Cablegate: Meeting of the Food Aid Committee, February

DE RUEHC #6421/01 0541650
P 231647Z FEB 10



E.O. 12958: N/A
15-16, 2010

REF: STATE 130895

STATE 00016421 001.2 OF 003

1. (U) SUMMARY. The Food Aid Committee held an
"extraordinary meeting" in London February 15-16 to continue
discussions on the future of the 1999 Food Aid Convention.
Members discussed their vision of a convention as well as its
key objectives, the convention's place in the global food
security architecture, the role and nature of commitments
under a convention, and the role of the Food Aid Committee.
The committee agreed to establish a working group as a basis
for continuing dialogue in order to make the convention a
more effective instrument. (However, it remains unsettled
whether this would be accomplished through negotiation or
amending the current convention. No decision has been reach
to renegotiate the current convention.) The working group
will begin its work by March 15 and will finalize its written
report covering the major components of a convention by May
14. Members will again meet in London April 15-16 to
facilitate the process to improve the convention. The
working group will report back to the Food Aid Committee in
June. The European Commission continues to exert significant
pressure on the process arguing that the EC may vote against
extending the 1999 Convention at the June meetings unless
clear progress is being made, i.e., members can signal a
willingness to formally renegotiate the Convention. While
demonstrating a clear willingness to continue this
exploratory process, other members including the United
States continue to insist that they will not agree to
negotiations unless and until there is a shared vision for a
new and decidedly better convention. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) At an extraordinary meeting of the Food Aid Committee,
members discussed in detail their respective "vision
statements" for a food aid convention. They began by
discussing their vision of a convention as well as its key
objectives. Members broadly agreed that activities under a
convention should broadly contribute to the macro objectives
of reducing hunger, poverty and food insecurity. Moreover,
members agreed that the specific focus under the convention
should relate primarily to improving food access and food
consumption by vulnerable groups. In that regard, members
agreed that the focus on improving access to food would
complement other necessary efforts to improve overall food
availability in food insecure countries, especially those
based on the food security statement issued at the L'Aquila
Summit in July 2009. Members further agreed that the
Convention should help them ensure that appropriate,
effective, and nutritious food is available in response to
the food needs of vulnerable populations that arise in
natural disasters and in other food crisis situations.
Members also shared the view that FAC could play an important
role in helping members receive adequate credit for the
resources that they provide to meet food needs.

3. (U) Several members, led by the EC, argued in favor of
broadening the tool kit available under the convention from
food aid to food assistance (including not only food
commodities but also non-food mechanisms such as cash and
vouchers, and livelihood supports). However, Japan and
Switzerland argued in favor of a narrower focus on food aid.
In addition, Members agreed that all food aid/assistance
provided should be linked to needs and that the provision of
food aid/assistance under a convention should be informed by
a set of guiding principles such as "do no harm." Finally,
members agreed that there was a shared view that members
should engage more actively on coordination, cooperation and
information sharing in the future, especially when food
crises occur or are imminent. That said, no clear "shared
vision" of the rationale for a new convention emerged from
the lengthy discussions other than the need to ensure that
commitments reflect what members should do and are doing in
response to situations in which vulnerable groups require

4. (U) In terms of where the convention (and its committee)
fits into the global food security architecture, members
value the committee as a donor's forum, independent of
implementing agencies such as the World Food Program, that
has important technical expertise. Members agreed that it
would be important to establish a link between the
discussions in the FAC and other food security and
humanitarian fora to avoid duplicating efforts. Rather, they

STATE 00016421 002.2 OF 003

would wish to exploit the potential expertise of the FAC
donor forum with a special focus on food access in
humanitarian, transitional and fragile contexts. The U.S.
reiterated that the Convention is the only legally binding
treaty governing the provision of food aid to the world's
needy and that it ensures a predictable minimum level of food
aid is available annually to help respond to natural and
man-made emergencies and other needs-based food requirements.
Members further agreed that other bodies are not
sufficiently aware of the work undertaken by the FAC and that
the FAC must do a better job integrating itself into the
global food security architecture while remaining

5. (U) Members struggled to find common ground with respect
to the role and the nature of commitments, a core component
of any convention, although there was agreement that resource
commitments should be linked to needs to the extent
practicable. The U.S. noted that commitments have
historically been a means of collective burden-sharing and
expressed an interest in discussing commitment approaches
that would be more relevant to situations in which the food
needs exceeded the ability of any individual member to
respond. (Note: the U.S. used the example of the looming food
needs of Niger and Chad to make this point.) However, the
focus of much of the discussion was more narrowly on
individual member commitments. Members mostly agreed on the
shortcomings of the current FAC structure, particularly its
narrow "tonnage of food" focus (although the U.S. has pointed
out that expressing commitments in tonnage rather than
monetary value provides some predictability by insulating
these commitments from price volatility). Members also
agreed on the problem that the current commitments structure
did not link commitments to need. However, no common view
emerged about the type of commitment that a new convention
might contain or the legal standing of that commitment

6. (U) COMMENT: Members clearly need to develop a shared
vision on FAC commitments concerning their type, content and
status (legally binding or political) if they are to move
ahead to negotiate a new convention. END COMMENT.

7. (U) Members expressed a willingness to explore the
possibility of a flexible commitment structure in which all
members would not have to make commitments in the same
fashion, but could allow them the option to commit in tonnage
terms, monetary terms, or in some other value. Members,
however, were unsure what such a hybrid approach would mean
in practice. Several donors, including the U.S. and Canada,
suggested that it would be useful to have independent
consultants consider the pros and cons of different types of
commitment regimes.

8. (U) Members all agreed that the Food Aid Committee is not
now living up to the pro-active role envisioned under the
current convention. However, they also agreed that the role
of the committee depends ultimately on the content and the
structure of a new Convention, making it difficult to discuss
this issue in detail at this point. Currently, members see
three main roles for the committee: exchange of best
practices/lessons learned-type information related to the
provision of food aid/food assistance; ongoing provision of
information through the FAC member website on situations
requiring (or likely to require) food aid/assistance and on
responses made in those situations; and possible
extraordinary meetings in response to particular on-going
emergencies to facilitate discussion and coordination between
donors and to highlight situations of developing crises.

9. (U) NEXT STEPS. The Food Aid Committee agreed to
establish a working group in order to continue work to make
the convention a more effective instrument. The working
group will begin its work by March 15 and will finalize its
written report on the major components of a convention by May
14. The EC has promised to circulate to members on March 15
a draft of elements of key articles (such as objectives and
commitments) of a new convention. Other members are expected
to respond to this draft with suggestions of their own. The
report will be put forward without any prejudice to a
position members may adopt in any formal negotiation of the
Convention. Members will meet again in London April 15-16 to
facilitate the process. The report of the working group will
be discussed at the informal meeting of members June 2 and 3
and then considered at the formal session of the Food Aid
Committee on June 4. On the basis of this report, the
Committee will decide how to proceed and, if necessary,

STATE 00016421 003.2 OF 003

revise the terms of reference of the working group.

10. (U) The European Commission continues to exert
significant pressure on the process. As in December, it
again made clear that it may vote against extending the 1999
Convention at the June meetings unless clear progress is
being made, i.e., members can signal a willingness to
renegotiate the Convention. (Unless members all agree to
extend it at the June 4 formal meeting of the Food Aid
Committee, the 1999 Convention is set to expire July 1.)
However, the EC signaled it is now willing to accept
something short of a specific start date for a formal
renegotiation. The Commission believes it can satisfy EU
member states with a clear indication from FAC members that
they are starting internal bureaucratic and/or legal
processes towards either reconfiguring or formally
renegotiating the FAC. While the U.S. demonstrated a clear
willingness to continue this exploratory process, like other
members it continues to insist that they will not agree to
negotiations unless and until there is a shared vision for a
new and decidedly better convention. Japan is particularly
reluctant to agree to negotiations at this time. The U.S.
delegation again made clear that it will seek guidance from
its senior leadership about whether to embark on negotiations
and the guiding principles for a new convention if the
leadership gives the green light only after a clear vision
for a new convention emerges.

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