Turning political will on ending hunger into action requires strong focus on national strategies, including to those on nutrition, health and education policies.
3 July 2017, Rome – Achieving the international community’s goal of eradicating hunger and malnutrition by 2030 is indeed possible, but this requires a scaling up of action, including greater investments in agriculture and sustainable rural development, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said.
Speaking at a side event on Zero Hunger at the FAO Conference, Graziano da Silva pointed to some stark facts and figures.
“Today more than 800 million people are still chronically undernourished … and unfortunately the number has started to grow again,” the FAO Director-General said.
Around 155 million children under five are stunted – close to a quarter of the total while 1.9 billion people are overweight, of which at least 500 million are obese and 2 billion suffer from micronutrient deficiency, he added.
While progress in combating the related scourges of poverty and hunger has been made in recent decades, these achievements are at risk of being reversed as conflict, population growth, climate change and changing dietary patterns, all pose new challenges, Graziano da Silva said.
He noted that the world is facing “one of the largest humanitarian crises ever” with more than 20 million people at risk of famine in four countries: North Eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
An enabling policy and institutional environment
Graziano da Silva noted that the 2030 Agenda calls for strong commitment to national decision-making and greater self-reliance by Member States, underscoring how “we are seeing this happen with regional initiatives and organizations playing a substantial role.”
He cited the Malabo Declaration adopted by African Union leaders to end hunger in Africa by 2025 and also referred to the strong commitment to food security made by countries in the Asia and Pacific region and in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Turning political will into action requires a stronger focus on national strategies, including to those relating to nutrition, health and education policies. The FAO Director-General called for enhancing governance and coordination mechanisms to facilitate dialogue and create incentives for different sectors and stakeholders to work together and to sharpen the focus of Zero Hunger initiatives. “For that, decision-makers need solid and relevant evidence, including statistics and monitoring data,” he added.
“And last but not least, we have to significantly increase investments,” Graziano da Silva said.
“Hunger is often due to poverty and inequality. It is the result of the exclusion of small-scale producers from large-scale food systems,” said IFAD President Gilbert Houngbo speaking at the event.
He warned that “at the current pace, quite frankly the international community is not on track to meet its commitment to Zero Hunger by 2030” but noted the goal can be achieved “if we act now to establish inclusive and sustainable food systems and to build the resilience of poor rural people and the ecosystems that they depend on.”
Achieving Zero Hunger by 2030 “has zero chances of succeeding in the environment we are living in today,” said WFP Executive-Director David Beasley. “Governments have to take actions to reduce conflicts, which are man-made dead-ends on the road to Zero Hunger.”
He noted that FAO, IFAD and WFP are “working together in a perhaps unprecedented way, both because you stakeholders want us to and because the situation calls for it.”
Investments are critical
European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan, who delivered the keynote address at the Zero Hunger side event, noted that to fuel the growth of Africa’s economy, investments are needed. “Neither Official Development Aid nor remittances can provide sufficient resources. Private investment is required – indeed it is already the biggest source of development funding”
“A further key to growth is generating increased value added for African products, coupled with better access to higher-value markets. Young African agri-entrepreneurs need quality products to sell, better production methods to grow them, and access to good markets upon which to sell them,” Hogan said.
Today’s side event also included a panel discussion: Zero Hunger – Global, regional and national synergies to achieve SDG 2 involving El Salvador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Hugo Roger Martinez Bonilla, who is also Chair of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Ethiopia’s Minister for Agriculture and Natural Resources Eyasu Abraha, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s Minister for Agriculture and Forestry Liane Thykeo and Amira Gornass, the Ambassador of the Republic of Sudan, who is Chair of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS).