The principles of the Charter constitute the backbone of the Network. The new Charter, approved in November 2011 after an inclusive consultation process, covers the fifteen ECOWAS member countries as well as Chad and Mauritania. Placing regional solidarity and mutual responsibility at the centre of action, this code of good conduct addresses the root causes of food crises. It calls on signatories to strengthen information systems and dialogue platforms, and to ensure the coherence of interventions, thereby improving the effectiveness of collective action. The Charter is subject to internal and external assessments conducted within the framework of the Network.
The Food Aid Charteradopted in 1990 by Heads of State of CILSS member countries and contributing members of the Club du Sahel/OECD is a code of conduct which has provided significant impacts with regard to food crises prevention and management in the Sahel. The Charter defines the basic principles that food aid donors and national authorities of Sahelian States agree to respect in order to circumvent negative effects of this aid.
New context of food insecurity
The Food Aid Charter was elaborated in the context of drought crises and famines in the 1980s. The Code of Good Conduct in Food Crisis Prevention and Management needed to be adapted to new food security challenges and enlarge its geographic coverage to the whole West African region. In particular, the revised version responds to the following evolutions:
Entrance of new donors on to the scene who did not sign the Charter in 1990 as well as civil society groups determinedly involved in food security;
Evolution of the nature of food crises and instruments with which to manage them;
The need to take into account the responsibility of inter-governmental organisations in addition to that of the States.
The revision was based on the retrospective evaluation of the application of the Food Aid Charter and a prospective thinking about the evolution of the context in which food crisis develop and the new issues at stake that food security actors will have to face in the future. Three principles guided the revision of the Charter which should aim at:
Combining the concern of keeping a Charter focused on food aid while considering the concern of innovation and openness in line with the evolution of current and future issues and stakes;
Putting emphasis on principles which are easily applicable and measurable;
Taking into account the new situations of non-Sahelian West African countries and including the issue of food crisis prevention and management into the context of sub-regional integration across the entire region.
The revision process, conducted within the RPCA framework under the control of an international committee composed of representatives of civil society, it had two main phases.
Phase 1: Assessment and analysis of the new context
The SWAC/CILSS conducted a general reflection on the new food security context. The new issues at stake cover thematic dimensions (diversification and increased complexity of crisis, diversification of tools for responding to these crises, etc.), geographic dimensions (Sahel/West Africa) and institutional aspects (ascendancy of new actors, strengthening of regional integration institutions).
In order to get a better understanding of the use and application of the Food Aid Charter by donors and the beneficiary countries, three CILSS member states were reviewed: Chad, Mali and Mauritania. The case of the Niger crisis in 2004/05 was also analysed. These assessments provided new inputs for the Charter’s revision process.
Consultations workshops were conducted in the 15 ECOWAS member countries, with the addition of Chad and Mauritania, complemented by experts’ meetings at the international level in order to ensure ownership by all stakeholders – government representatives, farmers’ organisations, civil society, private sector representatives, technical and financial partners. The draft version of the new Charter, submitted for examination by experts and for approval by ministers, is the fruition of this extensive consultation process.
The Charter is subject to internal and external evaluations conducted under the framework of the RPCA. The list of performance indicators was agreed upon by a common consensus of all stakeholders. Both regular external evaluations and continuous in situ assessments conducted by the national information systems rely on the common list of indicators. The first external evaluation is planned for 2014.
Set of instruments
The “Set of Instruments for Food Crisis Management” is a tool aimed at facilitating the application of the Charter, for which concerned parties committed to « define response options and instruments through the strategic framework for food crisis management depending on food crisis origin and causes ». It aims to encourage a better use of response instruments based on the nature, importance and scope of each food and nutritional crisis. The Set of Instruments will also facilitate and promote the implementation of the initiative ‘Zero Hunger’ launched by the UN Secretary General as well as regional initiatives in the Sahel and West Africa, in particular the Global Alliance for Resilience (AGIR), the regional agricultural policies of ECOWAS (ECOWAP) and UEMOA (PAU), Regional Agricultural Investment Plans (PRIA) and their national components (PNIA), by bringing concrete options to operationalise them. It is the result of the analysis and synthesis conducted by an expert panel, under the auspices of the RPCA and facilitated by the SWAC Secretariat.