Obama Commended for Anti-Hunger Speech Ahead of G8

(Photo: Chicago Council on Global Affairs)President Barack Obama Speaks at the 3rd Annual Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security in Washington D.C. on May 18, 2012.

Advocates commended President Barack Obama's speech on efforts to combat hunger on Friday where he announced a new partnership involving private companies and for improving child nutrition efforts around the world.

President Obama noted global leaders will devote a special session of G8 gathering in Camp David, Maryland over the weekend to discussing "the injustice of chronic hunger and the need for long-term food security around the world."

"As President, I consider this a moral imperative. As the wealthiest nation on Earth, I believe the United States has a moral obligation to lead the fight against hunger and malnutrition, and to partner with others," he said.

He announced the launch of a plan to boost the involvement of the private sector in fighting hunger – from multinational companies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – in local government efforts to attract investments.

He also drew attention to the importance of early childhood nutrition for lifelong development.

"We commend President Obama for his consistent leadership in the fight against hunger and malnutrition," said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. "We call on other G-8 leaders to also commit to prioritizing nutrition-especially during the first 1,000 days of a child's life-as Obama has done this morning."

Bread for the World, Washington D.C.-based non-profit, calls itself a "collective Christian voice" urging decision makers end to hunger at home and abroad.

Prior G8 Commitments

Obama noted that nations meeting in Italy in 2009 agreed to provide more than $22 billion to fight hunger across the world, and said that the new effort, which is expected to result in $5 billion in contributions is not an effort to shift the burden.

"Now, I know some have asked, in a time of austerity, whether this New Alliance [ for Food Security and Nutrition] is just a way for governments to shift the burden onto somebody else. I want to be clear: The answer is no," he said.

"As President, I can assure you that the United States will continue to meet our responsibilities, so that even in these tough fiscal times, we will continue to make historic investments in development. And, by the way we're going to be working to end hunger right here in the United States as well," he said.

The NAFSN initiative will raise private capital from 45 companies, including multinationals and African companies and cooperatives.
Obama's speech came on Friday morning at the 3rd Annual Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security held by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Reaction to Plan

The NAFSN aims to raise 50 million out of poverty over the next 10 years.

"This effort to involve international corporations more deeply in African agriculture is an important step forward in lifting millions of poor Africans out of poverty," said Beckmann. "However, nongovernmental organizations and official agencies will also need to increase their efforts to monitor and collaborate with companies that are doing business in Africa."

Beckmann said the new initiative "would not have been possible" without the advocacy efforts of his group and partners.

Congress Making Progress on Food Security

The Chicago Council said in a 2012 Progress Report on U.S. Leadership in Global Agricultural Development released this April that the U.S. "continues to make progress in support of agricultural development and food security." The group characterized the progress as "good."

"Strong leadership has ushered in organizational changes, strengthened staff and programs, and secured a steady flow of financial resources from Congress," authors of the report said.

"The challenge in the years to come will be to maintain this strong leadership and sustain the bipartisan support of food security and agricultural development initiatives."

The group states that Congress has increased appropriations annually since 2009 in spite of concerns about budget deficits and a fiscally austere environment.

"Through the upcoming farm bill legislation, Congress should also make food aid more efficient by scaling back the practice of monetization and permitting food aid to be purchased from local and regional sources," the authors of the Chicago Council report stated.

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