Sophia Murphy, guest blogger

Part of the Triple Crisis Spotlight G-20 series.

This critique of the G-20’s new interagency report on smallholder productivity appears in Spanish in the newsletter Puentes

When the Heads of State of the G20 countries meet in Los Cabos, Mexico on June 18-19, they will have plenty to discuss – not least, the fragile global economy and the instability of international finance. Food security is on their agenda as well. Yet after the intense focus on agriculture and food security under the leadership of France, both ahead of and during its time as host of the G20 in 2011, this year’s efforts are low-key.

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Jennifer Clapp

Part of the Triple Crisis Spotlight G-20 series.

When the G20 put food security on its agenda for the 2011 Cannes summit, many analysts were initially optimistic. As the world’s leading economies, the G20 has the potential to make important economic policy changes that could help improve access to food for the world’s poorest people.

In 2012, optimism about the G20’s ability to deliver on this front has begun to fade. There has not been much action since the Cannes summit and, in the run-up to the Los Cabos summit, the discussion has shifted toward a narrower focus on productivity growth and away from broader economic policy reforms that can contribute to food security. Both are important and should remain on the agenda.

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Timothy A. Wise

Part of the Triple Crisis Spotlight G-20 series.

Leave it to Mexico to put surrealism on the agenda at the G-20 summit that opens today in Los Cabos, Mexico. Actually, the Mexican government seems not have put much of anything on the agenda, at least when it comes to food security, one of its stated priorities as G-20 president this year. What’s surreal is listening to Mexico’s Agriculture Minister, Francisco Mayorga, speaking last Wednesday to an international conference on “New Paradigms for Agriculture,” describe without a hint of irony or self-reflection his government’s “model program” for sustainable smallholder agriculture.

This from the country that is the world’s poster child for the failures of neoliberal agriculture policy. Surreal. Where’s Frida Kahlo when we need her?

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Jayati Ghosh

Part of the Triple Crisis Spotlight G-20 series.

The G20 meeting to be held in Los Cabos, Mexico on 17-18 June is arguably the most important meeting of this group since it was formed, and certainly one that the world will be watching. It is possibly even more important than the famous meeting of April 2009 when the member countries committed themselves to co-ordinated recovery measures in the wake of the global fallout from the Lehmann closure.

The reason for this significance is that for some time now, the G20 appears to have lost its way. Its original intention – to provide a relatively speedy and workable arrangement for global governance (especially economic governance) at a time when co-ordination of macroeconomic measures is seen as essential – has clearly fallen by the wayside in the past two years. Indeed, if it cannot deliver this time around, it risks sinking into irrelevance, at a time when the global economy badly needs some institutions to respond to what is more and more evident as a crisis of massive proportions.

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As part of the Triple Crisis Spotlight G-20 and Spotlight Rio+20 series, we are running a special edition of our regular Reading and Writing update.

What We’re Reading
Johan Kuylenstierna, Environmentalism or human well-being? Rejecting a false dichotomy
Shengen Fan, A Green Economy and the Poor
Nature, Return to Rio: Second chance for the planet
FAO, Towards the Future We Want
IISD, Sustainable Development Timeline
IISD, Linkages: Coverage of Rio+20
SEI, Clinton outlines agenda to tackle climate, health and food security
Manish Bapna, Peter Hazlewood and John Talberth, Rio+20: Moving Ahead with the Sustainable Development Goals
Elizabeth Bast, Traci Romine, Stephen Kretzmann, Srinivas Krishnaswamy, Lo Sze Ping, Low Hanging Fruit: Fossil Fuel Subsidies, Climate Finance, and Sustainable Development
Stephen Leahy, Activists Call for Creation of High Commissioner for Future Generations at Rio+20
Rousbeh Legatis, Q&A: Battle for Human Rights in Rio Is “Far From Over”
Thalif Deen, Defining Green Economy May Stymie Rio Summit
Laura Carlsen, Mexico’s G20 Summit: In the Eye of the Storm
Peter Wahl, The G20: Overestimated and Underperforming
Liane Schalatek and Lili Fuhr, From promise to payment pledge: in Los Cabos, the G20 must act on long-term climate finance

What We’re Writing
Martin Khor, Key issues facing Rio+20 summit
Jennifer Clapp, G20 and Food Security: Keep the Focus on Economic Policy Reform

Peter Riggs, guest blogger

Part of the Triple Crisis Spotlight Rio+20 and Spotlight G-20 series.

What is the relation between the Rio+20 Earth Summit and the upcoming G-20 summit in Mexico?   These two events occur back-to-back, and both are at the ‘heads of state’ level.  This month should be an opportunity for serious international course-correction, right?

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Ilene Grabel

Financial crises often present opportunities as well as challenges. Sometimes they even enable fundamental institutional adjustment despite the political and historical obstacles that otherwise frustrate innovation.  In the early days of the global financial crisis it seemed that the new G20 Leaders’ meetings were going to serve as incubators for bold thinking.  That has not been the case. Aside from some reasonable statements on the use of capital controls, the G20 has failed to take on the challenge of reforming the deficient global financial architecture.

The next G20 meeting (in Los Cabos, Mexico; June 18-19) is likely to expose further the institution’s stagnation. At this point it is prudent to expect that G20 members will wring their hands over the fate of the Eurozone, say the right things, but fail to launch any major initiatives.

The logjam among the G20 stands in sharp contrast to the dynamism that has emerged in Asia.

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Timothy A. Wise

How much have U.S. ethanol policies pushed up corn prices? And how much have these higher prices cost developing countries dependent on imports for their staple foods? And if one of those countries is the chair of the G20, will it use its considerable influence over the agenda to demand policy changes?

The answers to the first two questions are clear from my new study, “The Cost to Mexico of U.S. Corn Ethanol Expansion” U.S. ethanol expansion has pushed prices up 20% or more in recent years, and that cost Mexico, which imports one-third of its corn, an extra $1.5-$3.2 billion from 2006-11.

The answer to the last question is less clear. Mexico is indeed the chair of the G20, whose vice ministers of agriculture meet tomorrow in Mexico City to set the G20’s food-security agenda in advance of the June 18-19 G20 summit. The Mexican government issued a report that suggests little ambition on food security, but hopefully our biofuels report will bring home why Mexico should lead and not follow on biofuels in the G20.

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Jennifer Clapp

When it comes to food security and agriculture, the G20 seems to be all too willing to take the credit while passing the buck. It wants to set the agenda on world food security. But it has been reluctant to require the G20 governments themselves to coordinate regulatory changes to address high and rising food prices or put the kind of money needed into agricultural investment in the world’s poorest countries. Rather, it seems to be passing on responsibility for establishing rules and governance mechanisms to address food security onto others, while at the same time blocking others from discussing measures that might request changes to the G20’s policies.

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Jayati Ghosh

For a while, in the immediate aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis of late 2008, the G20 came into its own. This group of (self-styled) leaders of the global economy, representing governments in nations contributing more than half of global GDP, came together in April 2009 to pledge a co-ordinated response to unprecedented global economic threats. This not only had a role in staving off immediate disaster through the implementation of broadly Keynesian responses, but also promise more for the future. This was not just vainglorious self-importance on the part of these governments. There was a genuine absence of global institutions that were sufficiently small as to be coherent (something that was not as possible in the United Nations, given its size and structure) or even seen as generally reliable, flexible and aware (given how the IMF has discredited itself by awarding good marks to so many economies just before they imploded financially).

But since then, the drama in the world economy could even have been Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark, as Act 2 of the global financial crisis unfolds. In its subsequent meetings, the G20 has been much more about style than substance – and sometimes the style has also been lacking. At least, in its Seoul meeting in 2010, the G20 committed themselves to promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth. They argued that ‘for prosperity to be sustained it must be shared’ and also endorsed ‘green growth’, which promised to decouple economic expansion from environmental degradation.

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