Saturday, November 1, 2008


Adopted by the South Asian Civil Society Forum on Responding to Food Insecurity in South Asia 23‐24 October 2008, Kathmandu, Nepal
Organizers: South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics & Environment (SAWTEE), Nepal;
Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) ‐International, India; and Oxfam (novib), The Netherlands

We, the participants of the South Asian Civil Society Forum on Food Security, view that the Triple 'F' Global Crises—Fuel, Food and Financial—have been affecting the global economy as well as posing a range of complex challenges for South Asian countries in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including the goal of halving the number of poor and hunger, and the "SAARC Development Goals".
We note that the global fuel prices have fallen significantly of late but there is no assurance that prices will stabilize, and will not adversely affect the food security situation in South Asia. We believe that while the rise in food prices will continue to adversely affect the region and to create further challenges in the form of widespread poverty and food insecurity, the worsening global financial crisis threatens to perpetuate food insecurity, by, inter alia, diverting the attention of international donor agencies and governments from the agenda of food security.
We recognize that South Asian governments have taken the food security issue seriously but it is high time for them to initiate effective collaborative actions for addressing the food security concerns from the human rights perspective, both nationally and regionally, and redesign their policies on agriculture, food security and trade.
We welcome the outcome of the 15th SAARC Summit that was concluded this August in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The main Declaration of the Summit and a separate "Colombo Statement on Food Security" indicate that SAARC Member States are willing to make concerted efforts for addressing the food insecurity challenges facing the region.
Taking note of these developments and supporting the willingness of the Member States to devise and implement "people-centered short- to medium-term Regional Strategy and Collaborative Projects" for ensuring food security in the region, as well as the decisions made for the operationalization of the SAARC Food Bank, and the drawing up of SAARC Agriculture Perspective 2020, we met to discuss various food security issues ahead of the Meeting of the SAARC Agriculture Ministers to be held in New Delhi on 5─6 November 2008.
Based on the deliberations and discussions made at the forum, we came up with the following recommendations (some of which are cross-cutting) on different thematic areas, which we consider to be important for SAARC Member States to integrate into their regional strategies, collaborative actions and projects, and Agriculture Perspective 2020.
*SAARC Food Bank*
In order to effectively and efficiently operationalize the Food Bank:
• Make an institutional arrangement for periodic estimations of food demand; and undertake measures to increase the storage capacity of the Member States.
• Relax the withdrawal conditions and the replenishment requirements of the bank by taking into account the national capacity of the Member States.
• Set up a Central Information System (e.g., websites for real time data sharing); and form a SAARC Food Security Monitoring Committee, including civil society representatives, and also task this committee with the role of: making arrangements for a regional mapping of vulnerable regions and populations, as well as preparing a vulnerability calendar for the effective distribution of food and response systems. Such regional food mapping can also guide the concerned authorities to establish community food centres which are needed mainly to enhance access to food in remote and inaccessible areas.
• Set up a Negotiation Committee for price determination and a Dispute Settlement Mechanism to resolve disputes concerned with the bank's operationalization.
• Agree to authorize Parliamentary Committees of the Member States to look into its operational issues for wider political support and cooperation, as well as contribute ideas for the effective operationalization of the bank.
• Work out detailed procurement modalities in addition to ensuring timely, localized and transparent procurement as well as rationalization of procurement prices. Ensure that public-private partnership be an integral part of the procurement modality.
• Utilize the SAARC Development Fund to facilitate the procurement process.
• Make distribution systems responsive to regional and seasonal food insecurity, as well as non-political and non-partisan.
*Production and Productivity*
• Promote the exchange and testing of varieties/seeds within the region keeping in consideration the similarities and diversities of agro-ecological zones. Bilateral and regional contracts and agreements between and among the Member States should be implemented to facilitate the access to and exchange of varieties/seeds, which is currently being restricted in the region in view of the emerging concerns relating to Access and Benefit Sharing and Intellectual Property Right (IPR) Regimes.
• In this regard, establish a "SAARC Seed Bank", linking it with "national seed banks" (the creation of which is also important) as well as "community seed banks" (which are already under implementation in several countries of the region) so that it ensures an effective long-term mechanism of production, exchange and use of community- and environment-friendly quality seeds that are in the domain of public and private sector organizations as well as farmers. The bank will also contribute to agriculture research (breeding) and promote the sharing of seeds and technologies that are critical for developing new varieties/seeds and promoting the conservation of agricultural biodiversity.
• Promote the cost-effective intensification of agriculture and invest sufficiently in agriculture research, extension and infrastructure for, among others, strengthening crop diversification and management techniques; arresting soil degradation (e.g., salination); and strengthening effective post-harvest loss management.
• Implement collaborative projects to encourage farmer-to-farmer exchange as well as partnership activities with scientists, breeders and other private sector groups (such as through participatory plan breeding projects).
*Bioenergy and climate change*
• Establish a Technical Working Group to:
o undertake a stocktaking exercise of bioenergy technologies and research capacities with a focus on technologies that are not competing with the use of food production.
o prioritize and adapt available technologies for pilot projects on bioenergy, building on experiences and strengths of the SAARC Member States.
o develop short- and long-term research priorities for regional collaboration on the development and dissemination of bioenergy technologies, with a possibility of adding liquid biofuels in the long-term perspective.
• Invest in research and development projects to identify and adopt cost-effective technologies needed for mitigation of climate change effects on food security and agriculture, and develop regulatory policy frameworks that can help mitigate and adapt to climate change, including an early warning system.
• Establish a South Asian Climate Change Fund to also support activities in response to intensifying climate change impacts on food security and agriculture.
• Develop a regional agenda to advocate the reduction of subsidies, tariffs and other distortive trade measures on liquid biofuels in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries through the World Trade Organization (WTO).
• Lobby for time-bound commitments and actions from developed countries for transferring energy-efficient, low-carbon technologies to South Asian countries through the Clean Development Mechanism.
*Trade and Biotechnology*
• Make time-bound commitments and actions in the area of transit and trade facilitation, and harmonize customs rules and regulations as well as product standards and quality (such as sanitary and phytosanitary, and technical standards) with adequate institutional arrangements for facilitating food procurement and trade.
• Promote intra-regional trade in farm products by de-listing some of the farm products from the negative list under the Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area in a phase-wise manner or on a trial basis, and remove para-tariff and non-tariff barriers to agriculture trade. This is also essential to strengthen the procurement mechanism required for the effective operationalization of the SAARC Food Bank.
• Protect small and marginal farmers from cheap subsidized imports but at the same time, also develop strategies to boost farm exports from the region.
• Agree not to apply food export restraints to the Member States.
• Make commitments to institutionalize the process of the involvement and participation of non-state actors in trade negotiations at the national, regional and international levels, and while signing trade agreements, including trans-regional bilateral trade agreements, do not agree to conditions that adversely affect the food security interest of the region.
• Develop Regional Framework/Guidelines on the application of biotechnology as well as bio-safety measures so as to ensure that the outcomes are community- and environment friendly.
• Develop Regional Framework/Guidelines on Genetically Modified Organisms, keeping in consideration the interests of both consumers and producers, as well as the implications for the environment and the natural resource base.
• Work in unison to ensure that global negotiations in agriculture and related issues such as intellectual property rights (IPRs) are made supportive of the agricultural development thrust of SAARC countries and demand that they be allowed to exercise the right to protect their agricultural sector through, for example, the Special Safeguard Mechanism being negotiated at the WTO.
*Agricultural Biodiversity and Intellectual Property Rights*
• Promote community-based biodiversity management (CBM) systems and practices for the protection of farmers' rights to seeds, genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, and for the strengthening of tripartite partnership among the public, private and community actors and agencies.
• Recognize and implement programmes and projects such as Participatory Plant Breeding, Community Seed Banks, Community Biodiversity Registers, Home-gardens, and Value Addition and Marketing, including of neglected and underutilized species.
• Create a Regional Network of community seed banks so as to facilitate the exchange and use of seeds in the region.
• Form a Regional Intellectual Property Expert Committee to look into the IPR affairs and issues, and develop a Regional IPR Policy, taking into account the national capacity of developing and least-developed Member countries.
• Develop common positions on IPR issues for negotiations at the international forums such as at the level of the WTO and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), taking into account the interest of both developing and least-developed Member countries.
• Develop Regional Framework/Guidelines on "Plant Variety Protection" and "Access and Benefit Sharing" Regimes to ensure an effective implementation of farmers' rights over farmers' varieties as well as IPR-protected varieties so as to bring into implementation effective domestic (sui generis) regimes to safeguard farmers from the onslaught of IPRs. Such regional framework must take into account the provisions of relevant international instruments—such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture—and importantly, the special and differential treatment of the least-developed countries (LDCs) at the WTO.
• Make institutional arrangements and implement collaborative projects to assess the potential of benefiting from the geographical indication (GI) registration of agriculture products, for example, by undertaking economic and export feasibility research and studies on potential products of the region.
*Role of SAARC Observers, and International Actors and Agencies*
• Observer nations should develop strategic community-centered action plans to support regional strategies and collaborative projects of SAARC, as well as the drawing up and implementation of Agriculture Perspective 2020, and also to provide concrete support to the effective operationalization of the Food Bank and the early warning system.
• More coordinated efforts should be made by developed countries, the United Nations High Level Task Force on Global Food Crisis, and institutions such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the World Bank and the WTO for financial, logistical and technical support, and technology transfer.
• Support for trade-related infrastructure, particularly to deal with sanitary and phytosanitary and technical barriers to trade, for increased farm exports from SAARC, as well as for favourable market access opportunities, including meaningful and beneficial duty-free and quota-free facilities for the LDCs, must be an integral part of their programmes and packages.
• The global financial crisis should not be used as an excuse for bilateral and multilateral donors and developed countries to withdraw commitments on the assistance required for food security.
*SAWTEE (South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics & Environment)* is a regional network that operates through its secretariat in Kathmandu and 11 member institutions from five South Asian countries, namely Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The overall objective of SAWTEE is to build the capacity of concerned stakeholders in South Asia in the context of liberalization and globalization. SAWTEE's network institutions in five South Asian countries are: Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers' Association (BELA), Dhaka, and Unnayan Shamannay, Dhaka in Bangladesh; Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG), Chennai, Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), Jaipur, and Development Research and Action Group (DRAG), New Delhi in India; Society for Legal and Environmental Analysis and Development Research (LEADERS), Kathmandu, and Forum for Protection of Public Interest (Pro Public), Kathmandu in Nepal; Journalists for Democracy and Human Rights (JDHR), Islamabad, and Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Islamabad in Pakistan; and Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Colombo, and Law & Society Trust (LST), Colombo in Sri Lanka (
*CUTS (Consumer Unity & Trust Society)* was a small voluntary group of concerned citizens operating out of a garage on a zero budget in 1983. Currently, it operates out of five programme centres and five resource centres— six in India: three in Jaipur, one in Kolkata, and one each in Chittorgarh and Delhi; two in Africa: Lusaka, Zambia and Nairobi, Kenya; one in London, the UK and one in Hanoi, Vietnam, with a staff strength of over 85. CUTS' work is divided into six programme areas: Consumer Protection; International Trade and Development; Competition, Investment and Economic Regulation; Human Development; and Consumer Safety. Over 353 individuals and 300 organisations are its members. The organisation is accredited to UNCTAD and UNCSD. CUTS also works with several national, regional and international organisations, such as Consumers International (CI); ICTSD; SAWTEE; the Consumer Coordination Council (CCC) of India, etc. It also serves on several policy-making bodies of the Government of India (
*The Nederlandse Organisatie voor Internationale Bijstand, or Oxfam Novib*for short, was set up on 23 March 1956. Prince Bernard was its first chairman. Oxfam Novib, a member of Oxfam International, is fighting for a just world without poverty. Together with people, organisations, businesses and governments. Through projects and lobby. Locally and internationally. Because poverty and injustice are global problems. They are about unjust economic and political relationships (

The EU must send troops to Congo now

Written by: Chris Chapman
Probably the most toxic aspect of the current conflict in North Kivu is that, as in Iraq and Sudan and other countries, the protection civilians get from violence often depends on which ethnic group they belong to.
The FARDC - the national army - has fled Goma, unable to stem the advance of Laurent Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP). The UN peacekeeping mission is desperately calling for more resources, and in the past has been accused of failing to protect civilians.
In this security vacuum, leaders such as Nkunda are able to play on the grievances of their communities to recruit militias, even if their real motivations are about controlling mines and trade. Nkunda says he is fighting because of the abuses his people, the Tutsi, have suffered.
The Tutsi do have legitimate grievances, notably they have been the victims of a number of pogroms in the 1990s. But they certainly do not have the monopoly on suffering in North Kivu. To cite one example, the Mbuti Pygmies, an indigenous people in the Kivus and Ituri, has no militia to protect it; it has been targeted by armed groups, and subjected to massive human rights violations - torture, displacement and the rape of women and children.
The grievances of the Tutsi cannot justify the abuses committed by the CNDP: it has used rape on a massive scale as a tool to terrorise civilian populations, and mass graves of civilians have been found by MONUC, the UN mission in the DRC, in areas recently vacated by the rebel group. More recently, the group has been using refugee camps to launch attacks, in clear contravention of international law.
UN forces are well placed to provide security in North Kivu, because what is desperately needed is a security force that is perceived as neutral. It clearly needs strengthening, but the international political will to do so appears to be weak.
In response to a French proposal earlier this week to send additional European Union troops, British Foreign Office Minister Mark Malloch-Brown said, "we cannot rule out an additional deployment ... but I think it is too early to say that is necessary ... and whether it would arrive in time is also questionable". It's too early, but it may also be too late; a classic piece of diplomatic equivocation, and the result is likely to be that nothing is done.
Faced with another human catastrophe, we are yet again throwing up our hands in powerlessness. It is imperative that the EU approve the French proposal, and send troops to North Kivu within days; it was for this kind of situation, after all, that EU battle groups were proposed in the first place. Even if they arrive too late to protect Goma, there is no reason to assume that Nkunda will stop there.
However in the long term, the only way to stop these conflicts from re-occurring will be by addressing their root causes. There has been a succession of peace agreements between Nkunda's forces, other armed groups and the DRC government.
But, like so many peace agreements, these have only addressed the visible part of the conflict iceberg; the immediate violence. What is needed is for the government to address grievances over illegal land seizures, by establishing a transparent judicial process to review claims. Economic opportunities must be improved by loosening the grip of the militias on import/export income and mines.
The Congolese army needs to become a professional, impartial force that provides security to all communities, including the most vulnerable, by integrating the various militias. In so doing, the militia brigades must be broken up and dispersed, otherwise they carry on waging the same wars in different uniforms.
Finally, and most importantly, the Rwandan and DRC governments need to stop using proxy militias to fight for control over North Kivu and its resources; if they fail to do this, they risk an inflammation of the conflict that may finally destabilize Rwanda and cause the Balkanisation of the DRC.

1 million flee Congo fighting, U.N. says

(CNN) -- About 1 million people have been forced to flee because of fighting between rebel and government forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday, adding that it was investigating reports of camps being looted and torched.

Children eat bread and porridge at a camp for displaced people 12 kilometers north of Goma in Congo.

A rebel spokesman said they were keeping to a cease-fire so aid can reach displaced Congolese.
Babou Amane, deputy spokesman for the National Congress for the Defense of the People, said rebel forces had retreated to about 9 miles (15 kilometers) north of the city of Goma to create a "humanitarian corridor."
Despite a rebel cease-fire declared late Wednesday, security in Congo's North Kivu province was tenuous, with many aid organizations refusing or reluctant to venture out to help the homeless, authorities said.
About 50 medical personnel from Medecins sans Frontieres can move throughout the area relatively unobstructed and supplies are getting in, said Marie-Noelle Rodrigue, the agency's local emergency coordinator.
"Security is a concern, of course," Rodrigue said from Goma, the provincial capital. "For the moment, we have not been stopped by anybody."
Thousands of displaced residents are on the move and Medecins sans Frontieres has mobile clinics dispensing water and any other needed aid, Rodrigue said late Friday.
"We're trying to move with the people," Rodrigue said. "We're setting up mobile clinics where ever they are."
There have been some isolated cases of cholera but no epidemics or other major health concerns, Rodrigue said.
"For the moment, it is still under control," the 40-year-old nurse said.
David Miliband, the foreign minister of Britain, and his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, were heading to Congo and neighboring Rwanda on Friday, their offices said. France holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, which is considering its options, officials have said.
In addition, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked Alain Leroy, the undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, to travel to the region, the organization said.
European Union Commissioner Louis Michel was in Kinshasa, the Congolese capital, on Friday and obtained "verbal agreement" from Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Congo President Joseph Kabila to attend an emergency summit on the crisis to be held "in Nairobi [Kenya] under auspices of the United Nations," EU spokesman John Clancy said.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said it was investigating reports that some camps for displaced persons had been "forcibly emptied, looted and burned," according to a written statement.
In a written statement, the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees spokesman Ron Redmond said Friday afternoon, "UNHCR staff in Goma this morning reported the situation calm but tense. Our office is open and our people are working, but security restrictions on movement remain tight."
He said rebels controlled Rutshuru, where UNHCR has an office. Rutshuru is 90 kilometers (56 miles) north of Goma, the provincial capital.
Redmond said the UNHCR was trying to verify "disturbing reports" from "humanitarian partners" about attacks on the camps near Rutshuru.
"We are extremely concerned about the fate of some 50,000 displaced people living in these camps, which include the UNHCR-administered sites of Dumez, Nyongera and Kasasa as well as several makeshift settlements," he said.
Rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda said Thursday that he ordered a cease-fire for his forces because he wants start work with the U.N. mission in Congo, known by its French acronym MONUC, to allow people back to their homes.
"We are respecting our cease-fire. ... We are waiting for the response [to the corridor offer] from the government and from MONUC, the U.N. forces," Nkunda said. "We want to have an agenda that we can discuss political issues with the government."
Nkunda, a Tutsi, has repeatedly blamed the Congolese government for failing to protect the Tutsi tribe from Rwandan Hutu militia in Congo. Hutu rebels have been active in the jungles of eastern Congo since Rwanda's 1994 genocide, according to the United Nations.
The United Nations estimates that during the 100 days of the genocide in Rwanda, the Hutu majority killed 800,000 Tutsis and and moderate Hutus.
The top U.S. diplomat for Africa said Friday that she was encouraged that the deadly conflict won't grow into "something that looks like genocide."
Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer spoke to CNN International by phone from Kigali, Rwanda, Congo's neighbor, where she planned to meet Saturday with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Frazer, who visited Thursday with Congo President Joseph Kabila, was making diplomatic rounds to deliver a U.S. message: "We understand the need for the Rwandans and the Congolese to work together to try to end the human crisis that's unfolded in North Kivu, as well as to cooperate together to address the negative forces in the eastern Congo."
One of the negative forces, she said, is the National Congress for the Defense of the People rebel force led by Nkunda, which fought government forces for four days until a cease-fire was declared late Wednesday.
Frazer said she would impress upon Kagame the need for continued cooperation between Rwanda and Kabila's government.
"Eastern Congo is very, very unstable right now. ... There have been attacks and counterattacks between rebels and the Congo military," she said.
Asked about the possible danger that the rebels could overrun Goma, Frazer said tensions seemed to be lessening.
"But I am growing confident that both President Kabila and President Kagame have been speaking to each other.
"They've exchanged envoys. ... They are engaged in the type of discussions that will be necessary to prevent such an attack on Goma as well as some type of ethnic reprisal that could lead to something that looks like genocide."
Frazer said the United States also recognizes the limitations of MONUC, whose soldiers have lent support to Congolese troops.
The United States has said for some time that they need more troops and specialized forces, even for a limited time while diplomatic measures are being pursued, she said.
On Thursday, MONUC spokesman Kevin Kennedy said U.N. troops, numbering a few hundred, were struggling to keep the peace in Goma, a city of about 1 million people, and the surrounding countryside.