On Friday (16 October), the international community celebrated World Food Day; however, figures suggest that there is little to actually celebrate, warns Tobias Kahler. EURACTIV Germany reports.
Following the adoption of the 2030 global agenda, the world needs a mechanism that will commit developed and developing countries to the targets.
Tobias Kahler is the head of the German branch of ONE, an international campaigning and advocacy organisation that fights against extreme poverty and preventable diseases. The organisation was co-founded by U2’s frontman, Bono.
World Food Day takes place every year on 16 October, and is intended to highlight the plight of the many millions of people who go hungry worldwide.
According to the current Global Hunger Index (GHI), the number of hungry people has dropped by 27% since the year 2000 to 795 million.
This success is also down to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), one of the objectives of which was to halve the number of hungry people in the period from 1990-2015. This target was achieved. However, 795 million is still a staggeringly high number of people. In sub-Saharan Africa, one in four people go hungry.
In addition, more than two billion people suffer from malnutrition, the so-called hidden hunger. This has led to around 160 million children suffering from concentration and irreversible physical-growth problems, which have a significant impact on education and future income. This can lead to a vicious cycle, in which people are unable to free themselves from poverty and hunger. Malnutrition is responsible for nearly a half of all deaths in the under-fives in developing countries. These facts mean that it is unthinkable that we would merely rest on our laurels now; there is still work to be done.
Will the international community do just that though? Will it be content with the progress already made?
Time will tell. The UN has now adopted the main 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 2 involves putting an end to all hunger and the G7 countries have also agreed to act and bring 500 million people out of poverty by 2030. These are all welcome, admirable commitments, which will also require a Herculean effort to achieve. These targets will only be met if UN and G7 leaders agree to a common roadmap with binding measures. Without a mechanism that will monitor the progress made by those committed, we may have to wait much longer to see an end to hunger.
What would such a mechanism look like?
One such model could be a ‘score cards’ system. Reports that take into account various indicators that measure a country’s progress towards achieving the goal would also be feasible. A traffic light system would highlight areas where a nation is lagging behind and what they can do to catch up. These score cards would be publicly available, allowing the general public, as well as politicians and journalists, to exert pressure on national governments to do more. At the Expo, which is currently taking place in Milan, ONE met with development experts from around the world to discuss what the mechanism could look like.
What concrete measures do you propose to end hunger?
Take the sub-Saharan region. We already know that agricultural investment is 11 times more effective in fighting poverty than other types of investment there. At the same time, any investment that does arrive is too little. It is in this area that the developed countries, like Germany, are asked to honour their commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on development aid.
Currently, Germany is only spending 0.4%. On the other hand, it is also up to the African nations to concentrate on and promote the agricultural sector themselves. Over a year ago, the Malabo Protocol was agreed upon, in which African Union leaders promised to spend 10% of national budget on supporting the agricultural sector by 2025.
Additionally, the role of women in fighting hunger must be recognised. We have established that up to 150 million people could be freed from chronic hunger if women were to be given the same access to working in the agricultural sector as men. One thing is certain: no programme to combat hunger is going to be successful without empowering women, both legally and economically. Once again, we need effective measures and a public review mechanism to achieve this. Agreements and targets alone will not make hunger and poverty a thing of the past.