The High Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis Progress Report

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The spike in food prices of last year (2008) underscored what experts have been telling us for many years: the world’s food systems are in crisis. The High Level Task Force on he Global Food Security Crisis (HLTF) and its members have supported -over the last 8 months- national authorities as they respond to food and nutrition insecurity. Read more on HLTF work and results to date.


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At the end of April 2008 the United Nations’ Chief Executives Board established a UN System High Level Task Force (HLTF) as a temporary measure to enhance the efforts of the UN system and International Financial Institutions in response to the Global Food Security Crisis. The mandate of the HLTF was to ensure a coherent system-wide response to both the causes of this crisis and its overwhelming adverse consequences among the world’s most vulnerable populations. The UN Secretary-General serves asask Force Chair with the FAO Director General as Vice-Chair.

Comprehensive Framework for Action (CFA):

At the time the HLTF was established, many of its 22 member entities were already working to help responsible bodies to address both the immediate and longer term aspects of the food security crisis. They developed a Comprehensive Framework for Action (CFA) as an overarching strategy for their work: this recognises the global threats posed by widespread food insecurity and outlines the comprehensive and coordinated approach required to ensure access to, availability and utilization of food. It details two sets of actions: those that contribute to short-term outcomes related to immediate needs and long-term outcomes needed for sustainable food systems that can withstand shocks associated with food price volatility, economic contraction, demographic change and adverse climatic events.

During the latter half of 2008 the UN Secretary-General introduced the CFA as the HLTF’s approach to increasing investments in agriculture, food security and nutrition and encouraged greater international support for country-led responses based on this comprehensive approach. He advocated a combination of investments – both to support the institutions that ensure social protection, safety nets and emergency food assistance and to support sustained investments in smallholder-based agriculture, reversing the decades-long decline in spending on food security both within national budgets and in international development assistance.

Assessing the Impact of the High Level Task Force:

This progress report describes the overall impact of work undertaken by the entities within the High Level Task Force since its establishment 18 months ago. It is also designed to enable assessment of the added value of the HLTF itself as a mechanism for intensifying and coordinating the work of the UN system, International Financial Institutions and other stakeholders. The outcomes spelt out in the CFA are used as a basis for assessing the overall impact of HLTF entities, and the HLTF’s programme of work is used as the basis for assessing its added value.

Achievements of HLTF Entities in Relation to CFA Outcomes:

The HLTF member agencies have worked intensively, individually and collectively, toward the realization of the CFA outcomes. Immediate steps included massive scale-ups in the numbers of hungry able to access the food they need and benefit from safety nets, significant boosts to smallholder farmer food production, together with help to national authorities as they adjusted trade and tax policies and managed macro economic implications of food price volatility. Their responses yielded a range of measurable benefits.

Taken together, the UN system and International Financial Institutions:

  • Provided direct support to as many as 20% of the world’s hungry people during 2008;
  • Supported smallholder farmer food production with benefit to approximately 5% of the world’s 2 billion smallholder farming families;
  • Supported more than 15 governments in their fiscal and tax policy responses to
    increased food prices by providing guidance and financial resources so as to limit a possible second-round impact of price rises on inflation;
  • Helped to significantly mitigate the macro-economic challenges faced by poorer countries as a result of volatile food prices. HLTF members also contributed to long-term capacity to improve food and nutrition security for the world’s poorer communities by addressing the underlying factors driving the food crisis.

They focused on:

  • Expanding social protection systems in more than 60 countries with funding and
    technical assistance targeted at protecting livelihood with emphasis on children and women and helping national authorities design and build social protection schemes and safety nets and have the fiscal space to finance them;
  • Sustaining growth in food production by smallholder farmers through significant
    increases in the level and effectiveness of longer-term development assistance for
    smallholder-based food production and food security systems in at least 35 countries;
  • Improving international food markets by boosting trade finance and intensifying
    negotiations for the achievement of tangible outcomes by the end of 2009 and by
    working on utility, feasibility and viability of coordinated food stocks and an
    appropriate regional food reserve system;
  • Developing a common reference framework for biofuels and producing analysis on their impact on food security, poverty and the environment while deploying technologies critical for agriculture, food security, poverty eradication, ecological sustainability, and climate resilience within the context of sustainable development frameworks at national regional and international level, as set out in the conclusions of the 17th Commission on Sustainable Development.

Assessing the Added Value of the HLTF:

Towards the end of 2008, the HLTF agreed and outlined a programme of work and established a Coordination Team to catalyse its effective implementation.

The HLTF programme of work is organized around four result areas:

  1. Coordinated support for in-country action to improve food and nutrition security;
  2. Mobilization of investment to support urgently needed actions and longer-term national and regional plans for food and nutrition security;
  3. Galvanizing the engagement and partnership of multiple stakeholders at local, national, regional and global levels to encourage concerted and sustained contributions to improved food security;
  4. Monitoring the efforts of the international community and tracking progress on the realization of the CFA outcomes.

The HLTF focuses on the need for coordinated and effective UN system action at country level in ways that bring together humanitarian, trade and development interests, and ensures support for leadership by national authorities. The HLTF members initiated intensified inter-agency coordination (based on the CFA) in 27 countries, later on to 33, as part of its effort to support action by national authorities and partners to contribute to improved food and nutrition security.

The HLTF Coordination Team, recruited during early 2009, embarked on an intensive programme of work with national authorities and development partners in developing countries (15 to date) in order to highlight key food security issues, the need for
alignment between different stakeholders and options for complementary and convergence of activities.

The coordination of international assistance for food security by national authorities within developing countries remains a challenge, particularly in least developed countries. The efficiency of coordination mechanisms and instruments in place vary greatly from country to country. Involvement of Civil Society and Non Governmental Organizations in national processes needs to be improved in many countries. Members of the HLTF Coordination Team have identified good practice and key success factors which can help national authorities work more effectively with UN country teams and other stakeholders within existing coordination mechanisms.

At the regional level, processes such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture
Development Programme (CAADP) have proven to be valuable in promoting coherent
policy and institutional frameworks, but ensuring consistent support for the implementation of the national plans that derive from these frameworks remains a challenge. There is also substantial dependence on external sources for monitoring, information, policy research, analysis and advice, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, which underscores the urgent need for developing both national and regional capacities.

The HLTF worked closely with the officials of the European Commission following the Commission President’s commitment to establish a 1 billion euro European Union Food Facility (EUFF) to support urgent action by countries in need in response to consequences of the food security crisis. Coordinated efforts by HLTF entities resulted in a successful collaboration with the Commission to develop and finance programmes of support for food security in some 60 countries.

HLTF entities also worked together in contributing to the L’Aquila Initiative on Food Security launched at the G8 L’Aquila Summit (July 2009) where US$ 20 billion were pledged for food security. This meant building on outcomes of the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit (July 2008), the Madrid High Level Meeting on “Food Security for All” (January 2009), and the London G20 meeting (April 2009).

The Initiative is based on 5 principles which reflect the approach spelt out in the CFA:

  • Support for country-led processes;
  • Ensuring a comprehensive approach to food security;
  • Strategic coordination of assistance;
  • Supporting a strong role for multilateral institutions; and
  • Sustaining a robust commitment of financial resources.

The 26 countries and 14 multilateral organizations signatories of the L’Aquila joint
statement supported the HLTF and its CFA as a means to build on the comparative advantage of International Organizations and International Financial Institutions while enhancing their coordination and effectiveness.

The CFA remains a good basis for coordinated advocacy and action. However, feedback from those who have used it indicates that it should better indicate options for linked investments in nutrition, social protection and trade and provide additional analysis on links between food security and access to land and land acquisition, employment opportunities, water use, and adaptation to climate change. The CFA is a living document and will be revised later this year so that it is better adapted to the current context of food insecurity and lessons learned since its production.

There has been much work on the evolution of a Global Partnership on Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition during 2009: the HLTF has contributed to it through a coordinated effort as well as through the actions of its individual entities. The Madrid High Level Meeting on “Food Security for All”, jointly convened by Spanish Prime Minister and UN Secretary-General, provided an opportunity for governments and other stakeholders to move forward with consultations to develop a Global Partnership and – through an extensive involvement of civil society – focused on the right to food as a framework for analysis, action and accountability.

The FAO Director General proposed that intergovernmental negotiations around a Global Partnership be taken forward within the context of the reform of the Committee on Food Security (CFS). Since then proposals for a revitalized CFS were agreed at the 35th CFS meeting in October 2009 and will be presented for endorsement at the World Summit on Food Security in November 2009.

The HLTF supported these global processes with particular emphasis on the options for linkages between civil society, NGOs, private sector, donor agencies, regional bodies, development banks and the UN system at both national and regional levels.

In the run up to the Madrid Meeting the Government of Spain proposed the creation of a pooled multilateral mechanism to ensure financial support for smallholder agricultural development and food security within developing countries.

Options for a Financial Coordination Mechanism (FCM) were subsequently discussed in various forums with the support of HLTF entities working in coordination. By the time of the L’Aquila summit, and later on the Pittsburgh G20 meeting (September 2009), it was evident that several donors were interested in a pooled multilateral financial coordination mechanism. The World Bank, IFAD, the AfDB, FAO, WFP, UNICEF and UNDP were potential partners, with the World Bank becoming the favoured institution for handling the window for receiving funds.

This has led to a proposed Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (GAFSP), with capacity to support government-led proposals, private entities, and technical assistance providers. A framework document was prepared and discussed with donors and the UN. The proposal, inspired by the early FCM developed by the HLTF, was presented to finance ministers in Istanbul on 4 October: Three windows for country support are envisaged – (i) transfer of resources to support the public sector via World Bank, IFAD and the Regional Development Banks; (ii) support to the private sector via IFC; and (iii) support for technical cooperation e.g. via FAO and other technical agencies at global and regional levels. The proposal is currently under consideration by the various stakeholders.

Ensuring that the UN System and International Financial Institutions Continue to Add Value:

There are five challenges that the multilateral system must address as national governments and other stakeholders gear up in response to hunger and food insecurity:

  1. Sustaining the comprehensive approach in a way that links efforts to improve food production and availability, to ensure that all are able to access the food they need (and enjoy their right to food), and to increase the likelihood that they can utilize (and be adequately nourished) by the food they eat. This implies the need for:
    A shared – and robust – analytical perspective on the issues being faced by communities and nations affected by food insecurity, and on the options for response (analyzed from technical, institutional and political perspectives) within each country and region);
    A revision of the CFA as a basis for the HLTF’s analysis, engagement and action – in close cooperation with the CFS’ strategic work.
  2. Ensuring effective support for country-led and regional actions that improve food and nutrition security and include (a) joint investment planning, (b) coordinated stewardship (c) mutual accountability and (d) predictability and trust at national,
    regional and global levels. This implies:
    A role for HLTF entities, working through existing mechanisms at the interface
    between national authorities and other country-level stakeholders, regional
    platforms, multilateral banks and global intergovernmental arrangements;
    The need for prompt action by donors with their accountability systems squared
    with the principles of country ownership and leadership.
  3. Advancing efforts to engage a broad range of public sector, business and civil society partners in this process at all levels, ensuring that global arrangements for partnering contribute to more effective action and outcomes at local and national levels. This requires that:
    Partners are able to engage in ways that ensure the participation of stakeholders
    from local, national and regional levels and that their interests are fully taken into
    account in discourse about “global governance”.
    Ensuring a coherent and synergized multilateral contribution by the different elements of the multilateral system – working together at all levels while maintaining respect for diverse mandates; ensuring that synergy results in more effective outcomes
    without establishing additional bureaucracy. This implies the need for:
    A better understanding of the roles, comparative advantage and interagency
    working arrangements among different entities represented within the HLTF (as a
    part of the revision of the CFA, perhaps);
    Single communication from heads of HLTF entities to their country representatives
    stressing the importance of effective joint working – synergy, coherence and
    partnerships at country level.
  4. Tracking progress, and communicating both intentions and results at country, regional and global levels. This implies the need to:
    Continue tracking the work of the HLTF entities so as to demonstrate how their
    individual and collective contributions add value;
    Establish coherent and comprehensible message boards that can be well used by

These challenges will be addressed by the entities within the HLTF and by the HLTF itself during the latter part of 2009 (before and during the November 2009 Rome Food Summit) and during 2010.

(a) Coordinated Support for In-Country Action
(b) Mobilization of Investment
(c) Fostering Partnerships for Food Security and Nutrition
(d) Tracking Progress and Coordinating Multilateral Financing for Food Security