security. For instance, Italy has actually had a cut of 56 percent in their agricultural aid spending since L'Aquila.

With the world just one bad harvest away from another food crisis, we need urgent injections of funding and donors to make good on their promises, not clever accounting.

Moreover, the effects of increasing food prices on poverty are extremely alarming. The World Bank estimates that high food prices have pushed 44 million people into extreme poverty in low-and-middle income countries, and warns that food prices are at 'dangerous levels'.

Indeed, the investment that donors have delivered on while far from sufficient -- is helping to mitigate the impacts of the crisis.The evidence that increased investment in agriculture over the last few years has helped to minimise Africa's exposure to the recent surge in global food prices should spur greater action and ambition from donors. Countries such as Rwanda and Malawi, which have recently increased government support to smallholder-based agriculture, are reporting stable local food prices and abundant supplies.

Sadly, donor aid to agriculture is still woefully short of what is needed to meaningfully reduce hunger. And in spite of African countries' stepping up in response to the food crisis and drafting ambitious country plans through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) process, donors are not living up to their end of the bargain. African countries have developed costed and peer reviewed plans, but donors are not keeping up through support to fund them. Huge gaps exist in the money needed. For just the 20 African countries that are an advanced stage of the CAADP process, there is a funding gap of $36.3 billion that needs to be filled.

With the world teetering on the edge of another food crisis, the G8 must keep to their 'Hunger Pledge'. ActionAid is also urging the G8 and all donors to channel their aid behind country plans.

Recommendations
  1. The lack of full and transparent accounting for progress on the L'Aquila Food Security Initiative by donors to date must be addressed
  2. It is vital that donors ensure their L'Aquila pledges are delivered within the 3 year timeframe, with shortfalls in commitments and disbursements of agricultural aid addressed as a matter of urgency by all donors.
  3. In light of the food crisis and needs identified by the CAADP process, donors must increase overall agricultural aid beyond the L'Aquila Pledge, and they must align most of their aid in support of country-led plans. Specifically:
    • Donors should channel more money through GAFSP, which is delivering new money, transparently, in support of country led plans.
    • Donors need to take the next step and go beyond L'Aquila and ensure that all CAADP investment plans are fully funded.

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