Learning about the Food Assistance Convention and its history

Friday, May 27, 2022
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The Food Assistance Convention (FAC) is a global agreement between 15 countries and the European Union to respond to food needs in countries facing high levels of hunger. Canada is the third largest donor to the Convention.

The Food Assistance Convention is important, as it is the only forum where food assistance donors and organizations regularly meet to learn from each other and collaborate to improve the quality of global programs and policy.

The idea for the Convention goes back more than 50 years. Several countries agreed to the original Food Aid Convention in 1967 and renegotiated it in 1991.

In the early days, donors shipped grain and food products from their own country to respond to emergency food needs in other countries. Their commitments to the Convention reflected this and were made in tons of wheat equivalents. Over time, it became obvious that this wasn’t the most efficient way to operate. Shipping was slow and expensive, the shipped grain was not always appropriate for local diets, and the shipments often had a depressing effect on local and regional markets.

By 2008, Canada and other donors had stopped shipping in-kind food products. The Food Aid Convention was so outdated, it looked like countries might walk away from it. But the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and other civil society organizations encouraged countries to renegotiate it, rather than drop it, believing there was value in an updated agreement.

It’s now been more than 12 years since Canada fully untied its food aid to developing countries.

In 2013, the food aid donors agreed to an expanded treaty and renamed it the Food Assistance Convention. It allows for different types of food assistance including cash, vouchers and livelihood products such as seeds, tools and livestock for milk. The term food assistance reflects the broader international support now offered in situations of emergency food need.

Each year, parties to the agreement make a minimum annual commitment, which allows those responding to global hunger, to plan more effectively. The 16 parties of the Food Assistance Convention are: Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, European Union, Finland, France, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Russian Federation, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.

Canada has performed well as a major contributor, consistently ranking third in both the minimum commitment and actual assistance distributed by member of the Food Assistance Convention. Since 2013, Canada’s minimum annual commitment has been C$250 million.

This article was published in the spring 2022 edition of Breaking Bread. 

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