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Combating hunger: strategy for food security
In pursuit of the first Millennium Development Goal - combating hunger - the European Union has drawn up a programme that is specifically aimed at improving Community policy on food security, particularly for the most vulnerable groups, through a set of priorities and measures that complement national programmes and improve their coherence.
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 25 January 2006 - A thematic strategy for food security: Advancing the food security agenda to achieve the Millennium Development Goals [COM(2006) 21 final - not published in the Official Journal].
Among the thematic programmes forming part of the Community's external action, the Commission has drawn up a programme on food security. Its legal bases are the Development Cooperation Instrument and the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument.
Action on food insecurity is enshrined in the first Millennium Development Goal and, despite progress in reducing hunger at global level, much still needs to be done. Food insecurity is typically exacerbated by environmental degradation, poor productive systems, badly functioning markets and limited human capacity and is compounded by inequalities, with social entitlements to food affected by gender, age and ethnicity.
Food insecurity is particularly rife in a number of States which are vulnerable institutionally and where food security goals are difficult to attain because of political instability.
Policy guidelines for combating hunger
Community food security policy has evolved since its inception. It now consists of support for broad-based food security strategies at the national, regional and global level rather than the mere delivery of food aid. Food security remains a priority in European development policy, as stated in the European Consensus.
Community policy stresses the central role of nationally developed strategies to achieve long-term food security and the need to target hunger as the first priority in the fight against poverty.
In 2004, an external evaluation confirmed the validity of the strategy adopted and concluded that food security can be achieved only by simultaneously addressing the availability of food, access to food, the quality of nutrition and the prevention of food crises. It also stressed the added value of Linking Relief, Rehabilitation and Development (LRRD).
The evaluation identified the following areas for possible improvement:
- a more systemic approach to LRRD in order to respond more effectively to the dynamic and multidimensional nature of food insecurity;
- better integration of food security as a priority area in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers;
- greater dialogue between governments in order to establish a long-term policy on food security;
- greater coherence of policies at national level.
Why use a thematic approach?
The thematic programme can support the development of national food security policies and monitoring systems in order to ensure that a strategic approach to food security is enshrined in national poverty reduction strategies. Geographical programmes are the standard instrument for implementing the Community's food security policy world-wide, in cooperation with governments where the operational framework permits.
When emergency aid comes to an end, a transition from humanitarian assistance to this type of thematic programme is warranted in the following circumstances:
- where it is difficult to agree on food security measures with partner governments due to food insecurity being concentrated either in areas out of State control, or among internally displaced people;
- if cooperation has been suspended or no cooperation framework is in place;
- "forgotten crises" in which cooperation with national governments may be difficult to establish through geographical instruments.
The thematic programme aims to:
- support the delivery of international public goods * contributing directly to food security;
- address food insecurity in the most vulnerable countries or regions;
- develop innovative policies and strategies in the field of food security.
Its coverage varies according to the different components:
- the first component focuses generally on the continental, inter-regional and regional levels, with special emphasis on Africa;
- the second component is implemented primarily at national and local level, supplementing the geographical instrument where necessary;
- the third component supports innovative policies, strategies and approaches, irrespective of geographical level.
Programming is based on the following principles:
- respect for the principle of subsidiarity; it will therefore exclude long-term structural aid funded through the geographical programmes and may support innovative regional, national and local projects of a pilot nature;
- sufficient flexibility to respond to a rapidly changing environment;
- support for ownership of the programme by beneficiaries and for the role of all regional and continental organisations acting in the field of food security;
- fostering a participatory approach by reinforcing partnership with civil society organisations, particularly with farmers' organisations in order to reinforce their role in national and regional discussions regarding agricultural policies and food security;
- promotion of coherence with other international actors with food security expertise, in line with the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (pdf ) as well as between Commission departments;
- priority for the most vulnerable areas and groups in terms of food security;
- ensuring the sustainability of the measures taken.
Implementation of the programme is based on multiannual programming and on a thematic strategy paper covering the period 2007-2011. It will be evaluated during the first three-year period (2007-2009) in order to help prepare the second thematic strategy paper (2011-2013).
The strategic priorities of the programme are:
- support for the development of international public goods *, that is research and technological innovation in agriculture that are favourable to the poor and based on demand;
- support for global programmes that aim to develop common approaches across regions affected by food security;
- support for food security in exceptional situations of transition and state fragility;
- support for the development, testing and promotion of innovative strategic policies.
The primary beneficiaries of the programme are the following groups: children under the age of five; communities with members suffering from HIV/AIDS or other chronic illnesses; war-affected communities and groups and internally displaced people; women; pastoralists, small farmers and fisher folk; landless and farm labourers and the urban ultra-poor.
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