The G8NA has been accused by two relief organisations of undermining the fight against hunger in Africa.
Photo: © T.Bexten

NGOs call for radical changes to G8NA

Global Policy Forum, “Misereor” and “Brot für die Welt” have issued a working paper on the G8 New Alliance for Food Security reiterating calls by NGOs for radical changes to the initiative or stopping it altogether.

The G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa prioritises corporate investor interests while risking people’s livelihoods in African countries, according to policy watchdog Global Policy Forum and two German church relief organisations, “Brot für die Welt” and “Misereor”. The jointly issued working paper “Corporate Influence through the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa” demands that radical changes be made to the initiative. Otherwise, it ought to be stopped altogether, the organisations say.

The G8NA, launched by the G8 in 2012, commits member states, African countries and corporate partners to lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next ten years by “unleashing the power of the private sector”. It seeks to raise the level of investment in African agriculture, take innovations that can enhance agricultural productivity to scale and reduce risk for vulnerable economies and communities. 

So far, the governments of ten African countries have signed Cooperation Framework Agreements (CFAs) under the umbrella of the G8NA with commitments by the host countries and the G8 countries; public donors, national and transnational companies. The G8 countries have promised to align contributions with the African Union’s policies to improve and promote agriculture. Further G8 objectives include supporting the preparation and financing of agricultural infrastructure projects.

Under the CFAs, the private sector has pledged to invest in areas relevant to food security and nutrition, the total sum involved to date being in the region of 7.2 billion US dollars. Companies involved include giants like Nestlé, Cargill, Monsanto and Unilever, as well as a number of African enterprises. The African partner countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania – are required to “refine policies in order to improve investment opportunities”. G8 countries act as “brokers” between commitments by host governments and investment pledges by the private sector.

According to the authors of the working paper, such an arrangement is typical of a new form of governance based on the perception that new, financially powerful actors are required to make up for a lack of government resources and that decision-making and implementation has to be made more efficient. At the core of the G8NA is the concept of the G8 taking “informal decisions based not on international law, but on behind-closed-doors agreements between public and powerful private actors”, the paper maintains.

One of the key players in the G8NA context is the World Economic Forum (WEF), an international institution “committed to improving the state of the world through public-private cooperation”. Originating from the WEF, the New Vision for Agriculture seeks to bring together stakeholders to achieve “sustainable growth through market-based solutions”. The New Vision is led by a group of 33 corporations, and one of its public-private partnerships is Grow Africa, aimed at increasing public-sector investments in African agriculture, enabling multi-stakeholder partnerships and expanding the knowledge of best practices and existing initiatives.

AGRA, launched in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is another important initiative in the G8NA context. It directly addresses one of the key G8NA objectives with its Scaling Seeds and Other Technologies Partnership. Further initiatives the working paper refers to are the World Bank’s Doing Business in Agriculture concept note, designed to develop a set of indicators of laws and regulations affecting agricultural business to stimulate reforms in legal and regulatory environments, and the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) initiative, comprising governments, UN organisations, civil society organisations and researchers and striving to fulfil the right to food for all. While welcoming certain aspects of SUN, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter calls for an explicit alignment of its initiatives with human rights, including the right to food.

G8NA has been slated by farmers’ organisations. And the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), representing smallholder farmers and pastoralists, maintains that AGRA and the G8 Alliance represent a global agenda “to corporatise and thereby profit from African agriculture, rather than meet the needs of African communities and farmers”. The working paper is particularly concerned over large-scale land transactions and seed law reforms that “threaten to prevent small-scale food producers from conserving and exchanging local seed varieties”.        

The authors of the working paper maintain that the G8NA “serves as an enforcing mechanism for corporate driven blueprints for agriculture and sidelines national plans and international standards”. It focuses on the interests of major corporate actors while lacking transparency, participation and accountability. The working paper reiterates demands to either make radical changes to the initiative where it is likely to be detrimental to the right to food or stop it completely.   

Mike Gardner, journalist, Bonn/Germany

More information
:   Global Policy Forum