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Oxfam has come together with civil society organisations across the Sahel to assess how well countries are faring in their commitment to more effectively tackle food insecurity. In February 2012, governments across the Sahel and West Africa adopted a Charter for the Prevention and Management of Food Crises, which laid out key commitments for all actors involved – including national governments, regional organisations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society. The 2012 food crisis in the Sahel, the fourth time the region has been struck by crisis in just seven years, provided the first critical test of the extent to which the Charter’s principles would be upheld. The report provides a snapshot of current performance, as well as a roadmap for reform in the future.

The analysis underlines that, although a number of steps forward have been taken, and in particular the humanitarian response in 2012 was more effective than past responses, there is still substantial room for improvement. The Charter and the report’s findings underscore the important role to be played by governments. Yet, all too often, governments are prevented from playing this role as a result of a lack of consistent financial support, inadequate technical capacity and, crucially, insufficient political leadership. As a result, donors and international agencies respond to fill these gaps – playing a vital role in saving lives, but all too often in parallel to efforts by national actors, creating unnecessary duplication and failing to build national capacity for future responses. For an efficient and sustainable improvement in the way in which food crises are managed, a step change in the system of governance will be required.

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