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Beating the Food Crisis

DW staff / DPA (nda)May 28, 2008

European Union countries reiterated their promise to increase the amount of aid they give to developing nations, as spiraling food prices threaten their pledge to halve world hunger by 2015.

An Egyptian girl buys government subsidized bread from a bakery in Cairo, Egypt
The clamor for food in some areas of the world continues to increaseImage: AP

However, many member states were reprimanded by the EU executive, the commission, for failing to outline detailed plans on how they intend to meet their commitments.

At a meeting in Brussels, EU development ministers reaffirmed their intention of increasing aid to 0.56 percent of gross domestic product in 2010 and to 0.7 percent in 2015.

According to some estimates, the 2010 target should translate into aid worth 66 billion euros ($104 billion) in 2010, up from 46.1 billion euros in 2007.

While the EU remains the biggest donor in the world, the 2007 figure was down from 47.7 billion in 2006 and represented the first drop in aid since 2000.

Of the four biggest EU donors - Britain, France, Germany and Italy - only Germany maintained its aid level, while France cut its aid by the biggest amount.

Stick to your commitments, says development commissioner

Louis Michel, the EU commissioner responsible for development and humanitarian aid, called on ministers to stick to their commitments and "show how they will meet them."

European Union Commissioner for Development Louis Michel
Michel urged EU nations to stick to their goalsImage: AP

Eight years ago, leaders from nearly 190 countries, including all of the EU's, agreed on a set of ambitious Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to be achieved by 2015.

These include halving the number of people who suffer from hunger and extreme poverty, getting every small child in the world to school, significantly reducing child mortality and ensuring environmental sustainability.

But since the declaration was signed, average global food prices have surged by 75 percent, according to a World Bank report, sparking food riots in several poor countries.

Meanwhile, the number of chronically undernourished people, at 850 million, remains stubbornly high.

EU believes goals can be met

In their council conclusions, EU development ministers said there was "sufficient progress in some areas for the EU to believe that all MDGs can be achieved in all regions.

An Algerian woman walks across the Sahara
Sub-Saharan communities are some of those at most riskImage: AP

"However, there are serious concerns about the trends in some regions, especially sub-Saharan Africa," they added.

Andrej Ster, state secretary of Slovenia, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said food prices were "endangering our very important development goals."

"It is time to send out alarm bells," added Jean-Louis Schiltz, development minister for Luxembourg, before noting that 2007 had turned out to be "a bad year for development aid".

Ministers said they would support a series of measures designed to cool off food prices, such as using "policy dialogue with third countries ... to discourage food export restrictions and export bans."

Export bans in operation

Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt and Kazakhstan are among a number of Asian and African countries to have limited or banned the export of food since prices began to soar.

While the price rise has largely been blamed on higher demand in rapidly developing countries such as China and India, many EU governments are still reluctant to end farm subsidies, which have also been blamed for keeping food prices artificially high.