Can Extreme Hunger be Eliminated by 2030?

Dr Md. Mafizur Rahman

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 10 2017 - The UN’s post-2015 development agenda, which includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), includes the elimination of extreme hunger by 2030.

But how feasible is this –judging by the mounting economic and financial problems facing most developing nations worldwide?

“It is very difficult to answer this question in a single sentence,” says Dr Md. Mafizur Rahman, chair of the Group of 77 Rome Chapter and Alternate Permanent Representative (APR) of Bangladesh accredited to FAO, IFAD and WFP in Rome.

Still, it is possible to eliminate extreme hunger by 2030, he pointed out, “with a strong political will and commitment”.

But there so many other obstacles to achieving this goal, including shortage/distribution of resources, military conflicts, occupation, terrorism, lack of capacity of national governments, natural calamities and negative impact of climate change, among others, said the G77 Chair.

The G77 in Rome currently plays a key role in the three UN agencies based in the Italian capital: the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Dr Rahman, said Rome is considered the hub for achieving Food Security and Nutrition (FSN) and eradicating hunger.

“Therefore the number one issue on the table is how to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal number 2,” he said, in an interview with IPS.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: What are the key issues on the agenda of the G77 in Rome? Food security? Eradication of hunger? Agricultural development?

A: The main focus is the eradication of hunger, achieving FSN through sustainable agricultural development and food systems. Agriculture encompasses cereals, fisheries, forestry and livestock resources. However, the mostly discussed issues in Rome include rural development, agroecology, biotechnology, family farming and smallholders (including access to markets), South-South cooperation, climate change adaption for agricultural production and partnership building for financing.

The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is the most inclusive multi-stakeholder international and intergovernmental platform to work together for FSN. G77 is contributing CFS in development of wide range of policy guidelines and recommendations.

The CFS product “Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security“ known as the VGGT; “Principles of Responsible Investment in Agricultural and Food systems (popularly named RAI Principles); “Framework for Food Security and Nutrition in Protracted Situation“ etc are some valuable outcome of CFS.

The 43rd CFS Plenary has approved a study to be conducted by High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) on “Multi-stakeholder Partnerships to Finance and Improve Food Security and Nutrition in the Framework of the 2030 Agenda“. Implementation of Rome Declaration and Framework for Action endorsed by ICN2 for achieving Nutrition is also another important issue in Rome.

Q: Do you think the developing world can succeed in eliminating extreme hunger by the 2030 deadline? What are the obstacles in achieving this goal?

A: If we consider the results of the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), we found we have achieved roughly 60 to 70% of the target in 15 years. There are lot of successes and achievements in MDGs but the most success is the anti-poverty political momentum.

However, even today, about 795 million people still live in extreme poverty and suffer from hunger. And 161 million children under 5 are stunted (low height-for-age) and 51 million children under 5 are wasted (low weight-for-height) and 17 million are severely wasted due to insufficient food and nutrition.

Currently, 57 million children of primary school age are not in school. These figures indicate still we have lot of deficiency in achieving MDGs. Whereas in case of SDGs, there are 17 goals with 169 targets and the timeline is same: 15 years.

Q: Are ongoing political and military conflicts, largely in Asia, the Middle-East and Africa, having a negative impact on agricultural development and food security in these war-ravaged countries?

A: I do agree hundred percent with this statement. Where life is threatened, peoples are displaced, children are killed, schools and other institutions are closed or damaged, how can agricultural production continue? Therefore, it is obvious that negative impact on agricultural development and food security and nutrition lies in protractive situation.

Q: Are the high seas and oceans a largely untapped source of food that can help resolve the world’s hunger?

A: I would like to refer this issue as the blue economy. However, it is not probably wise to say that oceans and seas are still largely untapped – but rather to some extent indiscriminate tapping of this natural resources. Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing is one of the global problems that threatens ocean ecosystems and sustainable fisheries.

Moreover environmental degradation and over-extraction of these resources are big challenges. There are some other elements of the blue economy: sustainable use of ocean’s resources; b) Improving green environments; c) maximizing marine-based opportunities; and d) sustainably increasing ocean productivity.

As we know, fish and fish products are the most international traded items in 2015 and per capita fish consumption has increased from an average of 9.9 kg in the 1960s to 19.7 kg in 2013 and expected to be beyond 20 kg at the end 2016. Therefore, undoubtedly fish and other aquatic resources of the oceans and seas can help in achieving FSN, including livelihoods and resilience. Sustainable use of oceans and sea resources will certainly help us in achieving FSN.

Q: What is the impact of climate change– including droughts and hurricanes– on food security and agricultural development?

A: There are different kind impacts of the climate change. Global warming is the number one. Due to global warming, it is estimated that sea levels are rising and parts of some countries in coastal areas will go under water. The saline water intrusion will be visible in a country like Bangladesh. Drought, desertification, floods, cyclones, hurricanes could happen due to climatic change.

Depletion of forest resources, loss of ecosystem biodiversity, occurrence of the El-Niño, environmental degradations in different forms are the most likely impacts of climate change. The number one negative impact of any natural calamity is the destruction of agricultural production which have a direct impact on food insecurity, malnutrition, unemployment, displacement, migration — particularly for poor people. Women and children are the biggest victims of climate change impact.

Q: What is the role played by the G77 Chapter in Rome in helping developing countries achieve food security and eliminate hunger? How closely do you work with FAO, WFP and IFAD?

A: The Rome Chapter is the combination of developing countries and divided into four Regional Groups namely Asia, Africa, GRULAC (Latin America and the Caribbean) and Near East. The regional groups are playing an important role in FAO governing bodies and technical committees and G77 is the political forum for coordinating the activities of all four regions. The main task of the group is to advice FAO and contribute to the CFS on how to achieve sustainable agricultural development in achieving FSN.

Currently FAO is finalizing its Reviewed Strategic Framework (RSF) and Medium Term Plan (MTP). G77 is always trying to include regional priorities in shaping FAO`s Strategic Framework and MTP, including the FAO`s Programme of Work and Budget (PWB).

The Group is supporting the FAO`s work, which will contribute to 40 SDG targets measured through 53 SDG indicators as part of the Strategic Objectives Result Framework comprising 20 outcomes (four per each of 5 FAO`s Strategic Objectives) and 40 outputs. The Group always pushes to have, as maximum as possible, budget allocations for Technical Cooperation Programmes (TCP) under which technical capacity of developing countries can be increased.

The G77 is stressing that 2030 Agenda for SDGs should be in the centre of RSF and MTP, as well as the regional priorities, which are strongly considered in the preparation of full MTP 2018-2021 and PWB. There are also some other specific issues for which G77 is closely working with FAO for achieving FSN and eliminating hunger. These include:

i) Assist countries for increasing productivity and reduce during and post-harvest food waste and losses;

ii) FAO-UNIDO joint collaboration to develop strong and inclusive agro-industry and agro-processing sectors;

iii) Sustainable development of livestock sector to increase production with special focus on sheep fertility and lamb growth, and sustainable feed production;

iv) Technical support for sustainable drought management in the adoption of drought, pest and disease-resistant cultivars and pasture species;

v) Technical Support to member countries on Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS), Blue Growth Initiatives, Sustainable Inland and Marine fish production;

vi) Intensify food safety work and technical support to smallholders at local levels concerning the safe use of fertilizers and pesticides;

vii) How best to utilize the FAOSTAT data (FAO Statistics on agriculture);

viii) Contributing to Codex Standard for food safety;

ix) Contributing to Global Soil Partnership for soil quality, Catch Documentation Schemes for combating IUU fishing, Global Eradication Programme of Peste des Petits Ruminants (GEP-PPR) known as sheep and goat plagues and CFS engagement in nutrition.

The G77 is not working with IFAD and WFP, as same as in FAO. The format is different in both cases. There are the List system in IFAD and WFP. Developing countries are represented as List C countries in IFAD and raises their voice through convener of the Lists.

Developing countries are mainly representing by List A,B, C and E in WFP. List conveners are broadly the spokeperson on behalf of the Lists. However, in case of development of policy documents, strategies, and guidelines, G77 members are working together in an informal basis to protect its interest, particularly for rural transformation through IFAD, humanitarian assistance including food security and nutrition through WFP.

Therefore, the Rome-Based UN Agencies Collaboration (RBA) is very important. Now the G77, joined by China, is contributing to finalizing the RBA Collaboration paper so that overlapping can be reduced in the area of FSN in helping eradicating hunger and working broadly towards achieving Agenda 2030 for SDGs.

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