NewsBrief, 15-21 October 2012

World Food Day brings new attention and commitments

International stakeholders focused attention to global food security as the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation marked World Food Day on 16 October. The theme of this year's observances was "Agricultural cooperatives - key to feeding the world", highlighting the role of cooperatives in eradicating hunger. The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) discussed high and volatile food prices and other concerns during a week-long meeting at FAO headquarters in Rome. The FAO also announced a new initiative to combat food insecurity in West Africa through a partnership with ECOWAS and the German government. Germany is to provide USD 2.4 million for the three-year "hunger-free West Africa" project, which aims to support the implementation of the African Union's Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Plan (CAADP) in the sub-region. ECOWAS has committed to co-fund the project and to ensure the participation of member states. Speaking at the launch of the project, ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Lapodini Atouga said the project provides an opportunity to involve civil society and the private sector in enhancing food security. Earlier this year, Germany's Ministry of Economic Co-operation and Development unveiled a new 10-point strategy for rural development and food security, which includes mainstreaming food security in all bilateral cooperation activities.

West Africa gets mixed reviews in Mo Ibrahim Index

West African countries received mixed reviews for governance in the sixth Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG). The index ranks 52 African countries based on outcomes in four major categories: 1) safety and rule of law, 2) participation and human rights, 3) sustainable economic opportunity and 4) human development. Overall, the 2012 report shows that African governance has improved significantly since 2000, particularly in the areas of economic activity and human development. Yet the report laments that governance has slipped in Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, the continent's regional economic powerhouses. Among West African countries, Cape Verde ranked highest, behind only Mauritius, and Ghana is ranked seventh. Since 2006, Liberia and Togo have graduated from the list of ten worst performers, but they have been replaced by new entrants Guinea-Bissau and Nigeria. Chad and Côte d'Ivoire are also among the ten worst performers. For the third time in six years, the Ibrahim Foundation opted not to award its Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership because no candidate met the Foundation's criteria.

Stakeholders discuss Mali strategy

The African Union and the UN announced plans to open an office in Bamako to co-ordinate international efforts to restore Mali's territorial integrity and constitutional order. Representatives of more than 20 countries, the AU, EU, UN and ECOWAS met in the Malian capital on 19 October to devise a strategic plan for a regional military force to help Mali's army retake northern regions from Islamists and rebels. They also sought to outline a path toward free and fair elections to restore democratic rule following the March 2012 coup d'état. Addressing the meeting in Bamako, Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traoré appealed for a speedy international intervention. "We must not waste a second," Traoré said. "There is an emergency." Yet one day earlier, some 2 000 protesters took to the streets of Bamako to denounce any external interference. The UN Security Council has asked for detailed plans before it give its approval for the deployment of approximately 3 000 ECOWAS troops.

UNHCR reports fewer displaced Malians

The UN Refugee Agency has reported a sharp decline in the number of Malian refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) carried out rigorous new registration and verification procedures in September. The agency counted 320 000 displaced Malians, down from an estimated 450 000 in August. In Burkina Faso the number of Malian refugees dropped from107 000 to 34 877. The humanitarian news agency IRIN reported this week that some residents who fled the fighting and Islamist takeover have begun returning to northern Mali, lured by the militants' promises of jobs and free water and electricity. Food prices are also lower in some parts of the north where taxes are not levied. The reduced refugee and IDP figures are reported in a Special Humanitarian Bulletin on the Sahel Crisis from the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The report also includes an update on food and nutritional conditions in the region, the current international response and forward planning for 2013.

West Africa records sharp increase in pirate attacks

The pirate threat on the continent is increasingly shifting from the Horn of Africa to the Gulf of Guinea, according to an international watchdog group. While hijacking off Somalia have declined in recent months, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said attacks have risen in West African waters, with 32 incidents reported by July of this compared to 25 in all of 2011. The IMB said regional governments must do more to combat the alarming trend, which it said is fuelled by Nigerian criminals. Nigeria alone accounts for 17 attacks this year, up from six in 2011. Efforts are underway to free seven Russians and one Estonian kidnapped from a French oil transport vessel in Nigerian waters on 15 October. "Pirates are getting quite audacious, with increasing levels of violence being used," IMB director Pottengal Mukundan said.

ICJ concludes hearings in Burkina-Niger border dispute

Officials from Burkina Faso and Niger said they hope that an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling over a disputed border will help to reduce tensions between the two countries. The ICJ concluded hearings in the case on 17 October in The Hague. The two countries have been squabbling over the exact demarcation of their 650-kilometre border for decades, with incursions by security forces and customs officials on both sides. Settlement of the dispute could clear the way for infrastructure developments in the area, which includes land appropriate for farming and grazing. "I hope the judgment of the court will help further strengthen the good relations between our two countries," said Nigerien Foreign Minister Bazoum Mohamed. The Court is expected to decide the case in four to six months, giving the two countries 18 months to implement the ruling.

Obasanjo keynotes launch of OECD foundations network

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo delivered the keynote address at the launch of a new OECD initiative to integrate foundations into international discussions on development. The Network of Foundations Working for Development (netFWD) aims to establish an informal forum for dialogue and knowledge sharing. The OECD Development Centre launched the initiative on 3 October in response to the growing role that foundations are playing in financing development work around the world. Philanthropic donations to international aid projects were estimated between USD 4.5 billion and USD 8 billion in 2009, between 4% and 7% of the amount provided by official aid donors. The former Nigerian president is the founder of the Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation, which seeks to increase human security throughout Africa. He is an honorary member of netFWD.

BOAD partners with UN on climate change

The West African Development Bank (BOAD) has partnered with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat to establish a regional centre for collaboration on emission reduction projects. Bank President Christian Adovèlandé and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres signed a partnership agreement on 16 October in Bonn, Germany. The Centre, located in Lomé, will provide support for Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects to earn certified emission reductions (CERs) that can then be traded or sold to developed countries to meet emissions reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. The Lomé centre is the first of a series of field offices the UN plans to establish to help build the capacity of developing countries to participate in the global carbon market. The choice of the BOAD as a partner is a recognition of the Bank's commitment and past achievements in the field of climate change.



European Commission proposes biofuel restrictions

The European Commission put forth a proposal to cap the production of food-based biofuels at current levels. The proposal published on 17 October would limit the use of biofuels to meet the EU's target of 10% renewable energy in the transport sector. The Commission said it hopes to stimulate the development of "second-generation" biofuels that are produced from non-food products such as waste or straw. The advanced biofuels emit less greenhouse gases and do not interfere with food production. Biofuel usage has been controversial as it contributed to the rise in global food prices as farmland has been given over to production for biofuels rather than human competition. "For biofuels to help us combat climate change, we must use truly sustainable biofuels," Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard said. "We must invest in biofuels that achieve real emission cuts and do not compete with food."

Ghana: former first lady disqualified from presidential election

Ghana's electoral commission has rejected former first lady Konadu Agyeman Rawlings' bid to contest the presidential election scheduled for December. Agyeman Rawlings broke ranks with the party founded by her husband, Jerry Rawlings, in order to challenge incumbent President John Dramani Mahama. The electoral commission said the nomination papers filed by the newly formed National Democratic Party (NDP) contained substantial errors that could not be corrected ahead of the filing deadline. A spokesman for Agyeman Rawlings told the BBC that the former first lady was "shocked" at being disqualified. The NDP has asked the commission to reconsider the decision, and said it may seek redress through the courts. The commission has cleared eight political parties and independent candidates to stand in the 7 December election.


2012 Global Hunger Index: The Challenge of Hunger: Ensuring Sustainable Food Security under Land, Water and Energy Stresses

West African countries are listed among the best and worst performers in the 2012 Global Hunger Index (GHI). The annual report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Welthungerhilfe, and Concern Worldwide offers a multidimensional analysis of global food security and this year highlights the urgent need for sustainable management of land, water and energy resources. Global hunger continues to decline, but the report finds that progress is "tragically slow." While the South Asia region scored highest on the index, the situation in sub-Saharan Africa is "alarming," with 23% of children described as underweight. Overall the region's GHI score fell 16% from 1990 to 2012. Burundi has the world's highest incidence of hunger, which the report blames on the country's prolonged civil war. Conflict and political instability were also behind the 10% increase in hunger in Côte d'Ivoire over the past two decades. The report presents a case study on Sierra Leone, where large land deals have raised concern over food security and rural livelihoods. According to the report, foreign enterprises have acquired 20% of available agricultural land in Sierra Leone. The report does highlight one major bright spot in the sub-region. Ghana was among the ten best-performing countries, reducing its GHI score by 58% since 1990.

FAO: The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN has released its own annual survey of global food security. Using an improved methodology to calculate the number and proportion of undernourished people around the world, the report finds that progress over the past 20 years has been stronger than previously believed. Most of the gains were recorded before 2007/2008, and the FAO reports that progress has slowed or level off since then. Though the number of people suffering from food insecurity remains "unacceptably high," the report concludes that the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the number of undernourished people in the developing world by 2015 can be achieved if the appropriate actions are taken. Economic growth alone is not enough, and the report recommends "nutrition-sensitive" policies and programmes, including support to agricultural producers social protection for the very poor.

Food security and humanitarian implications in West Africa and the Sahel

The FAO delves into specific conditions in the sub-region in this note on the food security situation during September and October 2012. Published jointly with the World Food Programme (WFP), the note finds that overall prospects for the current growing season are favourable, with the exception of a few localised concerns. This should lead to improved food security for producers and lower prices for consumers. Uneven rainfall, however, has given rise to uncertain prospects for the pastoral sector. Flooding caused damage to agricultural land and displaced people around the region, with Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal accounting for 90% of the people affected. Grain prices fell on world markets as the harvest approached, but prices remained abnormally high in some parts of the Sahel. Swarms of locusts forming in Chad, Mali and Niger are expected to migrate toward northwest Africa, though the note warns that all countries in the sub-region must continue to monitor the situation.

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