Wealthy nations launch fund against world hunger, poverty
The United States and a handful of wealthy partner countries on Thursday made good on a promise made last year as they launched a multi-billion-dollar fund to fight world hunger and poverty.
"A global economy where more than one billion people suffer from hunger is not a sustainable one," US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said in a ceremony launching the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program.
Canada, Spain, South Korea and the United States, along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have already pledged nearly 900 million dollars to the program, initiated as the global economic crisis leaves even more people affected by poverty and hunger.
"At a time of limited resources and large global challenges, this fund will leverage support from around the world to achieve lasting progress against hunger and bolster agricultural productivity and growth," Geithner said.
The fund was first discussed at the G8 meeting in L'Aquila, Italy last year, where 14 wealthy nations committed to contributing some 22 billion dollars to invest in agriculture in low-income countries.
It firmed up at the subsequent G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, where world leaders called for the World Bank and interested donor nations to set up a trust fund to help implement some of the pledges made at L'Aquila.
The United States said Thursday that 67 million dollars of its initial contribution to the fund will be transferred in the coming weeks to the World Bank, which will administer the fund.
Another 408 million dollars have been requested for the fund in President Barack Obama's 2011 budget blueprint.
At the G8 meeting in L'Aquila, the United States committed 3.5 billion dollars over three years.
Canada's pledge of 230 million dollars and Spain's 95-million-dollar commitment have already been deposited at the World Bank, officials said.
South Korea, which has pledged 50 million dollars, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation -- with 30 million dollars -- will deposit their share of fund contributions with the World Bank "shortly," a Treasury official said.
The United States will work with other countries over the coming months to prod them to make good on pledges to the fund that they made at L'Aquila, an official said.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation threw in its lot because "a coordinated multi-donor approach will have a large-scale, sustainable impact on hunger and poverty reduction in the developing world."
The fund will work through a steering committee comprised of donor and recipient nations, non-governmental organizations and international organizations.
They will disburse funds to help low-income countries that have already mapped out agricultural development plans to raise agricultural productivity, link farmers to market and improve rural finance.
"Investing in small farmers is an incredibly effective way to combat hunger and extreme poverty -- history has proved it many times," said Bill Gates, whose foundation has committed 1.5 billion dollars to date to global agricultural development.
Gates called on other countries to "join the four founding partners and make good on their pledges."
© 2010 AFP