* World Summit on Food Security, Rome, 16-18 November 2009

AIDA was among the few NGOs to be invited to attend the recent World Food Summit on Food Security (WSFS) organized and hosted by FAO, having had consultative status with the Rome-based specialised agency for almost 40 years. AIDA was represented by its Honorary Chairman, Dominique Alhéritière, who attended the 3 days of the Summit at the Headquarters of FAO at Caracalla. He also attended one session of the NGOs Forum held in the Testaccio area.

This was the 4th time in the past 13 years that FAO had been approaching the highest levels of its Member Nations to try to make a breakthrough in the fight against hunger. This time was particularly dramatic as the number of people suffering from hunger had exceeded 1 billion while the first Summit held in 1996 had the ambition to lower this figure to 400 million by 2015. Thirty five Heads of State and Government attended the Summit.

A new 6-page Declaration was adopted which, for the matters of direct interest to AIDA, mentions water only twice: first as a resource to be accessed in a sustainable way, and second as a limitation in the expansion of food production in view of the scarcity of the resource and the already huge share taken by agriculture in water uses. However, the 18-page background document on “Feeding the World, Eradicating Hunger” gives more importance to water as it is mentioned 25 times. Water is seen as a constraint, a limitation in food production, as well as a “victim” of agriculture which oftens contributes heavily to groundwater pollution and to the depletion of the resource. This translates in a call for water-use efficiency and therefore, implicitly, for improved water legislation, although nowhere is the expression “water law”, “water legislation” or “water regulation” mentioned. The NGOs working document “Policies and actions to eradicate hunger and malnutrition” does not do much better as it refers to water policy/law only twice, once to promote the participation of small-scale food providers in the formulation of such policies, and a second time to call for the respect of customary laws.

All this is quite disappointing! Certainly, sound-water legislation should be a central issue in the debate for achieving food security. The drafters of the WSFS documents will argue that this is implicitly recognised. It would have been better to make the matter clear and explicit. The participation of the oldest NGO dedicated to the promotion of water law was therefore most appropriate.