UN food agency leaders hail U.S. law aimed at boosting global food security, resilience, nutrition

A rice paddy in Bangladesh. Building the resilience of food systems today can help ensure global food security tomorrow. ©FAO/ Munir Uz Zaman

FAO and WFP say law will greatly enhance worldwide efforts to combat hunger and rural poverty

Leaders of two United Nations agencies fighting hunger worldwide have applauded new legislation in the United States aimed at strengthening global food assistance programs in the years ahead.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) praised U.S. President Barack Obama for his 20 July signing of the Global Food Security Act (GFSA), after the bill was passed by the U.S. Congress on 6 July with remarkably broad support.

«The United States is helping to put and even stronger emphasis on how food security and economic development are intertwined, while stressing the central role of small-scale family farmers in the fight against hunger and poverty,» said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

«This law will have a dramatic impact on the lives of people throughout world, showing once again why the United States is a leader in promoting food security and helping those who struggle to feed their families so they can start to build their own future,» says WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.

Strongly promoted by President Obama, the GFSA supports initiatives that focus on developing agriculture, assisting small-scale food producers and improving nutrition, especially for women and children worldwide. It also seeks improve the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene to poor communities and build their resilience to withstand shocks, such as those stemming from conflict, droughts and floods.

Among other things, the GFSA writes into law the Feed the Future programme, the U.S. government’s global hunger initiative, ensuring it will continue after the Obama presidency ends in January. Feed the Future helps countries struggling to provide their citizens with adequate access to food. It emphasizes the needs of smallholder farmers, particularly women, and has supported WFP’s work in Uganda and other places.

The GFSA also authorizes for the first time USAID’s International Disaster Assistance (IDA) and Emergency Food Security Program (EFSP). This means future White House administrations and future Congresses could more easily make cash assistance available to people experiencing hunger unexpectedly, due to causes such as natural disasters or war.

And the law aims to improve coordination among various U.S. agencies providing overseas aid, to ensure the wisest possible spending practices. The U.S. is the largest bilateral donor to both FAO and WFP.

The bill was passed with bipartisan support, meaning by members of both the Democratic and Republican parties, during a time of great division in U.S. politics. It was sponsored by U.S. Representatives Chris Smith and Betty McCollum and by U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson and Bob Casey.