A number of actions correlate with better compliance – which comes at a crucial moment, with agriculture and food systems security closely intertwined with social stability and climate change, among other areas
For its G20 2021 presidency, Italy has committed to boost investments for food security, nutrition and sustainable food systems, and accelerate the adaptation of agriculture and food systems to climate change. The presidency has noted that poverty alleviation, food security and sustainable food systems are key to ending hunger, as well as encouraging social cohesion and community development.
Since 2008, G20 summits have devoted 13,965 words to food and agriculture in their communiqués, for an average of 931 words at each summit. The lowest total of 35 words was in 2008 and the highest of 4,951 words was in 2017. The annual total declined considerably from 2018 to 2020.
Food and agriculture became a major topic at G20 summits under Turkish leadership in 2015 and German leadership in 2017. The 2015 Antalya Summit produced a standalone document on food and agriculture, emphasising the need to improve global food security, nutrition and the sustainability of food systems. At Hamburg in 2017, G20 leaders focused on achieving food security and water sustainability. They also launched the G20 Initiative for Rural Youth Employment to increase incomes and quality employment in food systems.
Between 2018 and 2020, G20 members devoted only 867 words on food and agriculture, on average 4% at each summit.
From 2008 to 2020, the G20 made 126 commitments on food and agriculture, as identified by the G20 Research Group. The first such commitment was made in 2009 at Pittsburgh. In 2010 at Toronto, it made two commitments and at Seoul it made two. At Cannes in 2011, the number of commitments spiked to 36. Here, the G20 committed to support the Action Plan on Food Price Volatility and Agriculture. G20 leaders also committed to improve food security and support research and development on agricultural productivity. In 2015, the G20 made 31 food and agriculture commitments and in 2017 made 22. Between 2018 to 2020, a total of only 12 commitments were made.
Compliance averaged 73% with 10 food and agriculture commitments made between 2010 and 2018, as assessed by the G20 Research Group. It started at 60% with commitments made at Toronto in 2010, rose to 78% with the 2011 commitments, then followed with 68% with the 2012 commitments, 90% with the 2013 commitments, 45% with the 2015 commitments and 68% with the 2017 commitments. Compliance with the 2018 commitments peaked at 84%.
By member, compliance was led by the great agricultural exporters of Canada at 95%, Argentina at 90% and Brazil at 85%, followed by France, Italy, India and the European Union each at 80%, and then the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Australia each at 75%. Below the 73% average came Indonesia and Russia each with 70%, Mexico with 65%, Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia and Turkey each with 60%, and China and South Africa each with 55%.
Causes and corrections
The five commitments with above average compliance averaged a very high 88%, and the four below-average compliance of a very low 57%.
The five assessed commitments that were not preceded by a meeting of G20 agriculture ministers in the year they were made averaged 77%, and the five with such a ministerial meeting averaged 68%. This suggests compliance increases when G20 leaders decide to govern food and agriculture by themselves alone.
The seven assessed commitments with low binding verbs, such as ‘reaffirm’ averaged 83% compliance. The three commitments with highly binding verbs, such as ‘we will’ averaged compliance of only 68%.
The one siloed commitment dealing only with food security had 60% compliance. The synergistic ones with links to prices and trade averaged 85%, and those to malnutrition 90%, and to information and communications technology 85%. But commitments linked to environmental sustainability had only 66% and those linked to jobs for women and youth only 45%.
The one commitment that referred to the core international organisation of the World Food Programme averaged compliance of 98%. The four that referred to a G20 partnership, action plan or framework averaged 85%.
These very limited findings suggest that to improve compliance with their food and agriculture commitments, G20 leaders should make fewer commitments that link to the environment and jobs, make more commitments that refer to their own initiatives and the WFP, and make food and agriculture a summit priority of their own rather than relying on their agriculture ministers to do the job.