UN hunger meet ends with billion-euro pledge from Spain

28th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

Spain pledges billions in food aid in the name of security.

MADRID—Spain pledged a billion euros in aid as a UN hunger conference ended Tuesday, but activists said the meeting fell far short of what was needed to tackle food security at a time of economic crisis.

"I announce today that Spain will provide 200 million euros (260 million dollars) annually over the next five years in policies aimed at boosting agriculture and food security," Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said.

Addressing a joint news conference with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Zapatero said the funding will be aimed at nations which are the most vulnerable and most affected by the global food security crisis.

However, Spain's pledge was the only major funding announcement at the meeting, which was attended by representatives from over 100 countries, including over 62 government ministers.

Madrid will also push for the creation of a new global partnership to better coordinate the fight against hunger that will be made up of donor nations, aid agencies, food producers and unions and headed by the United Nations, the prime minister said.

Ban said the food crisis had brought the total number of hungry people in the world to "an intolerable one billion" and warned the situation could get worse unless more is done to tackle the problem.

He threw his support behind the idea of setting up a partnership to tackle the problem.

"I agree that we should reach out even more and forge a broad and inclusive movement that draws on the best available knowledge and spends money wisely, through a better coordination mechanism," he said.

The UN provided emergency food aid to over 100 million people last year and would likely be called on to do more in 2009 because of the global economic slowdown, he added.

"We worked hard to bring food assistance to those who needed it in 2008. I expect we will have to work even harder in 2009, this year of recession," he said, adding the UN provided emergency food aid to over 100 million people last year.

Activists taking part at the gathering, co-sponsored by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and Spain, said it had not produced enough concrete measures to make a serious dent in the fight against hunger.

"Where is the sense of urgency, where are the new funds? The fat cats of the financial world got huge governmental support within months, not so the starving street cats," the co-chair of Global Call to Action Against Poverty, Sylvia Borren, told reporters.

The Madrid meeting was a follow-up to another UN-sponsored gathering on the issue held in Rome in June that was attended by heads of state and government.

That meeting took place just as prices for several staples were at record highs due to a combination of poor harvests, changing diets in emerging economies like China and India and growing demand for food crops for biofuels.

While food prices have since dropped, they remain volatile and experts predict the conditions are ripe for them to rise again to record levels.

The world's richest nations agreed to provide 0.7 percent of their output in development aid by 2015 as part of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, a series of targets aimed at reducing poverty and living standards around the globe. So far only a handful have met this target.

Zapatero says Spain will meet the target by 2012.

AFP/Daniel Silva/Expatica

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