For a new international cooperation
Following the G-20 Summit held in Washington, DC on November 15, 2008 and the emergence of a new concept of global governance, concerns about the economic repercussions of the financial crisis are many and thought-provoking. No one can currently assess the impact of these after-effects on nations, businesses and the global societal structure since no one had evaluated the scope of the risks that undermined the global economy.
Indeed, significant decisions were made in mid-October that prevented a global collapse and some early stages of cooperation were drafted at the Washington Summit. But we are really facing a therapeutic innovation phase with physicians who disagree and have opposing interests. And while we wait for long-term decisions, we are confronted with the reverse remedy applied by Molière’s physicians: instead of “repeated bleeds”, only a cash forced-feeding is keeping banks in operation. What will the limit be when large banks, such as CitiBank, still needed assistance following a recent $50 billion bailout? No one knows the answer, since we do not have measuring tools for the clinical decrepit state of financial institutions, consumed by the cancer of sub-prime lending, unregulated derivative products and other Credit Default Swaps (CDS) that “tumorized” them because of their passive consent.
The object of this article is not adding to the surrounding vast fear, but to reach beyond the sole financial approach and thoroughly look into the issue of a new global governance that takes into account the crucial realities of food, agriculture and its stakes. Indeed, in these times of global reorganization of decision and regulation procedures, we should not omit what is, in my opinion, more vital than anything else and only be satisfied with restrictions on accounting and financial operating systems.
The food crisis that raged in many of the world’s nations triggered an international awareness. In fact, the World Bank 2008 World Development Report portrays agriculture as cornerstone to economic development and key to our planet’s future: “The imperative goals for the 21st century––eliminate hunger and poverty, preserve the environment, safeguard security and manage global health––will not be reached without agriculture.”
At the World Food Security Summit held in early June in Rome, heads of states and of governments reinforced the importance of a “new international deal” and, for the past three years, momagri has been working to introduce this new vision for agriculture. But what remains of the commitments made in Rome, while agricultural prices declined at alarming rates and farmers worldwide are suffering, even more so since the major increases of growing costs?
This chaotic situation produces rural exodus, hypertrophy of megalopolises, “financialization” of agriculture, desertification and a series of disorders that are more severe than the results of the financial crisis. Jacques Diouf, FAO Director-General, and Former President Bill Clinton both sounded the alarm: $30 billion are needed to assist ailing populations. This amount seems to be as difficult to find as it seems easy to put together banking bailout programs that amount to millions of billions of dollars. What is really needed is an international agricultural policy (as outlined in my article published in the May/June 2008 issue of the magazine Paysans) implementing this necessary regulation, which should be an integrant part of the G-20 responsibilities.
In short, all what is missing in the financial sector is even more missing in the agricultural sector! That is the reason why momagri developed, as a priority, decision-making tools necessary to regulation, such as the momagri model, which permits us to assess the impact of policies carried out by governments and international institutions on prices, poverty and the environment. This model––the first to include the specific nature of agriculture and especially the structural volatility of prices––is a major trump card to implement the necessary reforms. A rating agency is in the process of being designed and will round up the model, so that all players will benefit from indicators and data to make the most pertinent decisions.
Cooperation work undertaken with the European Union, the FAO and several international think tanks will complement that achieved in France with the agricultural population and public authorities. This teamwork illustrates the pertinence and usefulness of the steps taken by momagri, an organization that is both a think tank and an independent player, whose main purpose is to promote the emergence of this new international cooperation centered on agriculture and its risks.
What could be the framework of this new cooperation? That is the question we must answer today. Rather than the ex nihilo formation of a new international institution, we advocate the creation of an international task force in charge of defining the objectives and operating system of the future World Organization for Agriculture. It will be a multi-sector institution assembling the means and abilities of concerned important institutions: World Bank, WTO, IMF, UNEP, UNCTAD as well as, of course, FAO, PAM and IFAD.
This World Organization for Agriculture would thus represent a manageable entity intended, on one hand, to assess and anticipate agricultural commodities price variations and, on the other hand, to organize a dialog to ease decision-making by the international community, whether regarding crises prevention or their solutions.
By establishing conditions allowing the new global governance currently in the works to include food and agriculture, this World Organization for Agriculture could therefore serve as an indispensable support to the G-20.
by Jacques Carles, Executive Vice President of momagri