Launched this week, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Global Food Policy Report 2013 sets out past developments and future directions in tackling hunger and malnutrition. 2014 is an important year for food and nutrition security as the final efforts towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals and the development of the post-2015 agenda are put into action.
Progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals has been mixed. Globally we are on track to halve poverty, increase access to drinking water and reduce the incidence of malaria and tuberculosis but those goals relating to hunger, child mortality, access to primary education, reproductive healthcare and sanitation largely remain beyond our reach. The Sustainable Development Goals will, however, propose targets even more ambitious: eliminating hunger by 2025, for example. They will also be expanded in scope, as discussed at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, to cover climate change, urbanisation, conflict and sustainable consumption and production. A United Nations Development Group report, A million voices: the world we want, which collected views and opinions from over 1 million people across the world, highlighted the need for a more holistic agenda that addresses the complex and interlinked challenges the world faces through an equality, justice and human rights lens. People also called for better measurement of progress to support greater accountability.
Central to discussions on the agricultural development component of the SDGs has been the need to increase production without harm to environmental and social processes. Sustainable intensification and efficient food production will likely feature within the post-2015 agenda although it is recognised that sustainable intensification requires transformative change along the whole value chain and at the policy level, as well as widespread adoption of innovative technologies, and thus poses a significant challenge in both designing a goal and in putting into practice. Indeed, finding goals which will effectively reflect the multidimensionality of food and nutrition and their links to the wider environment will be a challenge.
We can expect the UN Open Working Group to propose initial SDGs this year at the 68th session of the UN General Assembly. At present, goals around climate change, economic development, social inclusion, environmental sustainability, good governance, land and water management, health and food and nutrition security, including indicators such as rates of stunting and anaemia, post-harvest losses and productivity, have been recommended, and a consensus is still some way off.
IFPRI, in their report, emphasise the need for SDGs to revolve around people: that while environmental sustainability is important it should not come at the expense of food and nutrition security. It will be interesting to see how the post-2015 debates evolve over the next year, with many different stakeholders pushing their particular agenda. What is urgently needed is coordinated and concerted action amongst governments, development partners and civil society if we are to reach such a goal as eliminating hunger by 2025. IFPRI’s report lays out specific courses of action that need to be taken for this to happen:
- Countries should develop and lead on national strategies for hunger and undernutrition reduction.
- These policies and investments should be guided by evidence.
- Knowledge between stakeholders should be shared and transferred, particularly between those countries making significant progress to eliminating hunger and those who face greater challenges.
- Developing reliable and accurate data on indicators of food and nutrition security.
- Enhancing the role of the private sector and ensuring appropriate incentives are in place for organisations to develop sustainable solutions.