By Phillip Kurata
Washington — A new international treaty to facilitate delivery of food to places beset by famine or malnutrition has emerged from the negotiating room.
The Food Assistance Convention was adopted in London April 25, replacing the Food Aid Convention that expired in 2002. The new treaty will go into force at the beginning of 2013, provided at least five countries sign onto it by the end of November.
“The name change to ‘Food Assistance Convention’ reflects that the new treaty allows for more kinds of assistance beyond just food and seeds,” said Timothy Lavelle of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). “These include the use of cash and vouchers and other items that not only meet food needs but also may protect livelihoods in emergency and recovery situations.”
The new convention includes several innovations that were absent in the previous one, such as purchasing food locally and regionally and calling for donors to increasingly provide “untied” cash-based food assistance. “Untied” means not tied to food grown in the donor country.
“These new kinds of tools have been increasingly used over the past decade with much success, and it is good to see the new treaty embrace these practices,” wrote Jennifer Clapp and C. Stuart Clark in a blog post titled "The 2012 Food Assistance Convention: Is a Promise Still a Promise?"
“Local and regionally purchased food aid is usually available faster and cheaper and can lead to direct benefits for developing country farmers,” they added.
Clapp and Clark noted that the new treaty opens the door to the possibility that groups other than member governments will be invited to participate in discussions of the governing body, the Food Assistance Committee. In the past, meetings among member governments took place behind closed doors and there were no provisions for including civil society groups or recipient governments in them.
“This too signals a potential shift toward greater transparency and openness in the operation of the treaty,” Clapp and Clark wrote.
Under the new convention, the U.S. government can provide food assistance through four of its programs: the Food for Progress Program, the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, the Food for Peace Act and the Local and Regional Procurement Project.
You can read Clapp and Clark's blog post at its website.