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Maxwell professor Catherine Bertini to moderate panel at first annual meeting of Global Humanitarian Forum in Switzerland

June 19, 2008

Jill Leonhardt
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Jill Leonhardt

Catherine Bertini, professor of practice in public administration in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, who was named a founding member of the board of the Global Humanitarian Forum by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan last fall, will participate in the first annual Forum meeting on June 24-25 in Geneva, Switzerland. Bertini is the former director of the U.N.'s World Food Programme and an international expert on food security issues.

The roundtable discussion moderated by Bertini, who also serves as senior fellow, agricultural development, for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will focus on identifying key priorities for food security in a changing climate. Other experts in the field are scheduled to participate, including Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organization; Jill Lester, president and CEO of The Hunger Project; Manuel Aranda Da Silva of the World Food Programme; and U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes.

The group will discuss how the impacts of climate like drought, changing rainfall patterns and insect infestations are dramatically aggravating food scarcity in already-vulnerable zones -- as is the demand for bio-fuel materials and unfavorable international trade regimes that are driving food prices to historic heights. The group will also consider how high food prices, coupled with continued population expansion, are creating new opportunities for farming in poor regions and how farmers might take advantage of these opportunities to strengthen food security in the face of worsening climate risks.

Another issue that Bertini will raise during the roundtable is the role of women in ending world hunger problems. Women provide 60-80 percent of the world's farm labor in the developing world; in Southeast Asia, women provide up to 90 percent of labor for rice cultivation; in sub-Saharan Africa, women produce up to 80 percent of the basic foodstuffs for household consumption and sale. "Women represent the greatest untapped resource" in solving the food crisis, according to Bertini.

The larger forum meeting, "The Human Face of Climate Change," will focus on two key issues: adaptation and mitigation in the context of climate change. While adaptation to climate change is a priority for vulnerable populations in the developing world, it is not taken seriously enough by developed nations. The forum will discuss ways to change the mindset of developed countries and encourage them to devote resources to assist developing nations in creating ways to adapt to changing climates. The discussion of mitigation will center on issues of sustainable development for countries with low emissions, and targeted advocacy in industrialized countries to increase awareness of the need to lower emissions in order to avoid negative impacts on vulnerable populations.

The forum was created by Annan in October 2007 to bring governments, non-governmental and civil society organizations, academia and the business community together in order to help strengthen the international community's ability to address humanitarian challenges. The first phase of the forum has focused on the humanitarian impact of climate change on the poor and the most vulnerable.

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