Food for Thought: A civil society assessment on the state of play of the implementation of the Charter for Food Crisis Prevention and Management in the Sahel and West Africa | Food Security | Crisis

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Oxfam has come together with civil society organisations across the Sahel to assess how well countries are faring in their commitment to more effectively tackle food insecurity. In February 2012, governments across the Sahel and West Africa adopted a Charter for the Prevention and Management of Food Crises, which laid out key commitments for all actors involved – including national governments, regional organisations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society.  The 2012 food crisis in the Sahel, the fourth time the region has been struck by crisis in just seven years,  provided the first critical test of the extent to which the Charter’s principles would be upheld. The report provides a snapshot of current performance, as well as a roadmap for reform in the future. The analysis underlines that, although a number of steps forward have been taken, and in particular the humanitarian response in 2012 was more effective than past responses, there is still substantial room for improvement. The Charter and the report’s findings underscore the important role to be played by governments. Yet, all too often, governments are prevented from playing this role as a result of a lack of consistent financial support, inadequate technical capacity and, crucially, insufficient political leadership. As a result, donors and international agencies respond to fill these gaps – playing a vital role in saving lives, but all too often in parallel to efforts by national actors, creating unnecessary duplication and failing to build national capacity for future responses. For an efficient and sustainable improvement in the way in which food crises are managed, a step change in the system of governance will be required.
      2 1. INTRODUCTION The Sahel region has historically suffered from chronic food insecurity, punctuated by peaks of suffering triggered by extreme weather events  –  droughts and flooding. Rather than the situation improving, the frequency and severity of crises in the region appears to be increasing. In just the last 7 years the region has experienced four severe food crises  –  in 2005, 2008, 2010 and again in 2012. People’s ability to withstand these shocks is also diminishing. Population growth, climate change and food price volatility have combined to undermine the fundamental coping mechanisms. Crises occur with such frequency that communities do not have time to fully recover from the previous crisis before facing the next. The 2012 crisis graphically demonstrates that even moderate shocks - leading to slightly lower than average production, and increases in prices  –  can be enough to send populations over the edge. Yet, whilst droughts and floods are inevitable, the disasters that ensue can be avoided. Food insecurity in the region has been aggravated by poor governance, under-investment in marginalised areas and a failure to introduce the right set of policies to both prevent and effectively manage food crises. Examples exist from across the globe of countries that have succeeded in adopting disaster management measures that have reduced the risks their populations face. In the Sahel, investments have been made by governments, regional organisations and donors to construct functioning early warning systems and improve the governance of food security. The combined efforts of national governments, regional organizations, technical and financial partners and civil society could make a critical difference. It is possible to break the cycle of hunger. 2. BACKGROUND Introducing the Charter It was in this vein that the Food Crisis Prevention Network (RCPA), member countries of the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) and donor members of the Club du Sahel came together to tackle these issues and adopted in 1990 the Food Aid Charter. In view of the prevailing food insecurity in the region, it was agreed to review and update the Charter, culminating in the Charter for the Prevention and Management of Food Crises 1  adopted by ECOWAS Heads of State at the beginning of 2012. The Charter was also signed by the Mauritanian and Chadian Government. 1   Further information about the Charter can be found on the OECD website - This site includes links to the full text of the srcinal Food Aid Charter as well as the updated version of the Charter.     3 The Charter is a comprehensive and ambitious text that provides a clear & commonly agreed set of responsibilities and recommendations across key sectors. It includes specific commitments for all those involved in food crisis management and prevention, recognising the role each signatory must play in order to bring about the whole of system reform that will be required. Civil society welcomed the adoption of this charter as an opportunity to inject fresh momentum in a long-standing political debate that is central to the future well-being and prosperity of citizens across the region. We believe the Charter can provide a unique toolkit for making an objective assessment of the systems in place and a clear framework to hold all signatories to account for their actions. Taking stock  –  Management of the 2011/2012 Food Crisis As the finishing touches were being put on the Charter, warnings of the latest food crisis in the region were emerging. Over 18 million people in 9 countries across the region have been affected by food insecurity in 2011-2012. This latest crisis provides a first critical test of the extent to which the principles of the charter are being applied in the region. Since May 2012, civil society in Burkina, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal came together to assess the response to the latest crisis and see to what extent it lives up to the principles of the Charter. On the back of extensive national research, debate and advocacy, civil society leaders from each country came together in Niamey at the beginning of November to develop a collective regional analysis. This report offers the insights and opinions of civil society groups  –  organisations that have been involved in the response to this crisis, organisations that represent interest THE CHARTER FOR THE PREVENTION & MANAGEMENT OF FOOD CRISES IN SAHEL AND WEST AFRICA Areas of action - Pillar 1: Information and Analysis of the Food & Nutrition Security Situation - Pillar 2: Consultation and Coordination - Pillar 3: Consensual Analysis for Choosing Food & Nutrition Crisis Prevention and Management Tools - Food Aid and Assistance in Response to Food & Nutrition Crises - Assessing and Monitoring the Application of the Charter Participating countries 15 ECOWAS Member States plus Mauritania and Chad. Signatories National governments, inter-governmental organisations, donors, agencies and   4 groups such as farmers’ organisations sometimes marginalised from mainstream debate on food security policies and organisations that represent those communities most affected by food insecurity in the region. In providing this perspective, our objective is to promote greater awareness and accountability for the commitments made. With this report, we hope to stimulate further debate and progress on the Charter, and create momentum for the urgent reform required. It is important to note that the report does not claim to provide a fully comprehensive analysis. The report only covers six of the 17 countries that are signatories to the Charter. By focussing on countries affected by the 2011/2012 food crisis, the report deliberately focuses on the management part of the Charter’s commitments. At the outset, groups had planned to draw up a regional scorecard, with an assessment of performance by a set of objective indicator for each country. However, it became apparent that such a comparative exercise would be difficult without further work to develop a common methodology and support to boost the technical capacity of civil society to assess these trends. This is something we shall seek to achieve in subsequent monitoring exercises. In the meantime, we believe the analysis will nonetheless provide an invaluable snapshot of the state of play of the implementation of the Charter. The remainder of the report is divided into three sections: a.   REGIONAL ANALYSIS.  The first section presents an overview of the progress and challenges in the implementation of the food crisis management principles in the 6 participating countries with respect to the Charter’s 5 main areas of commitments, -   Pillar 1 Information & Analysis -   Pillar 2 Consultation & Coordination -   Pillar 3 Consensual Analysis -   Food Aid & Assistance -   Assessing & Monitoring b.   COUNTRY ANALYSIS. A snapshot of the performance of each country assessed - the specific context of the country, areas of strength and areas for further improvement.  c.   CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS.  The final section draws conclusions from this analysis. It puts forward a set of recommendations to all signatories of the Charter on how to ensure its further implementation in order to bring about more effective management of food crises in the region.
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