Engaging with the Parliament of Bangladesh for Zero Hunger

Achieving the SDGs under the challenge of climate change

01/05/2019 - 

The global fight against poverty and hunger is far from over. Hunger has been on the rise due to a combination of factors including conflict, economic downturn and climate shocks: in 2017, the number of undernourished people is estimated to have reached 821 million, 41 million more than three years ago.

Against this backdrop, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has begun to engage with parliamentarians and other non-state actors, redoubling its efforts in the fight against hunger and malnutrition, and strengthening partnerships in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

As part of this initiative, and for the first time in South Asia, FAO and the Bangladesh Parliament held a two-day workshop to increase engagement with parliamentarians around achieving the 2030 Agenda. The event, “Engaging with the Bangladesh Parliament on Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Security to Achieve SDGs under the Challenge of Climate Change” took place in Dhaka on the 29th and the 30th of April.

Robert D. Simpson, the FAO Representative in Bangladesh, delivered a welcome speech to the parliamentarians in attendance, while the Senior Secretary of the Bangladesh Parliament, Dr. Zafar Ahmed Khan, presided over the first session of the workshop.

In her address to the first session of the workshop, Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament, mentioned that one in every seven people in Bangladesh go hungry and the impacts of climate change are negatively affecting agriculture. She emphasized the need for greater investment in agricultural research, in order to develop stress-resistant crop varieties.

Mr. Jean–Leonard Touadi, an expert in Parliamentary Alliances at FAO’s headquarters in Rome, recalled that parliamentarians, with their ability to enact legislation, provide oversight and set budgets, play an important role in addressing current challenges. As guardians of national legal and political frameworks, they are also best placed to position the SDGs at the highest level of the political agenda.

Based on FAO’s long-standing experience in working with parliamentarians, evidence has shown that food security and nutrition indicators significantly improve in countries where parliamentarians actively work to advance laws, policies and investments which ensure food and nutrition security. 

Currently, more than 40 national parliamentary alliances and fronts against hunger and malnutrition have been created worldwide with the technical support of FAO. In Latin America alone, regional and national alliances have developed more than 20 national laws and four framework laws aimed at improving food security and nutrition.

In Asia, a parliamentary alliance in Japan works to address issues of food loss and waste, while in the Philippines, the Legislative Advisory Group-Philippines (FLAG–PH) has been particularly active in enabling national and local legislators to support or initiate the passage of laws and bills to improve food security and nutrition. 

South Asia in particular is extremely vulnerable to climate shocks, particularly floods and storms, which have negatively affected agriculture and food systems. The region is also the home of the largest number of undernourished persons in the world (277.2 million). Bangladesh itself has the third-highest prevalence of undernourished persons of South Asia: 15.2 percent of the population, or 24.8 million people.

The Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Agriculture, Begum Matia Chowdhury, recognized those challenges and the social and economic costs associated with them. She reaffirmed the commitment of the Bangladeshi Government to take a holistic approach to addressing food insecurity and malnutrition as it makes progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. Touadi expressed his optimism that such an initiative will be built in Bangladesh and commended the Bangladeshi Parliament and all actors involved for their commitment to create a Bangladeshi Parliamentary Alliance to fight against hunger and malnutrition.

He also insisted on the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships, which consist of working in close collaboration with non-state actors such as academia, civil-society and the private sector to achieve better results and improve the implementation of evidence-based policies, plan, programmes and legislation to achieve the SDGs.

The workshop was a kick-off training to raise awareness and facilitate exchanges of information and experience on how parliamentarians can better address issues on sustainable food and agriculture, food security and nutrition. It also helped to identify possible topics that could form part of the upcoming Bangladeshi Parliamentarian Alliance’s workplan to achieve both Bangladesh’s Vision 2041 and the 2030 Agenda.