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OAS General Assembly: Member States Agree Steps Must be Taken to Improve Food Security

  June 5, 2012

The member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS), meeting in Cochabamba, Bolivia, have underscored the need for action to improve food security in the Americas, including current and future proposals to provide their citizens with access to abundant, safe, and nutritious food.

This was the consensus coming out of the second plenary of the forty-second OAS General Assembly. The plenary ran from Monday into Tuesday.

The heads of delegation of Haiti, Nicaragua, United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, Honduras, Panama, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominican Republic, and Grenada gave an overview of existing obstacles to food security, noting steps taken by their countries to combat malnutrition and chronic hunger. The member state representatives also pledged to seek regional solutions, through the OAS.


Haiti’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Lamothe, thanked the countries of the region for helping his country deal with the devastating effects of the earthquake that struck in January 2010. After a massive effort, he said, “we are now beginning to sense a new breath of life in Haiti. The government that I am honored to lead has set itself a basic priority of fighting extreme poverty.” The Haitian prime minister also spoke about his government’s plans to eradicate illiteracy, and, as regards food security, said “it is also undoubtedly one of the major goals we have set ourselves in our country, together with the elimination of poverty and inequalities that affect our population.”


The Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the OAS, Ambassador Denis Moncada, described the issue of food security as “especially important for the government of Nicaragua, given its impact on health, nutrition, and in the economic, social, political, and cultural arenas in our country, and on the protection of Mother Earth, which leads us to ‘living well,' the material and spiritual balance in harmony with nature, with itself, and with others.” Ambassador Moncada stressed the urgent need to confront the threat posed by food insecurity and the need for sovereignty in that area. “By strengthening food sovereignty, we are ensuring that we can feed our people through their own internal efforts,” he said, summarizing his government’s achievements in incorporating new families as producers in the countryside and reducing the inequality gap in Nicaragua.

United States

Ambassador Carmen Lomellin, Permanent Representative of the United States to the OAS, spoke about her country’s efforts to tackle world hunger, the obstacles that this challenge presents, and possible avenues to solution in the Americas. She explained that the United States was deeply committed to food security, noting that, shortly after taking office President Obama spoke about tackling global hunger and food security as one of the top priorities of his administration. Real food security, explained Ambassador Lomellin, depends on eliminating barriers to trade in agricultural products. The United States representative concluded by expressing her hope that the Assembly would mark a turning point to guide member states to return to their core values and to work together.

Trinidad and Tobago

Ambassador Neil Parsan, Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago to the OAS, said that food security was ultimately the responsibility of each national government, and should be reflected as a priority in the budgets of each country. He said the issue of food security, combined with the intrinsic vulnerability of our region, constitutes a serious threat to the wellbeing of our peoples. The Caribbean diplomat lamented his country’s high level of dependence on foreign food sources, but was optimistic about the future. Trinidad and Tobago remained optimistic that, with national, hemispheric, and international action, we can ensure that our citizens have reliable access to the food they need, Ambassador Parsan stated.


The Foreign Minister of Guyana, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, warned that food insecurity represented scary problems for humanity, and could unfold more quickly than expected. Part of the problem she identified as a gap between food production and demand due to the nature of international food trade and price volatility. She said her delegation had therefore urged the OAS to strengthen coordination with IICA (Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture) to promote research and development, strengthen national capacities, and promote science, technology, and innovation.


The Permanent Representative of Suriname to the OAS, Niermala Hindori-Badrising, said that the issue of food security and access to food should be a priority in national and international policies. In that regard, she said that food security in our region depended on prices and their impact on the accessibility to food, especially for the most vulnerable groups, which explains why our region was the most unequal in the world. The Surinamese diplomat added that one measure to solve this problem was regional and international cooperation, and an obvious need to invest in agricultural technology. According to Ambassador Hindori-Badrising, priority must be given to public-private partnership to promote these policies. She predicted that food security-related issues would continue to occupy the agenda of countries.


Mireya Agüero Corrales, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Honduras, said she was “pleased” with the choice of food security as the central theme of the General Assembly. She added that this was a matter of “national priority for all countries” and recalled that her government had prepared a national food security strategy for the period 2010-2022. “The introduction of this theme as emblematic of this Assembly makes it a matter of ongoing interest,” she said. Vice Minister Agüero Corrales said, “as a first step, the administration of President Porfirio Lobo has expressed its commitment to food security, approving a decree declaring it a national priority.” As an example of that commitment, she cited the policies focused on helping the most vulnerable groups in Honduras.

St. Kitts and Nevis

Ambassador Jacinth Henry-Martin of St. Kitts and Nevis said that because of the impact of natural disasters on food production, her country has needed to seek international help to manage and mitigate the risks caused by natural disasters. Even amidst the growing uncertainty in the global food market characterized by natural disasters, reliance on biofuels, and escalating food prices, this hemisphere has been able to feed itself, she noted. Ambassador Henry-Martin added that dialogue among the nations of the Americas should be the way to reconcile differences. There is no cost whatsoever but, to the contrary, it is always worth the cost of investing in peace, she said.


“Hunger is the cruelest sign of poverty,” said the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in the Official Mission of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama, Mayra Arosemena, who explained that her country had already produced a Food Security Plan in 2009. She cited statistics from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), showing that in Latin America and the Caribbean more than 52 million people were hungry, and that worldwide, more than 900 million people were so classified. “Worldwide, 40% of food was wasted," she complained. Ambassador Arosemena also said her government was committed to the Millennium Development Goals proposed by the United Nations "to eradicate poverty and hunger".

Dominican Republic

The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Dominican Republic, César Dargan, reaffirmed the special attention that his country attaches to the need to promote agricultural development to strengthen food security in the context of national, regional, and international development policies, taking into account the importance of modernization and technological innovation. He said his country "hopes to work actively with other OAS member states for the Declaration of Cochabamba to be a real tool for promoting and strengthening food security in the hemisphere. Our citizens cannot be guaranteed health without adequate food.” The deputy minister touched as well on the draft resolution that his country had submitted to the General Assembly for consideration, recognizing the need for improved regulation and proper operation and transparency of financial markets and commodity markets to address excessive price volatility.


The Permanent Representative of Grenada to the OAS, Gillian Bristol, congratulated the government of Bolivia for choosing the theme of food security, and urged the countries of the hemisphere to implement effective policies to ensure that no one suffer from hunger any more. Ambassador Bristol said we must move quickly to achieve this right. She cited that agribusiness as one of the five pillars of her country’s economic development, adding that, based on agriculture, the Caribbean nation has developed small farms and fisheries – sectors that, together with tourism, have the potential to strengthen the economy of Grenada. Ambassador Bristol said that Grenada was pledging to undertake with the other OAS member states a commitment to collaborating on agricultural innovation, renewable resource management, marketing, and control of price volatility in the hemisphere.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The video of the event is available here.

The audio of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-207/12