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Decent Work Key to Food Security

ROME, Dec 9 2011 (IPS) - Basic income security and access to social services can improve food production and consumption in the developing world, which can be boosted by South-South cooperation.

Decent jobs and social protection are effective instruments in addressing the issue of food insecurity, specifically for the nearly one billion people suffering from chronic hunger worldwide.

“Strategies that invest in decent and productive employment and social protection can accelerate economic growth, stimulate food production, and provide incomes to allow large parts of the population to exit poverty and food insecurity,” said Alette van Leur, director of the Sectoral Activities Department at the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

“We all know that jobs are the best way out of poverty, and these have to be decent jobs of course,” van Leur told IPS on the sideline of a forum to showcase innovative solutions and mechanisms to improve food security through decent work and social protection.

The forum was part of the fourth annual Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo), a U.N. system-wide forum developed by the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation held in Rome Monday Dec. 5 through Friday Dec. 9.

“Food security is so well embedded in the decent work agenda – it is about the production of food but also the economic access to food, which requires cash for people who do not produce food themselves,” van Leur said.


The decent work agenda, developed by the ILO, includes creating jobs, guaranteeing rights at work, extending social protection and promoting social dialogue. “It is an extremely powerful strategy to improve the livelihood of people all around the globe; it is an integrated approach to development, it impacts on the lives of people through work but also working conditions,” she said.

The ILO is a tripartite constituency of workers, employers and governments working together to shape a social policy agenda in the South. “We don’t deal with high level government officials; we deal with people who stand with both feet on the ground and who actually work towards a better life for themselves and for their families.”

According to van Leur, the South-South cooperation experience is based on solidarity, on the exchange of experiences, in line with the expectations of workers, employers and governments, “who want to learn from each other on a solidarity basis.”

Vicenta Trotman is a community leader and a member of the Administrative Board of Rural Water Supply in the Ngäbe-Buglé indigenous territory of the No-Kribo region in Panama. She told IPS about her experience with bringing safe water to the most isolated part of the community, working exclusively with indigenous people and in cooperation with neighbouring communities.

Trotman said that 50 percent of the local population is actively involved and has benefited from the water and sanitation programme.

“Nine communities are involved in the project overall, and in my community, 35 out of 50 workers are women,” she said. The programme brings access to efficient water and sanitation services to the most excluded groups, through the participation of the entire community, who are trained to build their own water systems.

“Food insecurity is interlinked with virtually all of the other major challenges we face today: poverty, hunger, health, environment and climate change, social, political and economic inequality, gender and education. And the burden and the cost of food insecurity are being bourne most heavily by Southern countries,” Yiping Zhou, director of the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, said this week at the GSSD Expo.

According to Yiping, the right policies, solutions and technologies are there already, but they are not available to those who need them the most. “What is most needed now is to find solutions to development challenges through capacity development and through greater social protections, among other things,” he said.

But in order for South-based solutions to food insecurity and to common development challenges to be sustainable and replicable, there is a need for a joint, global effort, not only in the South. “Partnership” seems to be the keyword here – between countries, within the United Nations system and multilateral institutions, and between civil society and the private sector.

The same call was reiterated last week at the global conference on aid effectiveness in Busan, South Korea.

“In Busan last week the developing countries were the dynamic force, they were there demanding that they own their programmes, and that basically the developed countries respect that and work with them; if they don’t have the capacity, then help them develop the capacity,” Brian Atwood, chair of the Development Assistance Committee at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), told IPS.

“Even the so called fragile states said they want to be judged on the basis of different criteria that knows who are better developed, who can actually achieve the MDGs. So I think we have seen a major shift to the South, there was a great recognition of South South cooperation in the Busan document and the idea that we should be complementing one another: North-South and South-South (cooperation),” he said.

“It is going to take a while for the outcome document to be read by everyone, but I think it will be seen as historic in the long run, we’ve established a new global partnership,” he added.

Some months back, the DAC passed a resolution about the need to enhance dialogue with the new emerging economies and new providers of assistance, without any required preconditions.

“We are listening carefully to developing countries who are telling us: we want you to implement the Paris principles (on aid effectiveness), the principles of ownership, alignment and harmonisation. And that message came through very loudly in Busan,” Atwood said.

As regards North-South cooperation, it will continue as long as there is poverty in the world, according to Atwood. “I hope we won’t need the DAC in fifty years, but poverty is a long-term challenge and we have to meet that challenge; the counties in the North feel an obligation but also an interest in having more growth and prosperity and more peace in the developing world.”

 
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