LONDON, ENGLAND — The Food Assistance Committee convened for its third formal session on May 30 at the secretariat of the International Grains Council in London, England, under the chairmanship of Roger Mireles, assistant deputy administrator, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

The meeting was attended by Parties of the Convention (Canada, European Union, Finland,
Japan, Luxembourg, Russian Federation, Slovenia, Switzerland and the United States of
America). Representatives from Brazil, Cuba, France, Kenya, Spain, the Trans-Atlantic
Dialogue on Food Assistance (TAFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World
Trade Organisation (WTO) attended as observers.

The committee reviewed the current and prospective food situation in developing countries against the background of recent developments in world markets for grains, rice and oilseeds. Members also provided detailed information on responses to food emergencies, together with planned operations and policy developments. Other items discussed at the meeting were the release of its first annual report and steps to expand membership.

The session was preceded on May 29 by a seminar on cash transfer programming in food assistance aimed at exchanging information on activities and experiences and discussing opportunities and challenges associated with this transfer modality. 

There were presentations from the following invited panelists: Sara Almer, coordinator, Humanitarian Department, Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP), U.K.; Maureen Philippon, ECHO, Lebanon; Tahir Nour, Cash for Change Unit, World Food Program, Italy; and André Dürr, Cash & Voucher Program coordinator, Swiss secondment to World Food Program, Sudan. 

This was followed by presentations from the E.U., the U.S. and Canada. The seminar also included a panel discussion moderated by Jenny Hill, International Humanitarian Assistance Directorate, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, Canada.

The discussion centered on the benefits of cash transfer programs including, the potential increased choice and maintenance of dignity for beneficiaries, improved efficiency and effectiveness of activities and the potential to reinvigorate local markets. However, the inherent risk present in a cash transfer program, as with any emergency or development food assistance activity, were also discussed. This includes the method of transfer, the capacity of markets and the importance of good targeting.