Global Parliamentary Summit against Hunger and Malnutrition

The number of people suffering from hunger has fallen significantly in the past 20 years. However, this trend  has seen a reversal in 2016 as a consequence of climate change, an increase in the number of conflicts, and declining economic growth, among other reasons.

According to estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), a total of 821 million people were undernourished in the world in 2017, up from 815 million in 2016.

In Africa, Asia and Latin America, hunger indicators have either stagnated or worsened.

Many of those who are suffering from hunger are concentrated in marginalized or vulnerable territories.

The triple burden of malnutrition, where food insecurity, undernutrition, and overweight and obesity co-exist, has seen these problems intensify due to ever-growing rates of excess weight and obesity. This phenomenon  is becoming increasingly widespread among children in almost every region and among adults throughout the world. In 2017, 38 million children under the age of five were overweight.

The situation is even worse in North America, Europe and Oceania, where 28% of adults are obese, in comparison to Asia (7%) and Africa (11%). In Latin America and the Caribbean, approximately a quarter of the adult population is considered obese.

In light of this scenario, the United Nations 2030 Agenda calls on countries to redouble their efforts to address Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2), which seeks to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture” in order to build a world where “no one is left behind.”

The Role of Legislators in Ensuring the Right to Food

Evidence has shown that where strong legislative frameworks exist and are implemented, the rate of hunger and malnutrition decreases. As legislators, Parliamentarians are in a position of advantage and can, therefore, provide impetus to promote enabling environments that ensure the food and nutrition security of the societies they represent.

They also play a central role in key  areas such as policy oversight, accountability, and proposal and approval of laws and budgets for food and nutrition security.

Thus, the work parliamentarians carry out nationally and regionally can directly contribute to the reduction in hunger and malnutrition and ultimately the realisation of the right to food.

Parliamentarians can generate an effective gender and more inclusive perspective on governance in the framework of the right to food.

Legislators throughout the world are becoming increasingly involved in intra- and inter-parliamentary dialogue to eradicate malnutrition in all its forms and are participating actively in national and international networks on the subject. These include the Parliamentary Front against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean (PFH LAC), the Latin American Parliament (PARLATINO), the Pan-African Parliamentary Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security, and the European Parliamentary alliance that have all committed to achieve SDG2.

FAO  has been providing technical assistance to the aforementioned Parliamentary bodies and the national alliances.

Interactions among Parliamentarian Alliances

Parliamentarians from different regions have already had previous opportunities for interaction and dialogue on Zero Hunger issues. On the occasion of the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), a Parliamentary Meeting – “Parliaments for better nutrition” was organized in Rome by the Inter-Parliamentary Union in November 2014 where senior policy makers gathered and collectively committed to eliminating global hunger and preventing all forms of malnutrition worldwide.  FAO attached great importance to the role of Parliamentarians in ensuring that the political commitments reached at the ICN2 were implemented at the national level.

In this regard, the VI (2015) – VII (2016) and VIII (2017) Forum of the Parliamentary Front against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean, co-organized by FAO in the context of the Hunger-Free Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative, supported the creation of a space for dialogue and contribution among parliamentarians from Asia, Africa, European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean, considering parliamentarians as relevant actors for the development and implementation of policy and regulatory frameworks for Food Security and Nutrition.

In line with this, parliamentarians from Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa, including other key actors, such as the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, participated in a side meeting (April 2017) of the Global Alliance for Resilience Initiative together with the Food Crisis Prevention Network and both parliamentary groups made a commitment to continue working together. 

The Spain – FAO alliance and the Fight against Hunger

The Spain-FAO alliance to support the Hunger-Free Latin America and Caribbean 2025 Initiative (HFLAC 2025) focuses much of its action on providing technical assistance to the Parliamentary Front against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean. Since 2009, the Spanish Cooperation Agency and other partners that have come on board in recent years, such as the Mexican and Brazilian cooperation agencies, have placed the right to food at the top of their governments’ agendas.

In view of the experience gained in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Spanish Parliament has embarked on a series of collaborative efforts with the fronts and their partners to promote what has been accomplished worldwide.