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Munk School of Global Affairs

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Building Food Security and Business Opportunity Together

Dr. John Kirton, Co-Director, G20 Research Group, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto;
Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China
Co-editor, G20 Australia Summit: Brisbane (forthcoming from Newsdesk Media)
July 17, 2014

Hunger can be a subject of hope and opportunity as business and the World Food Programme work together to meet the "zero hunger in our lifetime" goal and build market opportunities at the same time. So said Ertharin Cousin, head of the WFP in her contribution to the Business 20 Summit in Sydney today.

Fifty years ago, when the WFP was founded, China was its largest beneficiary and the Republic of Korea a significant one. Now China is no longer a food aid recipient and Korea has become one of the top 20 donors to the WFP. So zero hunger has been a proven success for some and can be a realistic hope for all.

Growth alone will not do it, for many barriers prevent the benefits from trickling down to nourish all. That's why rich countries like the United States still have social safety nets, Cousin said, and why India's emerging economy co-exists with a population in which much malnutrition remains. The message to the G20 governors is clear: private sector–led growth needs smart social protection policy built in to get the job done. The WFP is ready to work with them to this end.

Equal access and opportunity for women, especially the most vulnerable, is a key part of the solution, Cousin stressed. When help is given to the 500 million women and children who suffer globally from hunger and chronic malnutrition, their entire families and communities benefit as well.
 
As the head of an international organization that depends entirely on voluntary contributions, Cousin will not turn down responsible donations from business or anyone else. But she has come to the B20 looking for and offering so much more. From business she seeks technical expertise and market research. She offers in return the WFP's procurement program and the new sources of supply it has developed among smallholder farmers to strengthen firms' supply chains and the quality and quantity of the products they provide. Firms such as Unilever and DSM have partnered with the WFP in such ways, to proven success for both.
 
B20 summits usually see the private sector bringing their demands to the public sector international institutions of the G20 and its multilateral organizational allies like the WFP. But Cousin has arrived with opportunities for business — a very model of the public-private partnership that the B20 and G20 alike are looking for.

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