Leaders focus on rising food prices, opportunities for women

At the annual leaders’ dinner in the WFP tent on Thursday evening, about 70 heads of industry, politics, academia and international organizations  discussed high global food prices, export bans on agriculture, improving nutrition for children under age two and opportunities for women.

There was very little ‘small talk’ around the table at the annual leaders’ dinner in the WFP tent at Davos on Thursday evening. About 70 heads of industry, politics, academia and international organizations dived straight into the big issues of the day: high global food prices, export bans on agriculture, improving nutrition for children under age two and the role of women in boosting food security.
Everyone needs to work together in the fight against hunger, said WFP’s Executive Director Josette Sheeran, who led the discussion.  “I know from experience that we simply cannot do this alone. From Haiti to Pakistan to the Philippines, when disaster strikes, we need the private sector’s support, their innovation, their nutritious food products, their logistics support.” 

The need to create opportunities for women to take part in their national economies was a strong theme in the conversation that followed. 

“Women are 53 per cent of our population. If you don’t deal with the problems of that 53 per cent; if they are not fully integrated – then you are part of the problem,” said Rwandan President Paul Kagame (see photo top right, with Josette Sheeran and UN Secretary General ban Ki-moon copyright WFP/Rein Skullerud). Rwanda is noted for having 56 per cent women in its parliament.

President Kagame also called for more agricultural development and support for farmers in Africa,  noting that a majority of arable land remains uncultivated.  

High food prices

Robert Zoellick, the President of the World Bank, outlined the actions needed to combat  the impact of the current rise in global food prices, including improved social safety nets: “We need more of a focus on the most vulnerable, such as children during their first 1000 days -- from conception to two years -- and on pregnant and lactating mothers.” 

Zoellick also called for better long-range weather forecasting to  improve agricultural outputs,  more transparency about global food reserves and the possible establishment of special grain reserves in vulnerable areas, and the exclusion of humanitarian food from commodity export bans.

UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon called on the private sector to “do even more” to help find solutions to global issues. He then announced that the newest WFP “Ambassador Against Hunger” will be Peter Bakker, CEO of  TNT, the global transport giant and WFP private sector partner since 2003.

“Thank you for this incredible honour. I’m here because it is not acceptable that every six seconds a child dies of hunger. All of you in this room have influence: I call on all of you here to use your influence to help end this tragedy,” said Mr. Bakker. Read statement by WFP Executive Director