Meeting the targets of MDG 1 is a shared responsibility of rich and poor nations. Strategies for reaching the MDGs must by tailored to individual countries, but certain general elements are critical for success:
Set targets and agree on coordinated actions in each country. This involves profiling the poor and hungry, agreeing on priorities, targeting, roadmaps and timetables, exploiting synergies among the goals, mobilizing resources and allocating them strategically. Nationally-owned Poverty Reduction Strategies are increasingly fulfilling this function, despite some perceived shortcomings,1 and are becoming principal national tools to achieve the MDGs. International cooperation should support such national efforts.
Build capacity using bottom-up and participatory approaches. Local institutions are needed that are managed by and accountable to local people and communities. Local capacity building and skill development are key elements in the empowerment of poor people. Legal and property rights and access to resources must be enhanced, especially for vulnerable groups such as women and indigenous people. MDG-based strategies should be transparent and inclusive, working closely with civil society organizations, the domestic private sector and international partners.
Give priority to actions in hotspots. Programmes and investments must focus on poverty and hunger “hotspots” – those areas around the world and within a country where a significant proportion of people suffer from malnutrition and a high incidence of poverty. Implementation of plans of action for country groups or regions (the New Partnership for Africa's Development [NEPAD], the Brussels Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries, the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, etc.) should be supported in the context of the strategies to achieve the MDGs, tailored to their specific circumstances.
Combine policies and programmes for social sectors with long-term development programmes. Poverty reduction requires a twin-track approach that combines, ideally within the same communities: i) direct interventions and social investments to address the immediate needs of poor and hungry (social safety nets, conditional or unconditional cash transfers, health interventions, food and nutrition programmes) with ii) long-term development programmes to enhance the performance of the productive sectors (especially to promote agricultural and rural development), to create employment and to increase the value of the assets (physical, human, financial) held by the poor. Coherence between policies and investments to increase productivity and economic efficiency and those in the social sectors improves the effectiveness of both. Reducing inequalities in income and access to assets strengthens the impact of economic growth on poverty reduction. In accordance with the Millennium Declaration, efforts should be made to promote the human right to adequate food and implement the related Voluntary Guidelines to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security, recently adopted by governments.
Intervene directly to enable the neediest. Implementation of a twin-track approach in the context of hunger reduction means enabling the neediest to escape from the “hunger-low-productivity-extreme poverty” trap. This requires programmes to enhance direct and immediate access to food and good nutrition for the most vulnerable groups such as indigenous peoples, female-headed households and particularly children, as they suffer disproportionately from the long-term negative effects of malnutrition. Approaches to direct assistance must be context-specific. Initiatives such as school meals supplied by local production should be scaled up when good results have been attained. Investment in health services (including access to reproductive health services and programmes to combat HIV-AIDS), sanitation and clean water programmes are essential complementary interventions.
Use food assistance to strengthen human capital and build physical assets. This helps families build resilience to shocks and protect their livelihoods and also opens up development opportunities. Human capital is often the only resource the hungry and poor actually possess, yet in many cases it is undervalued or remains untapped as a result of hunger. Food-supported activities are used to develop and enhance skills, or to create physical assets, such as food storage facilities, water and erosion control structures that help communities face crisis and are necessary to reach longer-term development aspirations.
Focus policies and investments on rural areas and agriculture. The fight to meet MDG 1 will be won or lost in the rural areas of developing countries, home to up to 75 percent of the poor and hungry, who derive their livelihoods from agriculture and related activities. Enhancing food security in the rural areas entails scaling up actions to improve the productivity of smallholder agriculture in ways which, in the first instance, contribute to improved standards of nutrition and thereby open up opportunities for further performance improvements and broadened participation in market-led growth. It also implies promoting the sustainable use of natural resources; improving rural infrastructure, research and communications; facilitating the functioning of markets; and enhancing rural institutions. Productivity-induced agricultural growth has a wider impact on rural areas through the strengthening of off-farm activities, rural employment and wages. The development of rural strategies in the context of Poverty Reduction Strategies will help to target poverty where it is concentrated in developing countries.
Support a dynamic growth process. The promotion of rural development in a sustainable manner can stem rural-urban migration, bring employment opportunities to rural areas, reduce regional income disparities, and ultimately fight deep poverty at its very source. Emphasis needs to be placed on diversification towards rural non-farm activities, including value-added production, and strengthening productive capacities of micro, small and medium enterprises, a process in which women in rural areas play a major role.
Strengthen poor urban livelihoods. Important as the rural space is for economic development and poverty reduction, it should be noted that the world population is increasingly “urbanizing”. The promotion of urban food security entails a number of interventions: pro-poor employment and asset generation combined with measures to assist the urban poor in meeting their basic needs such as housing, nutrition, clean water, safe food, health and primary education. In some cases, urban agriculture can be a source of livelihoods and household food supplies, especially in formerly rural areas incorporated into cities.
Accelerate progress towards an open and fair international trading system. Progress is particularly needed on issues of market access, export subsidies and trade-distorting domestic support in agriculture. Low-income countries must strengthen the competitiveness of their domestic food production and their compliance with sanitary and phytosanitary standards. They need trade-related financial and technical assistance. Furthermore, in view of the continuing distortions on world markets, they must be granted more “policy space” to reduce poverty and hunger by developing their rural areas and agriculture. The agreements in WTO should contain strengthened provisions for safety nets at the international level, thus assuring reliable and affordable import of foods, such as the provisions in the Marrakech Decision.
1 Criticisms often include the fact that strategies: i) underestimate the importance of investment in such sectors as agriculture; ii) fail to make the connection between poverty hunger, agriculture and economic growth; iii) do not provide for adequate inclusion of social targets; iv) do not ensure sufficient participation by the private sector or consultation with vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.