UN's Right to Food expert calls for hedge fund restraints, notes Madagascar coup

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Inner City Press | 6 April 2009

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, April 6 -- All hedge funds that trade in food commodities should be required to register, the UN's expert on the right to food Olivier De Schutter told the Press on Monday. Index derivatives should be prohibited and only "useful trading... hedging not speculation" should be allowed, in order to protect the poor and hungry from the market.

Inner City Press had asked De Schutter if he or the recent G-20 meeting had made any progress on combating food speculation. Video here, from Minute 15:01. De Schutter replied that while the G-20 outcome did not reference agricultural commodities, it did call for regulation of systemic hedge funds that cannot be allowed to fail. "If we can do it for the financial markets, we can do it for food producers and consumers," he said. But it is an open question whether even the largest hedge funds will be regulated any time soon.

De Schutter had mentioned Madagascar and its dealing away of land to agribusiness investors. Inner City Press asked if the recent military coup -- which the office of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would not even call a coup -- had changed the deal with South Korea's Daewoo Logistics. The deal is now on hold, De Schutter said, adding that India also seeks to invest in Madagascar but that situation is still too uncertain.

When De Schutter spoke before the Human Rights Council in Geneva last month, human rights activists testified that his mandate would not be complete without considering governments which block the delivery of aid and the presence of aid workers. They gave the example of Darfur, but might well as have said northern Sri Lanka, from which all international aid workers are barred. De Schutter called such blocked "a major scandal," and said that in the case of Sudan, he wrote "to the government, with other special procedures... requesting an explanation."

Inner City Press asked how he navigated his legal mandate with the politics of Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, the President of the UN General Assembly, the Group of 77 and China of which are generally supportive of Sudan's government. Video here, from Minute 27:17. De Schutter insisted that he has only one guide, the human right to food, and that politics don't matter to him. He is, some say, a sharp Schutter. Click for previous coverage in May 2008 and October 2008.

Footnote: the PGA's advisor on food and water, to whom Inner City Press directed a question about criticism of Ban Ki-moon for engaging with the pro-corporate CEO Water Mandate, called the Global Compact's allowance of the "subordination" of the UN to corporations "troubling." Video here, from Minute 21:25. Inner City Press will cover this later in the week, ideally after the UN Global Compact has responded to Monday's press conference. Watch this site.
Original source: Inner City Press
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