If all goes as planned for the G-20 this year, leaders of the world's most powerful economies will convene to issue bold proclamations, talk past each other, and quietly agree to do virtually nothing. The stakes might be a little higher now, though, as the political poker table will be stacked with millions of the world's hungriest people. Guess who'll come away empty handed?
World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned at a recent World Bank-IMF meeting that the planet was hurtling toward a food crisis, akin to the chaos that erupted in 2007-2008 across the Global South. The context this time is in some ways more daunting: a perfect storm of social and economic upheaval in North Africa and the Middle East, natural and nuclear disasters in Japan, debt crises in Europe and the U.S., and epidemic unemployment worldwide.
In the past year, Zoellick said, soaring food prices have plunged some 44 million people into poverty. Another ten million would become impoverished with just a 10 percent further rise in the UN's food price index, which jumped by 25 percent last year. Poor regions hover on the brink of malnourishment due to depleted safety nets and broken emergency back-up resources.