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Ensuring food security remains a high-level priority

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2011 saw many changes for the Secretary's Office of Global Food Security and several advances in our international agenda. I joined the growing team in June, and am proud of our progress over the year. I eagerly anticipate more accomplishments as we take the reins of the L'Aquila Food Security Initiative (AFSI) group and through U.S. leadership of the G-8 in 2012.

AFSI signatories' endorsement of the L'Aquila Joint Statement on Global Food Security at the 2009 G-8 Summit marked a turning point for international efforts to achieve sustainable global food security. Under the Joint Statement, the United States and other donors agreed to be accountable for delivering a comprehensive approach to improving food security, which entails effective coordination, support for country-owned processes and plans, and engagement of multilateral institutions to promote food security worldwide. President Obama's L'Aquila pledge of $3.5 billion became Feed the Future, the U.S. government's global hunger and food security initiative. These reversed decades of underinvestment in food security, especially agricultural development and preventative nutrition.

This year Feed the Future continued to build bridges between short- and long-term food security, and demonstrated early signs of success in improving nutrition in early life. Conceived as a new approach to agricultural development, Feed the Future promotes development along the entire agricultural value chain—from farms to markets to consumers—and market growth. Feed the Future encompasses all U.S. government agricultural investments and changes the structure and focus of such investments to avoid a myopic focus on increased food production alone. We also incorporate high-leverage interventions, such as those related to improved nutrition and women's empowerment. Through this comprehensive approach, Feed the Future is on track to achieve greater success in the short and long term than has been seen from agriculture investments in previous decades.

The scale and scope of the drought and subsequent famine in the Horn of Africa brought the need for these investments into sharp focus for the world. As Secretary Clinton pointed out in her August 2011 speech at the International Food Policy Research Institute, although droughts are natural occurrences, famines are man-made. The famine in the Horn of Africa is still the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world today, and its effects are far reaching. Yet, glimmers of hope can be found. Although still unacceptably high, the number of people affected in Ethiopia and Kenya is less than half that affected in previous droughts. Both countries have also demonstrated commendable leadership and investment in their own agriculture sectors. And although the United States has dedicated more than $870 million in emergency relief funds to the most severely affected areas, we will continue to invest in long-term solutions in the region and worldwide through FTF to try to prevent droughts from becoming famines ever again.

The 1,000 Days partnership also grew substantially this year and continues to promote improved nutrition during the 1,000 days from pregnancy through age two, when adequate nutrition has the greatest impact on a child's cognitive and physical development. Thousanddays.org was re-launched as a portal for the international nutrition community, and the 1,000 Days Hub was created to better coordinate and mobilize public and private nutrition partners. Secretary Clinton continued her strong support for early life nutrition at the U.N. General Assembly in 2011 by speaking at the Secretary General's nutrition event to promote and support the partnership, and by promoting nutrition investments as cost-effective economic growth strategies. Her tireless efforts have resulted in unprecedented international attention to nutrition during the 1,000 day window of opportunity with diverse NGO and private sector organizations creating 1,000 days messaging and programs. Several governments are independently increasing nutrition investments as well.

These efforts leave us well situated in 2012 to lead the AFSI group, which aims to strengthen mutual accountability among participating governments in meeting food security commitments. Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that food security remains a high-level global priority through the U.S. presidency of the G-8 and beyond. We have laid the foundation for progress in achieving lasting food security. Now, we need to stay the course!