Theme 1: Key Lessons From the MDGs
The MDGs have demonstrated that goal-setting matters for development. Since 2000, the MDGs have galvanized support around the world for ending hunger and extreme poverty. When the goals were launched, countries pledged to work together to cut global hunger and poverty in half by 2015. Also, unlike many global initiatives that came before it, the MDGs remain a prominent concern of national governments and the international development community. This is due in no small part to the fact that the goals have concrete targets to measure progress and hold government leaders accountable.
Global poverty is now falling with unprecedented speed, and indeed it is possible to imagine a world by 2040 where chronic hunger and poverty no longer exist. According to the World Bank, the percentage of people living below the international poverty line ($1.25 per person per day) has fallen by more than half since 1990; in other words, the MDG target of cutting income poverty in half by 2015 has been reached.
At this point, however, it is not clear whether the hunger target of the MDGs—cutting hunger in half— will be met by the 2015 deadline.The lagging progress on hunger, compared to progress on poverty, illustrates a problem with how the MDGs are being pursued. Too little attention has been paid to the interrelationship between hunger and poverty, particularly in rural areas where most of the world’s hungry and poor people live. In order to sync reductions in hunger with reductions in poverty, greater investments in agriculture are necessary and must be targeted at smallholder farmers.
Focus on Marginalized Groups: The goal to end hunger mostly depends on the commitment of political leaders to scale up proven approaches and target the most difficult to reach groups. Leaders will have to address the structural inequalities that deny certain groups of people access to social and economic opportunities. These are predominantly racial, ethnic and religious minority groups. Women and girls face additional barriers—including in majority groups. Accelerating progress against hunger therefore requires a more deliberate focus on women and girls.
Strengthen Data Systems: Effective policy responses depend on reliable information about how various groups are faring. Countries where hunger and poverty are stubbornly persistent have a limited capacity to collect and analyze data. Strengthening data systems needs to be a priority of leaders in countries affected by hunger and their development partners.
Increase Investments in agriculture: Improvements in food security and nutrition are linked to a productive agricultural sector. Common sense might suggest that we need to make sure that domestic food supplies match demand for food—but that’s not the core of the problem. The recent increases in hunger were because of the high food prices, not because there wasn’t enough food to go around. Although grain stocks were low, they were not too low to feed everyone if some nations with surpluses hadn’t panicked and banned exports. In the same vein, famines have occurred in countries where some parts actually have food surpluses. The unprecedented rise in hunger recently was a consequence of the high costs. Despite incontrovertible evidence that food security is linked to agricultural productivity, over the past three decades donors slashed agriculture as a share of their development budgets. Agriculture is a key driver of economic growth in poor countries. In very poor countries, agriculture provides more than 70-80 percent of the labor force with the greatest share of their incomes. When the agricultural sector is growing, so are people’s incomes. It’s what determines whether they are eating only a bowl of rice seven days a week or they can occasionally afford to add some meat and vegetables to their diet.
Strengthen social protection programs to reach the most marginalized. Scaling up investments in the nutrition of rural women and girls is central to their economic empowerment. Putting in place safety nets for the most vulnerable rural women and girls, such as activities that promote access to health care and education, lays the groundwork for a healthy society.
Bread for the World emphasizes that whatever agreement emerges must include a bull’s-eye target: ending hunger and extreme poverty by 2040. Every country should agree to set national development goals, including the high-income nations.
The post-2015 global development framework should be worked out by a broader set of stakeholders than those who developed the MDGs. The MDGs were conceived by rich nations with far too little input from poor and middle-income nations.
This thematic discussion was led by FAO and WFP in collaboration with “The World We Want”.
The consultation was facilitated by the Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)