Re: The e-Consultation on Hunger, Food and Nutrition Security

20-12-2012

Australian Government response to the E-Consultation on Hunger and Nutrition from the FAO

Theme 1

What do you see as the key lessons learned during the current Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Framework (1990-2015), in particular in relation to the MDGs of relevance to hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition?

There are many lessons learned that need to be considered in the lead up to the post-2015 framework:

•    A future indicator needs to better capture the depth of poverty and vulnerability to changes in poverty status.  This may include readily measurable and understood targets, such as the proportion of the population living below the minimum dietary energy consumption and prevalence of underweight children under 5 years. There is also a need for indicators which better capture other dimensions of under nutrition. For instance, the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) encourages programs to monitor and evaluate the results of Australia’s social protection assistance in reducing the stunting of girls and boys . This or a similar indicator may be a powerful tool for improved food security and malnutrition.  

•    Providing quality food to meet the nutritional and health needs of farmers and consumers is an under-researched area. Current interventions are largely focused on the quantitative, calorific dimension of food security.  Qualitative, nutritional dimensions of food security are seriously under addressed and require rigorous primary research.  The links between agriculture, nutrition, health, water and sanitation hold potential to not only accelerate positive health outcomes but impact on longer term sustainable economic development.

•    Innovations that could help smallholder farmers increase productivity have not been widely adopted, and policies to relieve hunger and malnutrition have often failed.  More research on adoption and scaling up of useful agricultural innovations is needed.

What do you consider the main challenges and opportunities towards achieving food and nutrition security in the coming years?

The Australian Government’s approach to food security is to increase the availability of food (by increasing production and improving trade), while also increasing the poor’s ability to access food (by increasing incomes). The Australian Government also promotes adequate nutrition, through the strengthening of health systems and the delivery of quality maternal and child health interventions.

In line with this approach, we consider the main challenges to achieving food and nutrition security to be:

  • •    Ensuring appropriate economic and trade policies, and open and efficient markets which should boost global food flows, smooth supply and reduce excessive price volatility and risk;
  • •    Poor infrastructure, limited technology transfer and lack of market access;
  • •    Supply side restrictions caused by land and water shortages, climate change, environmental degradation and diversion of food crops to biofuel production;
  • •    Access to maternal and child health services, including neonatal and postnatal care, for rural and marginalized populations;
  • •    Policy frameworks and legislation which do not support women as landowners, farmers and food producers; and
  • •    Growing populations and changing diets which increase the demand for safe and nutritious food as well as access to adequate food.

To address these challenges, the Australian Government is:

  • •    Lifting agricultural productivity by increasing our investment in agricultural research and development, through Australian and international organisations working on food policy and agricultural innovation;
  • •    Advocating reforms to global agriculture and food markets to increase opportunities and incentives for developing countries, to increase their food supplies and improve their incomes and ability to buy food;
  • •    Improving rural livelihoods by strengthening markets in developing countries and improving market access;
  • •    Strengthening health systems and promoting healthy behaviors to prevent under-nutrition and associated morbidity; and
  • •    Building community resilience by supporting the establishment and improvement of social protection programs that reduce the vulnerability of the poor to shocks and stresses.  

Australia considers the greatest opportunities towards achieving improvements in food and nutrition security lie in:
•    Improving agricultural productivity yields, developing climate resilient products and practices and micronutrient content through international agricultural research innovation and extension. This involves focusing on:
- agricultural productivity growth in smallholder systems
- developing market integration and supply chain access
- bilding human and institutional capacity building to enhance sustainable follow-up research and adoption capabilities;
•    Improving distribution, crop losses and incomes of poor households through access to finance, infrastructure, input markets, logistic and storage systems;
•    Ensuring open and well-functioning domestic and international markets;  
•    Building social protection programs and systems to build the resilience of vulnerable communities; and
•    Improving water and sanitation to reduce nutrition loss post consumption.

Theme 2

What works best? Drawing on existing knowledge, please tell us how we go about addressing the hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition challenges head on. Provide us with your experiences and insights. For example, how important are questions of improved governance, rights-based approaches, accountability and political commitment in achieving food and nutrition security?

The Australian Government would support a unified approach, which integrates the best elements of the MDGs and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into the new post-2015 development framework. We would discourage language seeking to enshrine a rights based approach and support interventions that are consistent with international obligations.

Improvements to the existing targets and indicators to address hunger, food security and malnutrition, might be explored in the following areas:

•    With such rapid progress being made in the proportion living below $1 per day, there is a case for adding a new target based on those living on less than $2 per day.  This is a much larger group and will become an increasingly important focus for poverty reduction efforts over the next 20 years.

-    However, there would be advantages in also retaining the existing <$1 per day target, so that progress against extreme poverty can continue to be monitored.

•    There may be good arguments for introducing a new target or indicators for under-nutrition (particularly micronutrient deficiency, stunting and the impact of temporary food crises and other macroeconomic shocks). Any new under-nutrition indicators that are introduced should be consistent, stable and where possible, include baselines to enable performance tracking over time.

Furthermore, how could we best draw upon current initiatives, including the Zero Hunger Challenge, launched by the UN Secretary General at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (www.zerohungerchallenge.org) and the Global Strategic Framework for Food Security and Nutrition elaborated by the CFS?

It is important to consider how the current process to develop SDGs will influence the development of the post-2015 goals, targets and indicators, particularly as the post-2015 framework should contain a single set of goals with the MDGs and SDGs merging as one process with one outcome. The Australian Government believes poverty reduction should remain at the core of the post-2015 development agenda. It will also be important for hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition to be a key priority in reducing poverty. As there are numerous food security initiatives including frameworks and reports around the world, caution must be exercised in drawing from those initiatives that do not have broad international support or have failed to deliver outcomes.

Theme 3

For the Post-2015 Global Development Framework to be complete, global (and regional or national) objectives, targets and indicators will be identified towards tackling hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. A set of objectives has been put forward by the UN Secretary-General under the Zero Hunger Challenge (ZHC):

a.  100% access to adequate food all year round
b.  Zero stunted children less than 2 years old
c.  All food systems are sustainable
d.  100% increase in smallholder productivity and income
e.  Zero loss or waste of food

Please provide us with your feedback on the above list of objectives – or provide your own proposals. Should some objectives by country-specific, or regional, rather than global? Should the objectives be time-bound?

At this stage it is too early to start narrowing down to a specific set of goals, targets and indicators that might comprise the post-2015 framework. What we need to do is make sure that whatever goals and targets we create are realistic, attainable and achievable. This requires them to be measurable at the global, regional and national level similar to the current MDGs. For example, it is unclear how we would measure 100% access to adequate food all year round and the sustainability of all food systems.

We will also need to consider the time frame for the new post-2015 framework. The above objectives do not seem achievable in a 20–25 year timeframe.