CONTRIBUTING TO WORLD FOOD SECURITY
The Food Aid Convention, 1999 (FAC) is the latest in a long series of multilateral cooperation instruments. In operation since 1967, it is a separate legal instrument under the current International Grains Agreement, 1995, which also comprises the Grains Trade Convention. It is administered by the Food Aid Committee, using the services of the Secretariat of the International Grains Council (IGC).
Under the FAC, donors pledge to provide annually specified minimum amounts or values of food aid to developing countries in the form of grains and other eligible products. The objective of the Convention is to contribute to world food security and to improve the ability of the international community to respond to emergency food situations and other food needs of developing countries. FAC members make quality food aid available to developing countries with the greatest needs on a predictable basis, irrespective of fluctuations in world food prices and supplies.
As a framework of cooperation between food aid donors, the FAC aims to achieve greater efficiency in food aid operations. It also puts emphasis on the monitoring and evaluation of the impact and effectiveness of food aid operations, in support of food security in developing countries.
FOOD AID COMMITTEE
The Food Aid Committee consists of all parties to the Food Aid Convention. Donor members oversee the implementation of the Convention and exchange information on food aid needs and operations. The Committee holds two regular meetings a year.
The Food Aid Committee’s sessions may also be attended by observers from international organisations concerned with food aid. These include the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The Committee monitors the performance of members’ undertakings under the Convention, on the basis of records maintained by the IGC Secretariat. It shares information on policy developments affecting food aid and discusses the world food situation and prospects in developing countries. It also considers ways in which donors’ aid efforts may best achieve their objectives, with emphasis on the evaluation of needs and on the effectiveness and impact of food aid operations.
MEMBERSHIP (as of December 2009)
Argentina, Australia, Canada, European Union and its member States, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, United States.
The IGC Secretariat, based in London, provides administrative services for the Food Aid Committee.
1967 - THE FIRST FOOD AID CONVENTION
The International Grains Agreement, 1967, negotiated in the context of the GATT Kennedy Round, reflected the tightening grain markets and the wish of existing food aid donors to share their efforts with other countries. It consisted of two legally separate but linked instruments: a Wheat Trade Convention (WTC) with substantive economic provisions and the first Food Aid Convention (FAC).
The FAC, 1967 involved a pledge by its members to provide annual food aid totalling 4.5 m. tons of grain to developing countries. Commitments were expressed in tonnages, guaranteeing minimum food aid levels even if scarcity forced up world grain prices. Donors were free to decide how to distribute their aid, but the FAC encouraged them to channel some multilaterally. From the outset, FAC food aid has been an important resource for the World Food Programme in support of its various projects. The FAC was renewed with little change in 1971.
THE 1970s, 1980s AND EARLY 1990s
In the mid-1970s world grain stocks fell to exceptionally low levels and prices soared. Many developing countries became concerned about the security of their future supplies and a UN World Food Conference was convened in 1974, in response to what became known as the “world food crisis”.
The Conference resolved that at least 10 m. tons of grains should be provided annually as food aid, and urged governments to discuss establishing grain reserves, located at strategic points. Wheat stocks were the focus of an unsuccessful conference in 1978-79 which attempted to negotiate a new Wheat Trade Convention (WTC). However, members of the Food Aid Committee continued to renegotiate the FAC, culminating in the new Food Aid Convention of 1980.
Under the FAC, 1980, minimum obligations of donor members were raised to a total of 7.6 m. tons, as part of a joint effort of the international community to meet the World Food Conference target. Rice was brought within the coverage of the Convention. Members began to make greater use of the Committee as a forum to discuss their food aid policies and to review experience with food aid deliveries.
The FAC was renewed in 1986. Global aid shipments exceeded 10 m. tons in most years under these two Conventions. The basic objective of previous Conventions was maintained in the Food Aid Convention of 1995, while making a few changes, notably adding pulses to the list of products which could be supplied.
FOOD AID CONVENTION, 1999
The Food Aid Convention, was opened for renegotiation in December 1997. This followed the Recommendations in respect of Least-Developed and Net Food-Importing Developing Countries adopted by WTO Ministers at their Singapore Conference in December 1996 and the Declaration on World Food Security and the Plan of Action adopted by the Rome World Food Summit in the same year. There had also been significant changes in the food aid policies of several donor countries. The renegotiation was completed in April 1999 and the new Convention brought into force with effect from 1 July 1999.
The main features:
Objective: “To contribute to world food security and to improve the ability of the international community to respond to emergency food situations and other food needs of developing countries”. FAC members make quality food aid available to developing countries with the greatest needs on a predictable basis, irrespective of fluctuations in world food prices and supplies. Particular importance is attached to ensuring that food aid is directed to the alleviation of poverty and hunger of the most vulnerable groups.
Specific commitments: The specific food aid commitments of FAC members are now expressed either in tonnage, in value, or in combination of both. Members’ total minimum annual commitments as at July 2008 are 4,795,000 tons (wheat equivalent) plus €130 m. The cost of transporting and delivering food aid is, to the extent possible, borne by the donors, particularly in the case of emergency food aid or when food aid is directed to Least-Developed Countries.
Impact and effectiveness: As a framework of international cooperation between food aid donors, the new FAC aims to achieve greater efficiency in all aspects of food aid operations. FAC members put greater emphasis on the monitoring and evaluation of the impact and effectiveness of their food aid operations. They are also committed to support the efforts of recipient countries to develop and implement their own food security strategies.
Needs: Food aid, only to be provided when it is the most effective and appropriate means of assistance, should be based on the evaluation of needs by the recipient and the members. In responding to those needs, members shall pay attention to meeting the particular nutritional needs of women and children.
Recipients: When allocating their food aid, FAC members give priority to Least-Developed Countries and Low-Income Countries — most of which are on the WTO list of Net Food-Importing Developing Countries (NFIDCs). Other eligible food aid recipients include Lower Middle-Income Countries and all others on the WTO list of NFIDCs, when they are experiencing food emergencies or when food aid operations are targeted at vulnerable groups.
Eligible products: Cereals continue to represent the bulk of aid but the list of products that may be supplied has been broadened to include edible oil, skimmed milk powder, sugar, seeds and products that are a component of the traditional diet of vulnerable groups in developing countries or of supplementary feeding programmes (e.g. micro-nutrients).
Agricultural development in recipient countries: In order to promote local agricultural development, strengthen regional and local markets and enhance the longer-term food security of recipient countries, donors are urged to use their cash contributions for “triangular transactions” (i.e. purchasing food from developing countries for supply to a recipient country) or for “local purchases” (i.e. purchasing food in one part of a developing country for supply to a deficit area in the same country).
DEVELOPMENTS SINCE 1999
In June 2004, FAC members undertook a renegotiation of the 1999 Convention “to strengthen its capacity to meet identified needs when food aid is the appropriate response”. However, the Committee decided this would need to await the outcome of the trade-related food aid issues being addressed in the WTO Doha agriculture negotiations. In the meantime, members agreed to extend the existing Convention, most recently with effect from 1 July 2009. They also arranged to discuss informally what might be the guiding objectives under a possible new convention and how the effectiveness of the current Convention could be improved. The sharp rise in world food prices and ocean freight rates in 2007 and 2008 prompted several members to increase their funding for food aid operations, bearing in mind their minimum commitments under the FAC. Actual food aid operations by donors in 2007/08 amounted to 7.1m. tons, (wheat equivalent) only slightly below the previous year’s (7.5m.). In 2008/09, FAC operations increased to 7.5m. tons.
Food Aid Operations (annual, from 1967/68): based on detailed reports submitted by members of the Food Aid Committee.
Fiscal Year Reports: Summarises FAC activities since 1967/68 (1 July to 30 June).
An extensive web-based member information system