G8 Should Strengthen Development to Promote Economic Growth

May 17, 2012 By Jane Kaminski

While development has been on the G8 agenda for the past several years, the world financial crisis has taken precedence, pushing it aside.  This year, development and food security are once again slated for the agenda as the Group of 8 meet on May 18 and 19 to discuss shared economic and strategic objectives.  At a moment when Congress is considering deep and disproportionate cuts to the International Affairs Budget, how will this Summit impact the global views on agricultural development and food security?

Just before the Summit gets underway, President Obama will address a symposium sponsored by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the World Economic Forum, where food security is expected to be one of the main areas of focus.  Building on the G8’s L’Aquila Summit in 2010, the Administration will lay out its longer-term vision for curbing global hunger, and demonstrating American leadership as well as humanitarian values.  Along with the symposium, there will also be a discussion on engaging the private sector in Africa to fight famine and improve food security.  These events will shine a light on the role of agricultural development in promoting economic growth and in helping to build resilience in regions at risk for famines.

As last year’s devastating famine in the Horn of Africa demonstrated, improved agricultural development is vital, and food security programs have made important strides in building preparedness.   Programs like Feed the Future have demonstrated a commitment to U.S. leadership in fighting hunger around the world.  Given that some in Congress have called for eliminating Feed the Future, future multilateral commitments could be difficult to achieve given U.S. budget constraints.

The G8 Summit will hopefully lay out a clear set of goals for the United States and its partners to make progress in strengthening agricultural development as part of promoting economic growth.  While the agenda will also be driven by security and the economic crisis, development will continue to be part of our national security, especially in Afghanistan where countries are expected to discuss civilian assistance in the lead up to the donors’ conference in Tokyo in July.  While both House and Senate appropriators debate funding levels for the FY13 the International Affairs Budget, eyes and ears will be on the President as he makes the case for the crucial roles of diplomacy and development programs that are under the axe.