European Scrutiny Committee Contents

45 The EU and food security in the developing world




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COM(10) 127




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COM(10) 126

Commission Communication: An EU policy framework to assist developing countries in addressing food security challenges

Commission Communication: Humanitarian Food Assistance

Legal base
Documents originated31 March 2010
Deposited in Parliament10 May 2010
DepartmentInternational Development
Basis of considerationEMs of 2 and 9 June 2010
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in Council10-11 May 2010 Foreign Affairs Council
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


45.1 In its introduction to the first of these documents, the Commission says that in recent years, hunger and malnutrition have increased and that, in 2010, over 1 billion people are "considered to be food insecure." It sees food insecurity as affecting human development, social and political stability, and progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with fragile states in particular encountering severe difficulties in achieving MDG 1 — eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. It goes on to recall that "soaring food prices on global markets in 2007-08 sparked a rethink of global food security": the United Nations (UN) High Level Task Force (HLTF) on the Global Food Security Crisis was set up to enhance coordination within the UN; the Global Partnership on Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition (GPAFSN) was launched; and G8 leaders agreed a comprehensive agenda on food security at the Summit in L'Aquila, Italy, in 2009. For its part, the European Union reacted to the growing food security challenges with an additional €1 billion "Food Facility" as a temporary measure to support those developing countries worst affected: "The EU and its Member States are, and have been for many years, the most important and reliable players in world food security, both financially and politically."

Commission Communication 8246/10

45.2 The Commission goes on to note that recent developments and future challenges require a new common food security policy, further strengthening EU leadership in the global food security agenda, and improving the effectiveness of EU assistance, in line with the Lisbon Treaty, the EU2020 initiative and the European Consensus on Development:[180]

"Future food security challenges include population growth, pressures on natural resources and ecosystem services, and adverse impacts of climate change on agriculture, affecting growing conditions and making adaptation measures necessary. Moreover, key issues in the current food security agenda, such as nutrition, price volatility, social protection and safety nets, biofuels, food safety, research and innovation, large-scale land acquisition, and the 'Right to Food' concept need integration into an overall policy framework."

45.3 Against this background, the Commission says that the objective of this Communication is "to provide a common policy framework for the EU and its Member States in the fight against world hunger and malnutrition, thereby contributing towards achieving MDG 1. It describes it as:

"coherent with other thematic papers (on education, health, gender and tax governance) and the 2010 Spring Development package, which together set out an EU position for the UN High Level Event on MDGs in September 2010."

45.4 It also notes that this Communication is complemented by a Communication on Humanitarian Food Assistance, which focuses on emergency and post-emergency contexts (and which we consider below).

45.5 The comprehensive approach it proposes has four main elements:

—  Increasing food availability: helping developing countries to grow more food, either to supply local demand or to provide jobs in rural areas. The Commission notes that small-scale farming is dominant: about 85% of farmers in developing countries produce on less than two hectares of land, and that mixed crop/livestock smallholding systems produce about half of the world's food, and says that, "therefore, sustainable small-scale food production should be the focus of EU assistance to increase availability of food in developing countries";

—  Improving access to food: primarily by improving employment and income-earning opportunities in both rural and urban areas, including through diversification and trade, thus making food more affordable for a larger number of people. This should be complemented by social transfer mechanisms. The EU and its Member States should assist partner countries in establishing and operating social mechanisms in support of vulnerable population groups, especially women. Experiences on successful mechanisms will be shared and operational systems will be supported;

—  Improving the nutritional adequacy of food intake, by supporting nutrition strategies and policies, and the setting up of coordination mechanisms between agriculture, health, education, and social protection programmes; and

—  Improving crisis prevention and management through the strengthening of early warning systems, actions to reduce price volatility, the maintenance of adequate stock levels, and encouraging freer trade in food products.

45.6 The Commission then argues that maximising the effectiveness of food security investments requires a focus by the EU and its Member States on:

—  National and regional agriculture and food security policies and strategies: Food security objectives and targets need to be better integrated into partner countries' other sector policies in such areas as transport, infrastructure, fisheries, health and education; and farmer organisations, civil society, private sector, vulnerable groups and other stakeholders must be involved in the development and review of these policies.

—  Harmonising EU intervention: The EU approach needs to be anchored in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, the Accra Agenda for Action and the EU Code of Conduct on Division of Labour. The EU and its Member States should identify regions and countries where tasks will be divided based on comparative advantage and coordinate actions under the guidance of a lead donor. EU and Member States policy frameworks and financing instruments need greater harmonisation and greater complementarity, as well as coordination with private investments, in order to produce more effective results;

—  Improving the coherence of the international governance system: support the rapid reform of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) as the central body on food security, so that it has an oversight role in other specific domains with implications for food security, including food aid and nutrition; plus further rationalisation of the priorities of, and improved cooperation between, the three Rome-based UN agencies (FAO, WFP, IFAD).

45.7 To achieve these goals, the following priority actions are identified:

—  Improve smallholder resilience and rural livelihoods: target smallholder farmers (in particular women), by providing support for effective and sustainable national policies, strategies and legal frameworks, and for equitable and sustainable access to resources, including land, water, (micro) credit and other agricultural inputs; involve them in policy-making and encourage links with EU counterparts;

—  Support effective governance, both at the national and the international levels (as set out above);

—  Improve on regional agriculture, food security and nutrition policies;

—  Strengthen assistance mechanisms for vulnerable population groups.

45.8 At its meeting on 10 May 2010, as part of its preparation for the UN MDG review summit in September 2010, the Council adopted conclusions on the Communication and asked the Commission to propose an implementation plan for this framework before the end of 2010.[181]

The Government's view

45.9 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 9 June 2010, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development (Mr Stephen O'Brien) notes that agriculture, food security and nutrition are already substantial elements of DFID's programme. He says that the UK took a leading role in the policy dialogue with the Commission during the development of the Policy Framework and that, as a result, "the outcome closely matches our analysis of the causes of food insecurity and the international responses needed."

45.10 He goes on to say that DFID's principal policy response has been to work with others to implement a Global Partnership for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition:

"This approach was endorsed at last year's G8 summit at L'Aquila, and at last November's FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) Food Summit. It prioritises raising agricultural production in developing countries to increase the availability of food, reducing overall poverty levels by making food more affordable to poor households, expanding social protection programmes for the most vulnerable, and putting greater emphasis on tackling nutrition. Making progress on these fronts requires coordinated action across a range of sectors including health, education, water and sanitation, as well as agriculture. A parallel priority is to continue with efforts to get the international trading system working better for poor countries, including getting the Doha Development Round of trade talks back on track."

45.11 The Minister also says that DFID is already engaged in numerous activities that support the Policy Framework objectives:

45.12 "A significant part of DFID's bilateral programme, including our agricultural research programme, is directed at helping smallholder farmers to increase their productivity. We continue to support effective governance in food security, increasingly through developing countries' own national and regional initiatives — for example the Africa Union's Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme — as well as through reform of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). We are significant donors of humanitarian assistance through the World Food Programme, and we remain by some margin the largest bilateral donor to the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund."

Commission Communication 8250/10

45.13 In its introduction to this Communication, the Commission says that, in accordance with the orientation of the Humanitarian Aid Consensus,[182] and more generally to promote best practice in the provision of humanitarian food assistance by the EU and its Member States, the principal aims of this Communication are to:

—  maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of EU food assistance, in accordance with the Commission's humanitarian mandate defined by the humanitarian legal framework, and in accordance with the Financial Regulation;

—  improve policy coherence, coordination, and complementarity between the Commission, Member States and other donors, in the provision of food assistance; and

—  inform partners and stakeholders of the Commission's objectives, priorities and standards in the delivery of humanitarian food assistance.

45.14 The Communication therefore sets out the policy framework for EU humanitarian food Assistance and seeks to outline: the issues and trends to be taken into account; the concepts, definitions and objectives that should drive humanitarian food assistance; the principles that should underscore this work; and the scope of activities undertaken.

45.15 It also says that this Communication should be read in conjunction with the Commission's Communication on food security, noting that separate Communications on these interrelated topics are "deemed necessary in order to respect the distinction between their policy focus i.e. food assistance linked to humanitarian objectives for populations affected by crises in emergency contexts and food security linked to development objectives", and stating that "the two policy frameworks have been "designed in such a way as to ensure coherence and safeguard against uncoordinated overlap."

45.16 The Communication sets out the troubling picture for food security in much the same way as does its counterpart. It notes an increasing incidence of natural disasters, often exacerbated by the impact of climate change. In addition, conflict and repression continue to undermine people's livelihoods resulting in large numbers of displaced persons. It estimates that high food and fuel prices in 2007-08 increased the number of undernourished people by 172 million to 1.02 billion in 2009, and that approximately 10% are "food insecure as a consequence of a disaster or emergency situation."

45.17 To promote best practice in providing humanitarian food assistance by the EU and Member States, the Communication aims to:

—  maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of EU food assistance;

—  improve policy coherence, coordination and complementarities with other actors; and

—  inform partners and stakeholders of the Commission's objectives, priorities and standards in delivery of humanitarian food assistance.

45.18 The policy aims to ensure the consumption of sufficient (in quantity), safe and nutritious food before, during and in the aftermath of a humanitarian crisis when access to sufficient food is compromised. Food assistance may involve the direct transfer of food, but may also use a wider range of tools, such as providing water, sanitation and health services, inputs, cash or vouchers and skills. The choice of the most appropriate intervention and transfer instrument (e.g. cash-based or in-kind) must be context-specific, evidence-based and regularly reviewed. Complementary measures alongside food assistance, such as public health measures, are vital as they influence food use and therefore nutrition.

45.19 EU interventions will be underscored by the following good practice principles:

—  financing of interventions will be prioritised according to severity of the crisis, unmet needs, and the expected impact of the response;

—  use of flexible resources to ensure delivery of the most appropriate and effective response in a specific context;

—  when food aid is deemed the most appropriate tool, local purchase (i.e. from the country of operation) or regional purchase will be prioritised to support local markets and cut transport costs;

—  measures to ensure food needs are met in ways that do not create dependency, expose beneficiaries to undue risk, and minimise negative environmental impacts;

—  nutrition will be incorporated into all food assistance needs assessments and responses, and will focus on defined vulnerable groups, especially children under two and pregnant and lactating women;

—  beneficiary communities will be involved in identifying needs and designing and implementing responses;

—  seek to mainstream gender considerations in food-needs assessments, design of responses and impact analysis; and

—  seek to uphold Linking Relief Rehabilitation and Development (LRRD) principles and facilitate LRRD objectives.[183]

45.20 To achieve its objectives, the core role of the humanitarian food assistance work is to save lives through delivering assistance to meet basic humanitarian food and nutrition needs. However, it also aims to fulfil supportive functions, specifically contributing to reducing risk and vulnerability, and to improving effectiveness through capacity strengthening and advocacy.

45.21 The Communication also highlights the importance for mainstreaming disaster risk reduction (DRR), preparedness, mitigation and prevention, within the limits of the humanitarian mandates and food assistance objectives. DRR initiatives, such as early warning systems and strategic food reserves, often require long-term support and are seen as being beyond the remit of humanitarian policy.

The Government's view

45.22 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 2 June 2010, the Minister of State at the Department for International Development (Mr Alan Duncan) welcomes the EU framework for tackling hunger in emergencies through its Humanitarian Food Assistance policy, and the consultative process undertaken in producing it. He notes how the Communication sets out ways to improve the effectiveness of EU spend on food security in emergencies, and ways to encourage greater investment in alternatives to food aid, and the greater emphasis on nutrition, including making sure that in emergencies direct and indirect responses to acute malnutrition are better prioritised.

45.23 The Minister wishes to encourage the EU to use this Communication to advocate similar principles of good practice in other humanitarian institutions, saying that:

"Core to this will be defining food assistance as not only direct food transfers, but also a wider range of tools (as described above). ECHO, the EU body in charge of delivering humanitarian assistance, has a role in this context — to work closely with multilateral and bilateral donors and International NGOs to improve policy and practice in delivering humanitarian food assistance."

45.24 The Minister is also supportive of the accompanying Commission Staff Working Document, which addresses the operational dimensions of the Communication, with the following comments:

"The EU needs to clearly articulate potential synergies between different Communications and instruments, for example, the EU Agriculture and Food Security Policy Framework, the EU Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction strategy and LRRD strategy.

"The Communication's reference to protection of agricultural livelihoods potentially opens the door for ECHO to fund FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) humanitarian action. This is an opportunity for ECHO to assist 'handover' from humanitarian to rehabilitation programming between WFP (World Food Programme) and FAO, and broadening the skill-set of humanitarian aid workers.

"In protracted crises, food assistance interventions should address underlying causes and aim to enable an exit strategy.

"ECHO should also include food fortification with minerals and vitamins as an option for response. Breastfeeding practice should also be a focus to reduce under-two malnutrition rates and reduce bad practice such as dumping of infant formula in emergency settings. This is an emerging area of leadership for ECHO.

"ECHO should ensure funded partners be part of the Humanitarian Cluster coordination mechanism (implemented by the UN during an emergency to ensure good sectoral coordination). Where robust assessment methodologies exist for nutrition and food within Clusters, ECHO should insist they are used in reporting and evaluating impact."

45.25 At its meeting on 10 May 2010, the Council adopted conclusions that welcomed the Communication as capturing best practice and articulating "the objectives, principles and standards by which the EU and its Member States can tackle hunger in humanitarian crises in the most effective, efficient and coordinated way", and deemed it "a necessary and timely policy framework, recalling the increasing humanitarian needs, and the growing number of undernourished people in the world" as well as recognising its "important contribution to the fulfilment of a commitment made in the Action Plan for the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid, to 'elaborate diversified approaches and interventions to food assistance' including livelihood support responses in different contexts on the basis of needs assessment and analysis.'"[184]


45.26 We have considered these Communications as essentially two sides of the same coin. Given the magnitude of the problem — over 1 billion people considered to be food insecure, with adverse effects on human development, social and political stability, and on progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and in particular MDG 1, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger — and the imminence of the 20-22 September 2010 UN MDG Review High Level Plenary Meeting, we are drawing them to the attention of the House.[185]

45.27 We now clear the documents.

180   The European Consensus on Development identifies shared values, goals, principles and commitments which the European Commission and EU Member States will implement in their development policies, in particular:

¾ reducing poverty - particularly focusing on the Millennium Development Goals;

¾ development based on Europe's democratic values - respect for human rights, democracy, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, good governance, gender equality, solidarity, social justice and effective multilateral action, particularly through the UN;

¾ developing countries are mainly responsible for their own development - based on national strategies developed in collaboration with non-government bodies, and mobilising domestic resources. EU aid will be aligned with these national strategies and procedures.

Published as 2006/C 46/01, full information and background is available at Back

181   The seven pages of conclusions were published as 9653/10 and are available at  Back

182   Signed in December 2007 by the Presidents of the European Council , the European Commission and the European Parliament, the Consensus "sets out a common EU vision and a practical approach for reaching out effectively to millions of people worldwide suffering as a result of conflicts and natural disasters." See for the full text. Back

183   The objective of LRRD is to assess the measures designed to fill the gap that exists between relief (short-term) and development aid (long-term) and to provide a broader view of the problems involved in assisting the Third World, taking account of the various types of crises, other actors on the international stage and the risk of structural dependence. See for further information. Back

184   See for the full text of the conclusions.  Back

185   Also see chapter 2 of this Report, on Commission Communication 8910/10: "A twelve-point EU action plan in support of the Millennium Development Goals". Back

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