Pardee Center Seminar Held at the United Nations

Dr. Adil Najam, Minister Gerda Verburg, and Dr. Youba Sokona at Pardee Seminar at the United Nations.
Prof. Adil Najam, Minister Varburg, Dr. Youba Sokono

The Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future held a special seminar on “Food and Sustainable Development” as an official side-event at the 17th Meeting of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UN CSD) at the UN heaquarters in New York. The event, and the larger project on Food and Development – of which this seminar was a part – was supported by the Netherlands Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV). The Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality was also the co-host of this event.

The seminar was opened by Ms. Greda Verburg, the Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Qualityof the Netherlands, who is also the Chair of CSD 17. In her opening remarks the Minister appreciated the efforts of the Pardee Center in highlighting the relationship between food and development and taking a longer-range view of these issues. She noted the valuable input provided by the Pardee Issues in Brief to the CSD 17. She highlighted the multiple crisis of poverty, food and climate change, remarking that the world produces enough food, nonetheless the problem of hunger persists. Ms. Verburg said the CSD 17 needs to come forward with crystal clear actions and deliverables, and to mobilize new and additional resources from the private, public and domestic sectors. She said a change of paradigm is needed where agriculture, often seen as part of the problem, becomes the heart of the solution for poverty eradication, sustainable development and mitigating and adapting to climate change. Ms. Verburg noted some elements of the way forward, including: creation of enabling environments; improving market access; creation of safety nets to ensure food security and emergency food; capacity building in Africa; and the creation of a global drought index.

Dr. Youba Sokona, Executive Director, Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS), spoke about the causes and impacts of food crisis in Africa. He noted that food crisis are nothing new in Africa, but what was new this time is that the crisis also affected urban families. He said the problem in Africa is structural, and the food price inflation is a symptom of the system’s crisis. Dr. Sokona said that responses to the food crisis are oriented towards trade, consumers and producers, and are mostly short-term. He noted the response measures could have been more effective with the use of robust information systems and the targeting of the poor. He stressed the need to reinvent the small scale farming system, as well as to mainstream climate change into agriculture. Dr. Sokona emphasized some of the consequences of the food crisis, including decapitalization due to forced selling of productive assets, decreased school attendance, health hazards, and overburden on women and children.

Prof. Adil Najam, Director of the Pardee Center, introduced the work already done by the Pardee Center and reviewed the key focus of the three papers that have been produced by the Pardee Center (on food and national governance, on the future of hunger, and on agriculture, trade and climate change in Africa) and also the various seminars that were hosted by the Pardee Center in preparation for this event (on food security, on food and governance, and on food and micro-finance). He followed this review by outlining additional research being done at the Pardee Center linking food to human security. He argued that we need to look beyond simple ‘food security’ questions to focus on how food is related to human insecurity in all its different dimensions. He presented his analysis within the context of the incidents of food -related violence that broke out in many countries last year.

The three presentations were followed by a lively question and answer session session with the audience, which included a number of country delegates, civil society representatives and some parliamentarians.

These seminars and the accompanying Pardee Center policy briefs are part of a project on ‘Food and Development’ supported by the Netherlands Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality to contribute to the 17th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UN CSD).

Three new Pardee Center Issues in Brief on topics related to food and development that were specially published as part of this project were also be launched at the seminar. These papers include:

Sustainable Development in Africa: Agriculture, Trade and Climate Change, By Kati Kulovesi.
Seeing Hunger through New Eyes: From Lack to Possibility, By Frances Moore Lappe.
Food Crises in Developing Countries: The Role of National Governance, By Abid Qaiyum Suleri.

Earlier Pardee Center seminars on issues related to food and development include a seminar on Food and Security (October, 2008), a seminar on Food and Governance (December, 2008), and a seminar on Food and Micro-insurance (January, 2009).

Photograph credit: Leila Mead/IISD RS.