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Crisis in the Horn: Can We Prevent One Million Deaths Today and Worse Famines Tomorrow?

Speakers: Reverend David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World; Co-Chair, Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, Stephanie Burgos, Senior Policy Advisor, Oxfam America, and Lisa Meadowcroft, Executive Director, African Medical Research and Education Foundation
Presider: Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health, Council on Foreign Relations
August 23, 2011
Council on Foreign Relations

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LAURIE GARRETT:  Greetings, everybody, and welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations.  Thank you very much for coming.  I'm Laurie Garrett.  I run the Global Health program, but among the issues that I've given a great deal of attention to in recent years is the rising food crisis.  What could be more fundamental to human health than malnutrition and starvation?  In that light, we have dedicated quite a bit of work to this issue.

And as the crisis was brewing in the Horn of Africa, I felt that we should take the risk on very short notice of calling a meeting in the dead doldrums of August, knowing that most New Yorkers are reputed to spend all of August off lollygagging in the Hamptons.  And it's wonderful to see all of you defying the stereotype of New Yorkers. (Laughter.)  And really, this is a remarkable turnout not only in numbers but in terms of who you are.  So I thank you very much for carving this time out for this discussion.

I was -- before coming this morning, I took a quick look through the Google ratings on news hits.  And I'm very distressed to tell you that today in the top 20 listings of world events, there is nothing related to food, famine, Horn of Africa, Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan food crisis.  In the top 20 of health stories, there is nothing related.   

In the -- meanwhile, we're of course highly consumed in all reportage with the current global economic news.  And amongst the features that I think are quite relevant, the U.S. dollar continues to plummet in a general trend, with little fluctuations here and there. I think many of us were deeply shocked to see the dollar actually fall against, of all currencies, the Japanese yen to an historic low since World War II.   

It -- there is a mad rush out there to find safe havens.  Where can one put your money and hope that it won't decrease in value in the next 24 hours?  And amongst the safe havens that the market seem to take great joy in at the moment is the Swiss franc.  As a result, the Swiss franc has skyrocketed in value.  And as it goes up, the dollar goes down.

Why is this relevant to food?  Because virtually all donor expressions of multilateral support, food aid and humanitarian aid are historically and currently expressed in U.S. dollars.  So a commitment of $10 million U.S. dollars made four months ago is worth remarkably less in real terms today.  And as the dollar value continues to plummet, the impact on all aspects of foreign assistance is felt sharply.

With that, we see that here inside the United States, food prices have now reached the highest levels since 1974.  World food price index just since June has jumped 39 percent.  Cereals were trading in the food price index last year at a mean of about 151; today, 269. Oils were trading in the food price index in 2010 at between about 168 and 170; today, between 160 and 273.   

These are remarkable problems all coming together as a sort of perfect storm.  It means that if you are an organization trying to deal with -- concretely on the ground -- the food prices in the Horn of Africa right now, you have to contend with a few key problems. Number one, whatever you negotiate as the value of x-number of bushels of grain will not be the same price 24, 48 hours later.  You will find scarcity and competition for regional purchasing because food inflation is so extraordinary throughout the entire region.

And you will find that donor commitments are fading as donor countries are experiencing their own domestic and regional problems, Europe in particular.  We've seen a real drop-off in who considers themselves donors.

So what I would like to do today is -- (phone rings) -- first of all, ask you to turn off all your phones.  (Laughter.)  Thank you for reminding me.  And I wanted to say something.  I know that this may seem a little bit harsh, but I have noted in -- increasingly in some of our council meetings that there are certain people who spend a lot of the meeting looking at their BlackBerry or their iPhone or what- have-you.  And I think it's kind of rude to -- particularly for speakers that have traveled some distance to be with us today.  So I would hope you would not be doing that.

And we are on the record today.  And the reason we're doing that is because this issue is so -- of such acute and timely import we wanted to be able to post a transcript on cfr.org that everyone can make use of so that our numbers multiply.  But keep that in mind when you make your comments.  There may be things you don't want to phrase exactly a certain way if you know you're on the record.

And finally, by way of setting things up before I begin with our wonderful speakers that have joined us today, who honor us with their presence, especially on such tremendously short notice, I think it bears remembering that this latest disaster in the Horn of Africa is not a surprise, unlike back in the '90s.  Because of the disasters of the '90s, we have a Famine Early Warning System Network involving scientists of a variety of expertise, and meteorologists.

This was forecast a year ago.  Everything that has happened has in fact played out precisely as forecast.  And yet, we were unable to take a forecast and turn it into some advance pre-emptive action.  And that speaks very heavily to where we stand right now as a global community in our sense of humanitarian relief.  Why is it we have to wait to see dead bodies?  Why is it that we cannot take forecast information seriously and act on it?

The delay in responding, according to Tearfund, the food security policy group, has actually cost 29,000 children's lives, and has increased the cost of intervention, just for the Horn, from what would have been, roughly, a $500 million intervention effort last fall to what is certainly going to exceed a $1.5 billion intervention effort -- if we can even muster the numbers for said intervention.

So we've got to get smarter about this.  And what I hope we'll do today in the room is take advantage of the, again, extraordinary genius that has joined us, to really think strategically; get beyond the tears that I'm sure you're holding back when you imagine what's going on on the ground, and think how can we keep this from happening and respond with greater wisdom and immediacy.

So what I want to do, you all have in your handouts biographies, so I won't waste a lot of time telling you who's here and introducing them.

What I would like to do is just let you know that Lisa has just returned from Nairobi heavily jet-lagged.  But I thought good, perhaps that'll uncensor you.  You'll be disinhibited by jet lag and give us a real picture of what you saw on the ground in Kenya and some sense of the -- of the -- of immediacy of what's going on.

LISA MEADOWCROFT:  Well, thank you.

It's wonderful to be here.  And I work with AMREF, the African Medical and Research Foundation, and I should say at the outset that we are not an emergency relief organization.  One of my very good friends with whom I used to work for many years, George Biddle at the International Rescue Committee, is an emergency relief humanitarian organization.  Save the Children is here.

We are an international health organization headquartered in Kenya, and because it is our home ground and because we work with communities across the continent but also across Kenya, we are working on this terrible drought and famine crisis.  And we are working in Dadaab and Kakuma, but we're just doing emergency medical care and working on some food distribution.  But again, we are not an emergency organization.  We're a health organization.

And we -- what AMREF really tries to do is kind of bridge the gap between the facility-based health care and the communities because we work in -- with really some of the poorest communities in some of the most remote areas -- and I'm going to talk about one that I visited -- and in the urban slums, who are some of the poorest people.

With regard to the response in the drought, our aim is really to try and help mitigate the effects by improving the health of some of these very rural communities, who -- Dadaab and Kakuma and the areas surrounding that have gotten -- if there's any media attention, maybe not in the top 20 today, yesterday or the day before, but there has been some and it has focused a lot on what is happening, rightly, with the hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees who have come into the country, and into Kenya, in particular.  Again, we're really trying to focus on some of those communities where we have been working, where we have ongoing programs, where we can try and help mitigate some of the hunger and some of the health problems.

So one of the -- some of the hardest-hit areas are areas where the pastoralists live.  Because they're a mobile community, they have inherent problems anyway.  They have to find pasture for their animals, which increasingly, in what I've seen over the past year, year and a half, is --  because of the uncertain climate, because of the changing climate, there are some incredibly huge downpours of rain in certain areas, and then you have absolutely no rain in other areas. So you have pastoralists who have no pasture.   

And one of the things that I saw that was striking to me is that if the pastoralists had pasture for their animals, they had no water, so they were spending about two or three days going from where the pastureland was to where the water was.

And as soon as they got to where the water was, they had to go back to where the pasture was, which has exacerbated the problems for the animals.  And so as we know -- and we've heard about a lot of animals are dying.  And in these communities, the animals are the livelihood and they are the food.  And so, again, the hunger is exacerbated, the -- by the fact that the source of income and food is gone.

One of the things that AMREF has been seeing again with the pastoralist community, particularly in Turkana, is what we call pastoralist drop-outs.  And that is basically the -- almost all of the animals have died.  And again, that was the source of income and the food.  And so it's separating families.  Women and young children are staying back in these incredibly rural communities, and the men and the boys are moving into the closest towns that exist.  And what is happening there is, they're trying to get kind of day labor work in order to eat.  But again, there's no work.  And then it is also exacerbated for the women and the children, because there's no food, there's no water.  They're -- again, the families are separated.   

There's a place called Wajir, which is on the -- northern Kenya, near Somalia.  And more than 200,000 people are living in Wajir.   

Again, it's incredibly remote.  What AMREF has seen is that a lot of Somali refugees are actually coming to Wajir and staying with host families.  But because these are local people -- of Somali heritage, but local people, they are also not receiving humanitarian assistance. And so literally the Somali refugees and the families are relying on the kindness of strangers.

The nurse who worked at the Wajir district hospital told AMREF staff that -- again because there are no animals, there's no food -- that in the maternity ward there's been a huge increase of pregnant women diagnosed with anemia, which is really a result of no food, no -- and that with the malnutrition there, that women are also suffering eclampsia -- pre-eclampsia when they're pregnant, and they're delivering prematurely.  And because the women are so malnourished, the children have very low birth rates (sic).  Because the women are so malnourished, they can't breast-feed their children, and so the children have literally just stopped trying to breast-feed.

What I would say one of the biggest issues is that I saw on the ground and talked with people is water.  What -- even if there's food, there seems to be very little water, and we know people can't survive without water.  So one of the biggest interventions that we were trying to do is provide -- trucking in water, which is not the answer, but then also rehabilitating boreholes that did exist that just aren't there anymore or trying to build new ones.

I was in a very rural place in the Turkana region called Nepak (ph).  We flew into the Kykur (ph) airport in an AMREF Flying Doctors plane, and we drove I would say an hour and a half to two hours from the Kykur (ph) airport to a place that had absolutely no roads.  It -- I can't imagine what it would be like if it were actually raining. There would have been absolutely no way that we could have stayed on the road.  There was nothing there -- nothing.  Every once in a while you would -- you would see people just walking, but there was nothing. There's no town.  There's nothing.   

And we went to an emergency medical camp that AMREF was running. There were about 2(00) to 300 people who came.  In this particular village, there is one nurse who serves a population of 25,000 people at two health centers -- dispensaries, which if you know the lingo for Africa, dispensary is basically nothing -- 30 miles apart.

So again, what we're doing is bringing in -- trying to really ensure that this particular population gets some better medical care right now because in this area, malnutrition rates are at emergency levels.  Thirty-seven percent severe, acute malnutrition 9 percent, which -- and last year it was 17 percent and 4 percent respectively. So it's ostensibly doubled.  The people in line waiting to see this nurse -- there were about 200 people in line waiting to see this nurse.

We are bringing in pediatricians, geriatric doctors, OB/GYNs.

The drought in the Turkana region has disrupted schooling because, again, the boys have now gone off with their fathers looking for work.  It's forced people to migrate away from where they were. There have been increased cases of malaria, trachoma, chicken pox, pneumonia, upper respiratory tract infections, diarrhea, (high ?) malnutrition.  And there was a recent outbreak of polio, which was brought over from South Sudan.  And again, it's because migratory populations are migrating.

There's also been outbreaks of conflict among kind of various communities because, again, they're fighting over the water.

GARRETT:  Let me ask you one thing.  You're doing a great job, for somebody who hasn't slept for about 48 hours.

MEADOWCROFT:  (Laughs.)

GARRETT:  The -- we've had some pretty severe warnings regarding cholera --

MEADOWCROFT:  Yes.

GARRETT:  -- measles --

MEADOWCROFT:  Yes.

GARRETT:  -- pertussis and polio.  And there have been outbreaks in some of the refugee camps.  I'm told that's the major reason that aid groups are trying to restrict the size and keep a lot of people out of these camps, is because there's such a huge spread, particularly of measles.  Tell me, what's it like?  Are people not vaccinated?  Are the kids not vaccinated?

MEADOWCROFT:  Part of -- again, I can't really speak for the camps, because I didn't visit them on this trip.

And, as I said, we're doing really emergency medical care there.  But, yes, part of the problem, again, is that people are on the move, and so the vaccination rates in Turkana have gone down as low as 20 percent.

GARRETT:  Oooh!

MEADOWCROFT:  To 20 percent.  So it -- the fear is that this is really going to be exacerbated.

I don't know if I mentioned a woman that I met.  I'm sorry, because I'm -- I am a little --

GARRETT:  Why don't -- why don't you close with that, and I'll --

MEADOWCROFT:  OK.  I met a woman named "Ikiru" (sp), who thought she was somewhere between 35 and 40; she wasn't sure.  She only had six children, as opposed to the eight or 10 that women typically have in this region.  Her husband and sons were off -- again, trying to keep the animals that they had alive.  She had said they had over a hundred cattle; every one had died.  They had 200 goats; they now have 15.

She said she was relying partly on food assistance but -- from one of the big food organizations -- but that it was scattered and irregular.  And that's what a lot of people told me when I went around to the people in the -- in the medical camp.  Again, that -- because this is so far away from cities, it's really hard to reach these communities.  And that's what AMREF is trying to do, is link up the government agencies; we're working with Oxfam; we're working with the Red Cross -- to make sure that these people are not forgotten.

GARRETT:  Thank you.  I did a little back-of-the-envelope calculation.  Based on the U.N. figures and estimates of how many people are at famine risk worldwide at this moment, the best estimates for the combined area of the Horn of Africa, Pakistan and Afghanistan, as the three big centers at the moment of famine, equal three times the population of New York City.

If you add in the most urgently threatened additional areas -- Uganda, Kenya as we just heard, larger Ethiopia, Eritrea, Swaziland and Malawi, where we now have had pretty consistent food rioting already going on -- you would reach a total population four times the city of New York.  It's a pretty grim way to imagine it.  And as we heard, it's a sort of perfect storm of water resources, drought, climate, cost of food, cost of transport all combined.  

David, it's hard to understand how we've reached a situation where, in 1992, by this time in that disaster, every one of us had seen saturation, heartrending television coverage on every single network in the world.  We'd had a parade of politicians and movie stars and rock stars and so on coming to say we must stop this famine, we must save these lives.  If anything, it was almost too much, you know.

And now we're in a situation where a huge percentage of the American population has no idea this is even unfolding.  And we've not really had any specific political figure you could point to on Capitol Hill step up to the plate and declare this an issue for them to carry the banner for.

And in fact, we're facing a situation where the head of the House Foreign Operations Committee, Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, is right out there saying, you know, this is really not our problem.  This is really not America's duty, America's problem, America's burden.

How did we reach this point, and how do we get out of it to something that can make America play a role in saving 12 million to 20 million lives on an urgent basis?

REVEREND DAVID BECKMANN:  Well, it's true, I think, that the media coverage has not been as extensive as it ought to be.  There are a lot of other problems right now.  We've got a lot of other things going wrong and -- in our own country.  There are a lot of people in our own country who are having a hard time feeding their kids.  So if it's not you, it may be your sister-in-law or your cousin or -- and then just -- so the economic problems that we have and political dysfunction that we have, we're fighting three wars, so it's somewhat understandable that media coverage has been slow.  Not -- I mean, we need to pay attention to this, but I think that's probably what's happening here.  Just a lot of other things are problematic.

And actually, I think -- not to be entirely Pollyanna, but I think we've actually -- we're getting some good political leadership. Joe Biden and Senator Frist went together to the Horn of Africa, and they're -- I think it was yesterday or the day before they did an editorial in USA Today.  And what they're saying is the right thing to say.   

This isn't a media -- but actually, President Obama has focused more on world hunger than, I think, any president in U.S. history.

President Bush was also good on food aid, but Obama's taken a broader approach in -- since his -- since the inaugural address.  In the inaugural address he said to people in poor countries, we promise to help you make your farms flourish and to feed starving bodies.   

So he and Secretary Clinton have actually, over the last -- since the beginning of the administration have managed to mobilize the world around a pretty sensible program of investment in agriculture, maintaining food aid but using food aid more effectively, using new knowledge about how to reduce child malnutrition to do a better job not only focusing on photogenic hunger.  There are a lot of kids who are dying in places where it's no so dramatic.   

So in fact you can -- sometimes you can reduce hunger more effectively in some of the places that aren't completely dysfunctional than you can in the most desperate places.  So -- and just a couple weeks ago, the secretary -- Secretary Clinton gave a really good speech at the International Food Policy Research Institute in which she talked about the Horn of Africa, what the U.S. and others are doing to provide emergency assistance, but she also put it in the context of agricultural development assistance and the longer-term development needs.   

And at least she claimed that agricultural development programs in Kenya and Ethiopia have moderated the impact of drought in those two countries; not in Somalia, of course, but in Ethiopia and Kenya, where the governments have had agricultural development programs with donor support.  She claimed that, for example, in Ethiopia that in 2002, 2003, there were 13 million people at risk of starvation; today it's 5 million.

Now, 5 million people at risk of starvation is pretty bad, but I thought she did a good job of putting the current emergency into a longer-term context.   

The fact that we -- you know, that we have a Famine Early Warning System is a really good thing.  The fact that countries like Rwanda and Bangladesh have invested in agriculture in a way that has reduced hunger and poverty is a really good thing.  So it's not -- I just -- as we approach a really dire problem, it's not that we're not doing anything right.   

I think -- if I -- you know, the main (pitch ?) I want to make is that the main dysfunctionality is in our politics.  So we have not provided the kind of money that we should have provided in the Horn of Africa.  Already in the fiscal 2011 negotiations, when they almost shut down the government, they agreed on deep cuts in emergency assistance.  So one of the reasons why we're not responding is that there was a deliberate decision to cut back on food aid and other emergency assistance in the current fiscal year.   

And for fiscal '12, the House of Representatives have -- has voted to cut food aid by one-third, which means that starting in September, there will be food rations for roughly 14 million fewer people in the world.  So our -- the House Republicans, by pushing for deep, deep cuts in all programs that help hungry and poor people -- whether they're in Somalia or in New York -- have -- that's what -- and then they are so uncompromising they're -- that they've jammed up the whole political process.

So you can't get a -- you -- they don't -- they don't compromise.  So we're not getting -- even when it's not a question of money.  There are some things we could do with no more money.  But you can't even get the people to talk about the things that don't cost money, because the whole system is jammed up on this -- the one issue of how are -- how much are we going to cut back government spending.  And most of the -- in the House budget, the budget that they passed, two-thirds of the cuts would have come from programs focused on hungry and poor people.

To my mind, it's that -- we got a lot of -- lot of problems even if the House and the -- even if the Congress were working great -- (chuckles) -- we'd still have a lot of problems.  But it's the -- it's the dysfunctionality of our politics which makes it so hard for us to respond appropriately in the Horn of Africa.  It's a dramatic case of the cost of political dysfunction, our political dysfunction.

GARRETT:  Let me -- let me ask you -- in terms of the pledges -- not real dollars, but pledges, the United States was in front at about $450 million pledged --

BECKMANN:  Yeah.

GARRETT:  -- towards specifically the Horn crisis, and the EU way back in second place at about 167 million (dollars), and then Japan at 90 (million dollars).  And then you drop way back down to hit the next levels.   

Now, the remarkable thing is with everything that Japan's going through, they've actually, I believe, fully committed and put cash in the bank on most of that 90 million (dollars).  But the EU -- my understanding, it has actually only put up in concrete dollars 8 million (dollars), and the rest is all in the middle of all the bickering -- when you talk about political dysfunction, the political dysfunction of the EU at the moment.  And the United States, while we've committed almost 450 million (dollars), the actual dollars is --

BECKMANN:  Billion.  Oh, million.  You're right.  You're right.

GARRETT:  Million.

(Laughs.)  If it was billion -- oh, my goodness, we'd really be in great shape.

BECKMANN:  (Laughs.)  You can tell I'm living in Washington.

GARRETT:  Yeah, exactly.  But the real amount in bank accounts is about 46 million (dollars), so about -- a little under 10 percent.  What that means is that anybody that's involved in humanitarian aid has no idea what to plan on, has no idea what kind of real dollars are coming down the pipeline.  You can't make long-term decisions about, for example, the issues Lisa was raising:  how do you get infrastructure of some kind out in remote rural areas on the long term, versus feed the people in the camps today, all this sort of thing.

And on top of it, we can't even get a conversation on the Hill that even, as you said, goes to the nonfinancial issues, such as how much of aid should be tied versus untied.

BECKMANN:  Right.

GARRETT:  Or can we make -- do aid more wisely?  I know you're -- you've played a major role in the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, which has sought to couch all of this in the larger question of:  How can we make foreign aid work better?  And can we even get that conversation going?  I mean, where are we on the Hill?

BECKMANN:  Well, just I want to comment a little bit on the numbers.  As I understand it, roughly, the commitments to the Horn are -- come up to about a billion dollars, of which roughly half have come from the U.S.  Normally, the U.S. provides something on that order of the humanitarian assistance, partly because a big chunk of our -- of our assistance is in fact food shipped from Kansas.  And so it's not all -- our number -- I would argue that our number is a little bit inflated because roughly half of that money goes to transport food from U.S. to the places where it's needed.  But also, the U.S. is always -- has -- is generous on the humanitarian disasters, compared to some of the other countries.

The U.N. secretary-general says that what we really need at this point is 2 1/2 billion (dollars).  So the aid that's been committed by the governments is not commensurate with what the U.N. judges is the need. But even more dire is if the -- if the House Republican -- if the House Agriculture appropriation bill, if that goes into effect, it's a big cut in assistance -- the famine assistance and also then the development assistance, which could be helpful in the longer-term response.

There are some things we could do without even costing more money in the food aid area.  I think if you'd shift some additional funding in -- some progress is being made in shifting funding from shifting -- shipping food from the U.S. to regional and local purchase.  Some of that's being done.  But if you do more, you get roughly two times the impact for the same dollar.  So that would be -- you could do a lot.

And the main constraint there is the shipping companies and the unions that load the ships.  It's not even the farm groups anymore, and it's certainly not the charities.  There used to be this iron triangle between the food aid charities and the shippers and the -- shippers and the millers and the farm groups.  But pretty much now I think it's the shippers and the millers and the unions that load the ships that are the main obstacle to a reform that could -- let's say -- you know, I don't know what it would be, but, say, half a billion dollars -- you'd double the impact to half a billion dollars.

The other area where we could get a lot more impact out of our food assistance is just using best knowledge about how to have the biggest impact.  And the most obvious lesson of evaluation is that you focus first on babies and pregnant women.  Duh.  (Chuckles.)  But in fact, most nutrition programs in the world don't focus on babies and pregnant women.  And then there are some other really powerful lessons of experience, of research, on how to get better impact out of our food aid budget.

But that conversation -- you can't have that conversation in Congress because there's only one conversation going on in Congress. It's -- it -- so it is very -- you know, it is such a highly charged partisan environment that it's difficult to talk about what we could do better.   

In the area of agriculture, I think what the administration has done, with bipartisan support from Congress -- Senator Lugar in particular really helped lead the charge in what the Obama administration is now doing in agriculture -- comes partly out of his -- the Global Food Security Act that Senator Lugar took the lead on with Senator Casey and others.

What the administration's doing in agriculture is very cool. (Chuckles.)  It is very -- it is smart.  It's based on -- it's -- in Africa -- because many African governments already had agricultural development programs, plans in place.  So the donors are supporting what the Africans have planned, together with civil society in some cases.  The U.S. is -- has mobilized the World Bank.  So the -- most of the real money for -- additional money for agriculture that's started to flow since 2008 has come from the World Bank and IDA.

But that's been with U.S. support. It's a lot of money.  It's something like an additional $4 billion a year is coming into agriculture and nutrition from the Bank.   

And then the developing countries themselves, partly mobilized by the Bank and what the G-8 and the G-20 have said they're going to do, countries like Bangladesh and Rwanda, have mobilized their own resources.  So I think as we talk about the Horn of Africa, we also ought to be talking about Rwanda and Tanzania and some other places where countries have since 2008 made a major effort to strengthen their own food production, and so they don't have as much hunger as they used to have.  

So I think -- but, you know, can you get -- almost for sure, the administration's program on agriculture is going to get whacked, because it will be identified as an Obama program and they'll nail it.  

So the problem in our politics is not an unfixable problem.  This is a fixable problem.  It's more fixable than al-Shabab.  But people in this room, we've got to fix this problem.  We've got to deal with the dysfunctionality in our own politics if we're going to help in places like Kenya and Ethiopia and maybe even Somalia.   

GARRETT:  Well, apparently having our credit rating lowered didn't do the job.  I don't know what's going to get the butts kicked, so to speak.

BECKMANN:  Us!  It's U.S. citizens.  We've got to do it.

GARRETT:  I guess the other source of potential optimism is that there are some new donors in the field and they're starting to be very substantial, particularly China and India.  India's recently announced a commitment to spend more than $11 billion on foreign assistance over the next five years.   

MORE How much of that will be related to agriculture has not been said. We've not really heard any details, any meat on these bones.  But the pledge is there.

China is estimated to be up to about a $27 billion allotment. However, when you look at these commitments, you have to ask, really, on the ground, what's money being spent on.  And one of the things that clearly has been happening since 2008 is a big land grab, the Saudis, the Chinese in particular, buying up African land in order to grow food not for Africans but to send back to their own home markets.  

We've put out for all of you to look at this piece that appeared in In These Times -- actually draws heavily from Oxfam's work and from the World Bank to lay out who's grabbing land where and for what purpose.  It creates another tension for us.  Just as we were feeling hopeful that we had new donors on the field, we're discovering that one of them, China, is using most of what it calls donating to buy up a fair amount of Ethiopia's farmland.  And that food is not going to Ethiopians.  It is going back to China.  It creates a whole new kind of struggle that we've never seen before -- well, at least not since colonialism.

And I want to shift for a second here with Stephanie to ask you about the sort of larger strategic picture.  I thank you for hauling up from Washington these -- this remarkable report that came out a couple months ago from Oxfam that really tries to take a larger step back, you know, a 50,000-foot view of the problem.

It's easy for those of us that live and work in the United States to get a little overwhelmed with just one part of it, which is how much money does the United States spend and how effectively is it spent. And it's important for us to look at that.

But to the larger view, particularly looking forward to the sort of 2050 goalposts -- the combination of climate change, severe weather and disaster events, food pricing, 9 billion mouths to feed -- if we can't deal strategically with the problem right now in 2011, how in the world will we be dealing with it by 2025, 2030, or lord help us, 2050?

Stephanie, I wonder if you could give us a couple of the key policy insights that Oxfam's come up with that led to this report.

STEPHANIE BURGOS:  Thanks, Laurie.  This is on, right?  Yeah.  Thanks, and I'm honored to be here today to talk about this important issue. And also I recognize that I'm in a room of many experts on this issue. So I'm also humbled by that -- and also to say that I work in the area of policy advocacy and not in the operations area.  And this report precisely is an effort to really take an integrated approach to these issues, as you said and we -- and working on agriculture and policy issues are finding ourselves evermore working with our humanitarian team, who is operational on the ground.  So it's great to be here to discuss this.

This report came about -- and Oxfam launched a campaign, the report "Growing a Better Future:  Food Justice in a Resource- Constrained World," to address the reality that nearly 7 billion people today are suffering from hunger, even though the planet produces enough food for everyone.  And so what's seen as here concretely in a disaster, but just in general, foods -- hunger is on the rise once again.  And what Oxfam has looked at is that really our food system is broken.  The problem now is one of access to food, as I said, but -- and that's compounded by the issue of volatility.

But before long, it could also become a crisis of availability of food.  How we are going to feed 9 billion people without wrecking the planet?  And in 20 years, based on some research that Oxfam did for this report, some modeling, we saw that in 20 years, the prices of basic grains could rise 70 to 90 percent without taking into account the effects of climate change.  And if you take those effects into account, we could see prices more than doubling -- in the case of maize, up to 180 percent within 20 years.  These are structural price increases.    So this is something that we need to start addressing now.  The poor, as most of you know, spend most of their income, in some cases up to 75 percent of their income on food.  Women are the ones most affected by hunger.  So the tragedy of hunger today is -- it's a tragedy in and of itself, but it's also a sort of bellwether for some deeper malaise that's driving -- that's driving shocks and fragility.

So we looked at -- we're in an age of crisis, of food price spikes, of oil price hikes, of climate chaos, basically.  And looking at this, we said, well, the roots of this crisis lie in general in the depletion of the national resource -- natural resource base and also in invested interests, really, who do benefit from the broken food system.   

We see policy-making and resources captured by vested interests in many ways.  And we see, for example, contradictions of agricultural subsidies in this country's, for example, 250 -- more than $250 billion a year, which is nearly 80 times -- agricultural subsidies from rich countries -- not just the U.S., but including the EU and others, of course -- nearly 80 times more than these countries give in aid to agriculture in developing countries; and rich countries at the same time giving $20 billion a year in subsidies for biofuels, yet at the same time failing to meet the commitments at the G-8 L'Aquila in 2009, to give $22 billion over three years to agriculture in developing countries.

So looking at this situation, we've seen and the report talks about three basic challenges that we think we face and need to be addressed.  The sustainable production challenge:  So how are we going to feed 9 billion people by 2050 without breaking the planet?  And the equity challenge:  How are we going to address these inequalities in access, the ones that mean that even though we produce enough food now for everyone, one in seven goes hungry?  So we need to address the equity issues now and moving forward.  And of course, the resilience challenge:  How are we going to manage the risks and reduce the vulnerability, both globally and nationally and locally?

I think the resilience challenge is maybe one that bears talking a little bit about now.  There's a number of drivers of fragility, and climate change being one of the major ones, but we could also mention the energy prices, biofuels policies, lack of transparency in commodity markets that can lead to some excessive speculation, policies like export bans or behavior of some companies that tend to benefit from a crisis.

But really, what this means on the ground is that this volatility and effects of climate change, unpredictable weather, discourage poor farmers from investing and taking risks.  And at the same time, governments have failed to rise to the challenge.  We've seen the failure to tackle climate change.  Adaptation for climate change remains underfunded.  Things -- if you look at, for example, social protection around the world, four out of five people lack access to any kind of social protection.  And of course, David talked about the food aid system and its problems, and we really are concerned and agree with what he said on that.

So how to address these?  And just briefly, these three challenges -- we said we need three major shifts.  And one of those shifts is we need a new global governance to avert food crises and respond more effectively to crises when they occur.  We need to build a new agricultural future, and we need a new ecological future.   

And I can -- I could go into -- talk about those more if you like, but maybe I just wanted to say a few things about how this -- how this, you know, relates concretely to the crisis in the Horn right now.  I think it's been -- Lisa talked about what it looks like on the ground, and David described very well what's -- what the problems in our political reality in Washington are.

But I think just to take a broader look at it, yes, this is the worst food crisis that the region, East Africa, has seen in this century. The worst affected are those who are where poverty is most entrenched, those who have been marginalized, where there has been lack of investments, conflict, of course.

So this is a preventable catastrophe that we think is the result of a broken food system.  Droughts may be inevitable, but the disaster is man-made.  And the crisis is really a result and this disaster is a result of the failure to address the root causes of food insecurity in the region.  The humanitarian response is essential, but we also need to break that chronic cycle of food insecurity.

The most obvious concern, of course, is -- or question that comes to mind is climate change.  And how is this related?  Well, Oxfam has looked at this generally and it seems that there is still a lot of uncertainty as to what the exact impact of climate change is or has been in East Africa.  One thing is certain, though, is that the temperature has risen and it will continue to rise.  And the rainfall patterns will continue to change.  That could mean more drought.  It could mean more rains in some times, which could lead to flooding.   

So what we know is, temperatures are rising, will continue to rise, and there will be more uncertainty in terms of rainfall.  

And that's even if there were to be an agreement this year on the reduction of or cutting of greenhouse gas emissions.  There's still going to be decades of erratic weather because of the climate change that is already inevitable or irreversible.

So a couple of things to focus on in terms of addressing this: one, more investment in disaster risk reduction.  This is one thing that brings together humanitarian response with development strategies as well.  And I think the figure that I've seen is disaster preparedness is -- investment has been about 1 -- or less than 1 percent, I think, of overall humanitarian response in the region. That needs to change.  There are investments in drought cycle management, flexible long-term funding, different ways that humanitarian response and development assistance can work together.   

Of course, funding for adaptation to climate change, including better data collection, information -- Oxfam actually has a successful program on the ground in Ethiopia, not in the region actually that's most affected by the drought, but -- right now, but where there has been support for microinsurance to -- we've engaged with Re to provide farmers with insurance against drought and weather -- and weather occurrences, and that's helped to build certainty to increase their investment against losses.

And then finally, of course -- and this is one of the areas that I personally am working more on -- is the issue of long-term investment in small -- long-term investment in agriculture and particularly in small-scale food producers.  And we say "food producers" because pastoralism clearly is key in this particular region.

Appropriate investment in East Africa means investment in dry lands and pastoral communities.  These communities face a lot of changes and challenges, in addition to addressing the impacts of climate change, political and economic marginalization, past inappropriate development policies and now increased competition for resources.  There needs to be investment in improved access to markets, particular investments in women and their specific needs, access to financial services and so forth.

So I'll stop there, and just to say it's been very interesting for me, after you approached Oxfam -- thank you for inviting us -- but just talking to our humanitarian team and looking really more at the specific issues that are going on in the Horn right now as they relate to our approach to food security and agriculture and climate change more broadly.  It's quite clear that the crisis in the Horn now is one that, hopefully, will generate a broader response.

And then just one last thing to say, and to echo what David, I think, ended with, as well, is that one of the reasons Oxfam has launched this campaign now is -- in part, looking at the dysfunctionality of our political systems; and I'm not just talking about in the U.S. -- is that we really need to mobilize broad public support and a public -- a movement.  And part of Oxfam's reason for launching this campaign is to build a movement.  Not -- there are many organizations around the world that have been working on hunger and these issues for a long time.

But what we hope to do is to build upon that and bring more attention globally to that and to raise the awareness of publics, particularly in our case in the U.S., to the real challenge that we need to address.

GARRETT:  It's interesting:  When I think back to the '90s and how the sort of Bob Geldof "feed the people" kind of movement arose, it was very much around two issues -- one, raise more money from the rich world, and awareness; and two, create better efficiency in how food programs were done.   

And now I think all of you are saying, let's go the next step. It's really about governance and the ability to recognize warning systems, recognize need, move resources appropriately.  And it's interesting, because Sarkozy tried to make this question of at least the speculation market side of this and the hoarding of food supplies -- which is a big driver, by the way; several countries are hoarding substantial grain supplies right now.  Sarkozy tried to raise it in the both G-8 and G-20 conversations, and it was just roundly tossed out.  I mean, basically all the G-20 could agree to is, let's set up a computer system and have a website where everybody kind of posts, you know, what they're hoarding so that we'll all kind of know. (Laughter.)  Not terribly helpful, and doesn't get us to where we need to go with some kind of real governance.

It is -- and it is interesting that we've not hit a level of moral indignation where the idea that hedge funds are jocking around with prices of wheat is considered to somehow be a different moral equation than jocking around with the prices of petroleum.

I want to move from our discussion to the total discussion at this point.   

I'm going to ask Joanna (sp) to show you what you're supposed to do with your card to indicate you want to ask a question.

QUESTIONER:  (Off mic.)

GARRETT:  (Chuckles.)  Oh, well then you can ask the first question.  And I will try to take note of the sequence in which I see cards flip and ask you accordingly.

QUESTIONER:  (Off mic.)

GARRETT:  Yeah.  (Chuckles.)

QUESTIONER:  OK, thank you for the opportunity of asking the first question.  I must say this is overwhelming and extremely depressing. And I feel that we all know what the problems are.  We know what the solutions are, and I think that it's enough of technology and innovation around to actually deal with the crisis.   

David, I fully agree with most of the things you said except that we actually haven't seen the money.  None of you have really mentioned the $22 billion that were promised for agriculture, the fact that many of the countries have prepared their national plans, that many of the countries have increased their own investment in agriculture, waiting for the donor support that never came through.

So I would still argue it's not just about efficiency, doing things in a different way.  It's recognizing that unless we invest and empower those poor rural communities, we'll never be able to deal with the crisis, and also recognizing that many of the African governments are -- actually, the governance is better than it used to be.  They have good plans, and those plans have been vetted by many of the international experts as good plans.  But they lack resources to implement those plans, and they lack support with the implementation as well.   

Lisa, I think what you said really resonated with me, and it's partly because one thing that I would like to mention is the fact that we do know how to address some of the problems.

AMREF has been really leading in Africa in terms of health, promoting education and educating community health workers, finding new, alternative ways -- far before anybody talked about mother and children -- how to reach for communities and how to deliver basic health care services.

We have experienced -- and I don't know how many of you are familiar with the Millennium Villages project, which is really a proof of concept that the Millennium Development Goals can be achieved in all different farming zones in sub-Saharan Africa.  The project is now in 10 countries.  It reaches half a million people.   

And a couple of communities -- especially one in northeast Kenya, Dertu, which is 60 kilometers from Garissa, is a pastoralist community.  It has been hardest for us to reach good results in that part.  And it's not surprising, because -- for exactly the reasons you said -- there is a lack of infrastructure, there is a lack of health clinics, lack of schools.  It's a mobile community.  There are conflicts because they are fighting for water and for other resources.

So -- but at the same time, that particular site, which is only 7,000 people, has produced remarkable results.  And we see now people from Garissa, people from other countries of the Horn of Africa coming, visiting the sites, trying to see how they can scale up those interventions, which are no rocket science.  They are all science- proven interventions.  The only difference is that you don't just address health without -- not having food security or having safe water or thinking about building infrastructure and even bringing connectivity.

And my story, the picture from Dertu four years ago when I went there and -- it was Ericsson that said, you know what, we'll bring connectivity; let's see what impact it will have on development -- was meeting an elder, and through translator asking him, what do you think about this tool?

And he said:  What do you think you will be using it for?  And I was explaining at length how great it is going to be for community of workers.   

And he looked at me and said:  No, we need veterinary services. Children, if they die, I can have more wives, I can have more children.  If my camels and goats die, we all will die.

It was really awakening.  Those particular tools, innovations that now actually support all the things you are talking about -- surveillance systems, monitoring systems, business development in this site -- they exist.  We just need to -- you know, they actually reach most of -- even the most remote sites in impoverished countries, and there is more and more companies realizing that it's actually good for their business to bring connectivity to those sites.   

So my question -- I see Laurie looking at me -- is that -- why are we in a way fooling ourselves?  We're not going to be able to change quickly what's happening in Washington.  We do know what works. Several of us have experiences on the ground.  Why aren't we doing something to mobilize those resources, to implement those feasible plans that actually exist?  And the only lack of empowerment of the community is bringing those resources and tools to those communities.

GARRETT:  Which one of you -- David, do you want to try that?

BECKMANN:  Well, I guess, on this -- the issue of funding, the -- something is happening.  You can always say we haven't gotten -- you know, the donors haven't made -- haven't realized all their commitments.  But over the last 10 years, roughly, the United States has, on a bipartisan basis, tripled its funding for development programs focused on reducing poverty around the world.  And that continued the first two years of the Obama administration.

So in the second year that the president was in power, he doubled U.S. assistance for agriculture.  And the U.S. government, the Treasury, supported the World Bank in a very rapid expansion of Bank and IBRD funding for agriculture, nutrition and social protection. And the president and the secretary of state were -- have been using their muscle to at least push the rest of the G-8 and the G-20 to put up money for agriculture and nutrition.

So what you said is true that we haven't reached the L'Aquila commitments.  But something -- what is happening right now is that Congress is cutting this initiative off.  For the first time in a dozen years we're reducing funding.  And how is the U.S. going to put pressure on Germany or the U.K. to put up money for agriculture and nutrition?  Or how is it going to have a strong voice in the councils of the multilateral banks if we're cutting back on our development funding?   

So something is happening right now that can be reversed and needs to be reversed, and we just can't -- I mean, this is not beyond our control.  We can fix our country easier than we can fix Kenya or Ethiopia.  And we've got to fix our country.

GARRETT:  Mahesh.

QUESTIONER:  Just following up --

GARRETT:  But -- oh, I'm sorry.  Mahesh.

QUESTIONER:  Thank you very much.  Is this on?

GARRETT:  Yes.

QUESTIONER:  I'm not in the business that is being discussed.  I am an outsider from the financial markets, actually from the rating -- formerly the rating business and now other businesses in the financial markets.  Two points:  one -- so I have questions.  One -- and a comment, as it were.  One is a question on al-Shabab.  It's not been -- it was mentioned only once.

But I have heard and seen -- read, I guess -- that much of Horn of Africa where there is the issue is under the control of al-Shabab; and in fact there are other countries, Somaliland and (Puntland ?) -- which I didn't even know about -- where there is really no governance. So doesn't this make the job much more difficult?  And how do we deal with that?  That's one.

The second is that I think the sea change that has happened in the financial markets -- you know, in the '20s -- in the '90s, we were in a growth phase where we had plenty, and that was reflected in the concern about doing good while we were doing well.  We are in the days of austerity, which is going to last at least a decade.  I think that this is not going to change.  The financial markets are going to get tougher and the economy is going to get tougher, and so we have to get used to doing more with less.

And that brings me to my point, which is that the private sector has to be an ally in this.  And I hear what you say about private sector doing land grabs, but there is another side to it:  that they pay for the land; that they develop the land; they'll build food production on it.  And I think we ought to think about partnerships with private sector.  So I'd like comments on that.

GARRETT:  It's a -- both are very important points.  The al- Shabab thing, I think you could go another step and say, well, it's a feature of all the areas with acute famine -- Pakistan, Afghanistan. We're looking at unstable regions with warring factions that get in the way of the ability to improve and deliver on food.

And the financial markets question is quite important.  Would -- who would like to handle it?

BURGOS:  I'd like to address the private sector, and ask someone else to respond to the al-Shabab question because I'm not -- that's not my area.

But that's a very important point, and Oxfam in this campaign is definitely focusing on the importance of the private sector and seeking to work with the private sector as a partner, where possible, and calling out companies that -- whose behavior we think runs counter to what is needed; so both working with and encouraging the engagement and positive investment of the private sector, and addressing where bad practice is undermining ways to address hunger.  In particular, I think there are a number of ways that was seen where private sector actors, in addressing climate change, have taken a very positive approach.  And Oxfam has partnered with a number of different companies.  Again, I haven't been working directly in that area.  But there's a number of experiences that we have, as well as in areas of food security.  We are undertaking in the next couple of months to look more specifically at specific companies in the food and beverage sector for example, and look at their practices, with an effort to encourage better practice.   

And we think that's quite important, because as you said and others said, the resources that are needed to address this problem are not just going to come from the public sector.  They need to come from national governments and developing countries, from communities, from the donor community in particular.  And we need to push the donor community to live up to its commitments, and that's quite important.   

But the role of the private sector is key.  So we are quite keen to look at how to support best practice and also to regulate where necessary.  We're in the process of looking at this issue of land grabs.

And later in September, we're planning to issue a report on that and really hoping to generate discussion that will lead to more effective regulation, so that we can support good practice and ensure that when there is bad practice, that communities affected are restated.

GARRETT:  Well, I think I'd make a comment about the al- Shabab question.  There was a very interesting food issue -- what month was this, I'm not sure -- for Foreign Policy magazine.  And Annia Ciezadlo, who's a wonderful, wonderful writer, very bright -- and her focus is on food -- has a lengthy article that explains in more detail than I've ever seen published anywhere else, except perhaps in Arabic, what role rising wheat prices played in pushing the Arab Spring, and in particular in Tunisia and the bread riots that preceded the political riots.

We're seeing a similar thing unfolding right now in both Swaziland and Malawi, where corrupt long-standing governments have been jacking around food prices and withholding investment from their entrepreneurial sectors in their own countries in such a way that you have severe starvation and consolidation of wealth in a tiny ruling elite -- corrupt elite.  And I think we have to acknowledge that it's always going to be a feature of food crises that where there's bad governance, there's bad food crisis.  Whether the bad governance is a terrorist group or just an oligarchy that sees its own interests as paramount, bad governance it is.

I think, Emmanuel, you were the next.

QUESTIONER:  Thanks.  To -- so many of the angles about this that I would -- that it's hard to know where to start.  But I'd like to actually ask -- look at the media aspect of this because I'm from the International Rescue Committee, so we're facing a lot of the same implementation issues doing public health an area with dispersed population, no infrastructure, lots of guns around, and would love to do it, but it's even hard to get funding.

And you know, we've been in Somalia for many years and have had trouble, you know, getting people interested.   

So agreed that there are, you know, major political issues on our side, and we all agree that it -- as Laurie just said, it's -- you know, it comes with the territory that you're finding governance issues.  How do we make people interested in this?  Because ultimately our government is -- and even to some extent, I would argue, foundations -- are responsive to public interest.   

And reading the comments, as I recently did, after taking a couple of Valium, in The Wall Street Journal on this issue -- (laughter) -- it would -- but people ask interesting questions.  I think we can't, you know, underestimate the public, because people are asking questions about why -- what do we think we're doing in an area, you know, full of Islamic militants.  And you know, there's, I think, an angle or a story to be told.  I don't know how to do it, but Laurie, you manage to interest people in epidemiology.  So clearly, there must be a way.

You could argue even that the tea party, it's largely -- you know, it's a story, it's a myth, largely, you know, based on not really facts, but people managed to create a narrative that even if it's, you know, 10 percent and not 50 percent still got a lot of people interested, enough to make a change.  If we could get 5 percent of the U.S. population really passionate about this issue of how you deal with -- you know, with al-Shabab or with, you know, even Turkana or all those things, we'd be way ahead of where we are now.

So I guess there's a number of media people, and I'd be interested to hear from you, Laurie, and others about how you can get people interested, because I know I don't click, you know, on stories about Somalia background when I'm on CNN.  So how do you get people to really like this?

GARRETT:  And you put the burden on me.   

You know, again, we keep using the phrase "perfect storm" because so many things seem to be coming together at the same time.  In fairness to my colleagues in the media, the other thing that's coming together at the same time is the demise of the media, of real journalism, and the budget so severely constrained that I don't think it's a surprise that ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, blah, blah, blah, are having a tough time finding the money to send a camera crew to go be out in the middle of Turkana and follow Lisa around.  You know?  That kind of budget isn't there.

And that goes a long way as to why we don't have the imagery before us or the narrative before us that tells us, yes, there's this al-Shabab problem; yes, in Afghanistan you have the Taliban; yes, in Waziristan you have the al-Qaida remnants.  All of these play a role. But starvation is starvation, and, you know, are we to stand back and rationalize it or see it for its real face?

I don't know how you break through.  I also have noted that, as you mention, most of the blog postings and news postings on the Internet related to this question of food security and so on, when you look at the top response chat that follows, typically blame the country.  So that -- and I didn't see this 10 years ago.  So that if you say there's people starving in Malawi, then all the chat says, yeah, Malawi has a crummy government, why is this our problem?

I think that's going to be quite a challenge to overcome this.

QUESTIONER:  Isn't there some truth to that; there's --

GARRETT:  Yes, there is.

QUESTIONER:  -- (diversion of ?) supply and, you know, political channels of channeling food.

MEADOWCROFT:  Can I -- can I ask a -- ask David, actually? Just because it seems to me when I think about issues like Darfur and the HIV/AIDS epidemic and kind of global crises, things like that that really caught the imagination of people, it was often the faith community and the churches and the synagogues and the mosques who galvanized a movement around supporting and helping, you know, people who -- for whom they -- it wasn't their fault.  So I'm -- you know, and I know that just in the support that we've received recently around the drought, there has been a bunch of kind of faith-based support.  And I'm wondering -- I mean, I just -- I've been so impressed by the faith communities in how they have been able to galvanize movements in the past.

BECKMANN:  My own organization, Bread for the World, is a faith-based organization.  We organize -- the network's probably a million people, including 5,000 local congregations of all stripes. And then we have a secular affiliate that connects us to American Jewish World Service and Muslim groups and secular groups.

So I think it's -- the faith community is -- continues to be really active on these issues.  One thing that's happening right now is a campaign called the Circle of Protection.

So a wide array of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other leaders have taken a stand to -- saying to our political leaders:  We should form a circle of protection around funding for hungry and poor people in our country and around the world.  We can reduce the deficit without adding to hunger in our own country or in Kenya, and that's the right thing to do.

And it's been really exciting that it is -- (chuckles) -- groups that you wouldn't -- I mean, the Catholic Bishops, they don't cozy up to the Democratic -- the Democrats much any more, and they have certainly been central to this; and the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Salvation Army, and the American Bible Society. So 3,000 evangelical pastors have been involved.  And then lots of grassroots people are going to their own members of Congress and saying:  Form a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people.

And in a way, the Horn of Africa famine is a very vivid example of why we need a circle of protection.  It's not the only example. The same bill that's proposing to cut food aid by 14 million people proposes to throw 350,000 little children off WIC assistance in our own country.  So those -- some of those kids are going to die, too. It's not just about -- it's a broader movement in our society.

And I think, in fact, the faith community is engaged, but it needs to be a lot more -- needs to be a lot more.  I think part of the trick is -- or sometimes, what really mobilizes people for structural change is hope.  So it's not just it -- you know, if you just hold up a terrible thing, people send a hundred dollars.

But if there's a plan that's in fact going to reduce hunger and poverty and disease over a period of time, that's when I think you can mobilize people in a much more serious way for structural change.   

GARRETT:  You know, I have five people listed who want to comment in our brief remaining time.  I just want to ask a really quick question, David.  As a reverend and in the context of talking about the spiritual and faith-based concept in our society, as Americans, what -- is there a price for our sort of national soul, if you will?   

BECKMANN:  (Chuckles.)

GARRETT:  If we, after, you know, five, six decades of being one of the or THE donor of the planet, turn our back --

BECKMANN:  Sure.

GARRETT:  -- and say, you know, it's tough times, you got to balance things -- I mean, is there -- is there a price to the national soul?  Is there such a thing as a national soul?

BECKMANN:  Actually, yes.  You know, the -- I mean, at least in biblical theology, God judges nations, not just people.   

But I guess I'd put it the -- in a more positive way.  No matter what you think about God, it is really clear that helping a mom feed a hungry child is sacred work.  Whether you believe there's a God or not, this is sacred.   

I've also been really impressed that the world has made dramatic progress against poverty, disease over the last three or four decades, dramatic progress.  Even now, we're probably on track to cut poverty in half; hit the first MDG, the poverty MDG, by 2015.  It's just stunning.

And since I believe in God, I think -- do we think God didn't notice this?  This is God doing a wonderful thing in our own history. And even in our own country, at times when we made a national effort to reduce poverty, we've been able to do it.   

So I think God's sort of putting it on a plate for us and saying, look, you know, in your time -- in your time you could -- we can end hunger.  We can end hunger in the -- certainly in the U.S. and also around the world, virtually.  Instead of 900 million people who are undernourished, it could be a hundred million by the time we die, easy.  Not -- I mean, it's not easy, but this is doable.

So I think -- you know, I think this is -- this is the exodus of our time.  It's God liberating people all over the world and giving us -- you could think about the U.S. as sort of the pharaoh of the world -- you know, we run the world, if anybody does -- and giving us a chance to let the people go.  So I do think it is a deeply spiritual challenge, and the key is to change our politics so that we change laws and structures so that, in fact, poor and hungry people can climb out of the mess that they're in.

GARRETT:  We have a very short time.  Here's the order I saw the names in:  Charles, Carolyn, Judith and Kiyotaka.

Charles.

QUESTIONER:  Reverend Beckmann, you're not going to be able to change the (order ?), because it's always going to be there, the competing priorities all the time in Washington.  I think you need a champion to really plot your courses.  I think this is where -- you mentioned earlier about Vice President Biden and Senator Lugar.  What about the African-American, Latino caucuses and Asian caucus in Congress?  I think they are the ones probably would identify and feel much much more stronger to really take on this cause and work with you and to really push forward the agenda.

We're going to have this tough time, as our (colleague/colleagues ?) said.  It's going to be with us for awhile.  But that doesn't stop our mayor -- Ms. Taylor -- (inaudible).  When he decided to fight the smoking issues worldwide, he would commit 150 million (dollars) or more to fight the whole smoking problem, which is really remarkable.

And our Mr. Turner gave billions to the U.N. for his efforts against AIDS, right?  So we need to find a champion who would take on the poverty and hunger as a cause.  Mr. Soros probably would be, if you approach him; he needs good publicity right now.  So --

GARRETT:  Actually, there's -- (inaudible) -- sitting right next to you.  (Laughter.)   

QUESTIONER:  Right.  Right.  I think that you need to have someone who would be able to really kind of stand up.  So that's where -- the other question is that, from my committee standpoint, I'd love to work with you to see what can we do to help China to change its attitude towards Africa.  I think that's very important.  And I learn -- I have no idea, but I would love to work with you to move on that front.

GARRETT:  Well, good news:  We do have a large project going on here at the council related to looking at China's role in foreign assistance.  And I hope you'll be plugging in with Elizabeth Economy on that.

I believe that Carolyn was next.

QUESTIONER:  Thank you, and thanks very much to the panel.  I actually just returned from Dadaab over the weekend, and I can tell you that the humanitarian imperative is so strong here for -- particularly for children.  They are under tremendous, tremendous pressure, and many more will die, I think, if we don't do more.   

But I do think that we -- with this crisis, I think we really have an opportunity to look at what went right and what went wrong.  I mean, we talked a lot about the early warning system that didn't lead to enough early action.  I actually think there were millions more people that would have ended up in the same situation if we didn't have the early warning system.   

So there are things we can learn that did go right.

But I think the real question is, how do we get a community around this emergency?  While we're still doing the humanitarian action -- and obviously organizations like Oxfam and Save the Children are all doing that, but we've got to get people around what works and what didn't work, so that the next time the early warning results in much more early action, because I actually believe that we actually have the ability to save many, many more lives with that system than we ever had before.  So what are the things that have to happen?

So I don't know who on the panel might want to answer that question.  How do we get that group of people that need to be at the table to know how to do that?  Obviously some of it's about funding, but I think some of it's about what we all, collectively, didn't do fast enough in this case.  So --  

GARRETT:  Well, we actually have, as you know, two people that have been right in the front lines on the longer haul on that right here:  Ann Veneman, who used to run UNICEF and certainly was on the front lines in anticipating and responding to these disasters for years, and Judith (Rodin) is running a program at Rockefeller Foundation that's trying to anticipate and build towards a future of less need, less -- more of the resilience that Stephanie was referring to.   

So let me just quickly turn to each of you for a quick comment.

QUESTIONER:  Then I'll just link my question to the comment.  The Rockefeller Foundation, as many of you know, has been working on on agricultural productivity for 50 years, since the Green Revolution in Latin America and Asia, in early work with the Ford Foundation.  More recently we've collaborated with the Gates Foundation and several of the bilaterals in something called the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, which is trying to really work on longer-term -- well, short-term, meaning not this crisis, but hopefully shorter than the next 50 years -- agricultural productivity.

And that really does require drought-resistant seeds, new kinds of seeds.  It requires more effective water management, working with the CADAP programs from the individual countries and changing in a very aggressive way the national policies both within the countries in Africa and also the donor countries in order to enable the kinds of things that we're talking about.  We feel that we've actually made significant progress in 13 countries and that we can look forward to a future where there will be greater local and regional food productivity.   

But Stephanie's point that the food system is broken is still the right point because even if the productivity increases -- if these other issues aren't resolved.  And so at Rockefeller, we've been working on building climate resilience into this, whether it's more prediction metrics -- we, as you know, Stephanie, are funding the Ethiopian microinsurance project that your folks are doing.  What are the ways, both in terms of prediction, but also insuring the farmers against these kinds of losses, that will allow productivity to continue?  So we're bullish on the nearish-term future and how this really will evolve.   

What concerns me is really -- and maybe it's a pivot from Carolyn's comment and question -- what concerns me comes almost from a sidebar book review that I read in The New York Times -- think in the business section -- was a review of a new book on the malaria effort. And it's talking about the involvement of Ray Chambers and the effort finally getting traction in the way that maybe the AIDS effort got traction.

And one of the points of the reviewer and the fact -- the reason that I think it was in the business section, is that the resources are all there.

What often is missing is the right aggregation of all of the stakeholders.  And we represent the funding community, the NGO community, the relief community and the development community.  And all of those communities meet around this issue of hunger and famine and food security, as they do in health and others.  And yet, I don't see -- and we may be as much responsible for that as anyone, so I feel safe in saying that -- I don't see the same kind of integration, systemization, mobilization that actually would help to fix the food system.  It's not only the very important things that you highlighted, but the way to marshal all the resources we're deploying in ways that are obviously going to need to be more effective than we currently see them being.

And so how do we create that kind of -- that isn't just a champion, it isn't just a spokesperson -- although it may start with that.  But are we willing to commit ourselves and our own sometimes more parochial institutional and organizational goals in order to create that kind of leverage and mobilize that kind of movement -- which is going to take more than a champion?  That's my question and concern.

GARRETT:  Ann?

QUESTIONER:  Thank you -- (inaudible) -- I think that begins to build as part of the bigger picture.  And I think -- I mean, we're dealing with a significant crisis situation here which I think is tied in with all of the things that are talked about in terms of early warning and, you know, where is the agricultural system working and so forth.

But I think it is indicative of a much larger issue that is coming together increasingly, that people are starting to understand, and that is the intersection of agriculture and food production with climate change, with water and with nutrition.  If you can't see all of these come together -- and it's not just pieces; it's the full piece.  And humans can't live without water and they can't live without food, so all of these issues are interconnected.

I think that, you know -- and we need to look, as we look at the situation in the Horn of Africa, we need to look at how these issues are interconnected.  Obviously, you know, when you look at Darfur, I mean, part of it is the conflicts between those who are crop farmers and those who are pastoralists.

I had a -- I was in -- I was in Kenya, I think it was 2005 or 2006, when they were having the last of the famine kind of situation in that whole Horn.  And -- (inaudible) -- conversation that was very interesting that kind of ties these issues together, and that is with someone from the U.N. Environment Program, talking about the fact that the way people -- because there's not very many banks, within -- (inaudible) -- I'm trying to figure out how that all works, but people get richer by having more animals.  If you look at the studies of FAO, animals contribute to climate change, which then contributes to a cycle of less productivity, less water and so forth.

So I think we need to begin to look at some of the interconnection of these issues and how what's going on in parts of these countries may be coming together, at the same time we're looking at ways to effectively increase agricultural production.

I think that, also, on the investment of agriculture land by other countries -- I mean, this is clearly part of the reason that we have a coup in Madagascar; it was the Koreans' investment in rice land.

But -- and this happens.  I mean, it's -- you're right, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, whatever.  I mean, some people will call it a land grab. Some people say it's an economic development program for these countries.

But one of the things I don't see happening is international organizations coming together and trying to figure out, how can we help countries negotiate with these other countries or organizations that are coming in to invest to get -- if you're going to, you know, set up large farming, what does -- what does the -- what does the country, the Ethiopias of the world, get out of it?  In other words, how do we help countries negotiate the return that they get for that investment?  So whether it's this many jobs, this kind of product is going to stay in the country and so on and so forth -- and I don't think anybody's doing that.

And it's also related, I think, to the fact that if we don't look at what the private sector is doing and the investment that's going on in agriculture -- which can be very positive for rural communities. The bulk of extension agents today aren't in the government.  They're in the private sector.  So the largest food company in the world has almost 15,000 extension agents and a thousand abroad.  And that's only one company.  So if we began to look at -- and AID is now beginning to look at how do we partner with the private sector and sort of build these alliances.  How do we get international organizations in development to partner together to build on that expertise, to build local food production at the same time you may be growing coffee and so forth?  I think there's intersections that can be made there.

I think -- the other thing on the grain prices that are going to continue to go up, you not only have most -- a huge proportion of the grain going into ethanol, it's also going into animal feed.

So again, looking at animal -- an animals use a huge more amount of grain than if you simply feed that to humans.

And then tying that into the nutrition aspect, I think not enough work has really been done to tie agriculture into nutrition, to really say what are the -- what are the nutritional requirements?  What are the local -- what are the locally produced kinds of foods that can be grown that produce that kind of nutrition?

We came in -- up with WFP into a problem where actually the WFP rations for small children were not -- were still calling -- causing malnutrition because they didn't have any nutrients in them.  And so we began to figure out how to -- to put the micronutrients in.  But I mean, I think this intersection of how do you really look is agriculture producing nutrition for the people is another area that needs a lot more attention and hasn't gotten enough of it in the past.

GARRETT:  Thank you.  It's policy here at the council to try to end on time, and we're a little over, so I apologize to you -- I didn't get to your question -- and to any of you that had a burning thought.  I hope that you'll stick with it, and perhaps this roundtable series will extend into the future.

Once again, this will be on cfr.org before the end of the week. Yes, Zoe?

STAFF:  By early next week.

GARRETT:  By early next week.  So if you had value in it that you'd like to encourage your members or associates to take a read, it will be available.

Thank you very much.  Thanks to our speakers.  (Applause.)   

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