Ten contributions parliamentarians can make towards achieving a #ZeroHunger world

Laws and policies lay the foundations for our 2030 vision

To date, 30 countries have explicitly recognized the human right to adequate food in their constitutions. This lays down the foundation and sets a path for success in achieving Zero Hunger. ©Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock


There is more than enough food produced today to feed everyone, yet about 821 million people are chronically undernourished. Achieving food security for everyone requires an integrated approach from all stakeholders, including from governments. Bringing the hunger number down to zero by 2030 will require appropriate legislation backed by the necessary budgets and proper monitoring, allowing for just and long-lasting legal frameworks.

Here are ten ideas for how members of parliament can help achieve SDG 2 (Zero Hunger):

1. Establish the principles that guide policy towards ending hunger and malnutrition.

A country's constitution is its supreme law, the foundation on which citizens' rights and the state's obligations are built. By including the right to adequate food in their constitutions, countries give this goal the greatest guarantee of success. When programmes are supported by legislation, they become government policy.

To date, 30 countries have explicitly recognized the human right to adequate food in their constitutions. These countries include South Africa, the Philippines, Ukraine, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Fiji and Guyana. The most recent example is Nepal, which received support from FAO during the process of adding the right to food to its constitution in 2015.

2. Define the rules of the game when it comes to overseeing laws and organizing their implementation. 

Legislators should criticize, question and authorize other branches of government. The tools that they have at their disposal for ensuring and demanding accountability include Question Time sessions, the approval of budgets and selection committees.

For example, in Honduras, government regulatory bodies are required to oversee the Law that extends financial credit to rural women  and produce annual accountability reports.

3. Draft laws that incorporate food and nutritional security while also considering the needs of all sectors.

Ensuring food and nutritional security requires the involvement of the various sectors that make up the food system. This means considering the needs of small farmers, pastoralists and artisanal fishers and helping them to build capacity through social protection initiatives that target the most vulnerable parts of the food system.

As part of Bolivia's Law on Food in Schools, microenterprises made up of rural women hired by local authorities to prepare and distribute school meals. The menus, which are designed with input from both the school board and the municipality's nutritionist, include regional products.

4. Leverage the knowledge of academic institutions. 

Legislators need to understand the extent of a problem and be able to measure the impact of policies. To do so, they can capitalize on the expertise of the academic community while drafting, implementing and overseeing legislation or public policy relating to the right to adequate food.

In Spain, the University of Oviedo's World Food Governance Research Centre was created to encourage research on topics related to food and nutritional security, evaluate policy, assess consistency between programmes and produce an annual report reviewing strategy and best practices.

Left: Guadalupe Valdez, a former congresswoman in the Dominican Republic and the FAO Special Goodwill Ambassador for Zero Hunger for the Region of Latin American and the Caribbean, speaks on World Food Day. ©FAO/Pier Paolo Cito;
Right: Senator Guido Girardi, President of the Health Commission of the Chile Senate, describes the role parliamentarians can play in improving nutrition. ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

5. Maintain a dialogue with civil society, businesses and the various branches of government.

For the process of creating laws to be successful, it requires not only political will, but also participatory governance. Members of parliament should open up the debate to groups working in food- and nutrition-related areas to ensure that laws are passed based on consensus and receive input from all areas of society.

Chile's Food Labelling Law – which aims to combat overweight and obesity – was drafted in consultation with businesses, some of them opposing the law, while others expressing a willingness to reformulate certain food products.

6. Undergo specialized training.

To ensure that strong legislation and legislative proposals are passed and implemented, members of parliaments and their advisors should have a proper technical grounding in food and nutritional security.  Members of parliament are not always specialists in the fields of hunger and malnutrition. By attending workshops and training courses led by experts, they can build on their skills.

In 2016, FAO and the Togolese government organized a workshop for members of the Togolese parliament to strengthen the skills needed to draft a framework law on the right to food, learn about relevant tools and listen to examples from other countries.  

7. Share knowledge and experiences.

Building knowledge-sharing networks allows lawmakers to implement legislation and legislate in accordance with their countries’ specific contexts. Members of parliament should share their experiences on how and to what extent public policy is progressing. They should reflect on how to improve the legislative process and create effective public policy.

As one example, the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger in Haiti travelled to Rwanda to meet with East African lawmakers, experts and representatives of civil society, with whom they shared their experiences.

8. Raise awareness and inform the public.

Legislators need to communicate and raise awareness about issues, explaining clearly to the public why a given law has been passed and the consequences it will have. This increases the probability that citizens will support the work of lawmakers. Sharing information promotes transparency and accountability and ensures that organizations and the public are aware of the issues surrounding hunger and are able to assert their rights.

In El Salvador, the right to food has been promoted on the radio and in the press. In Togo, the Togolese Network of Journalists for the Right to Food was created to promote the right to food, raise citizens' awareness of their rights and inform the public of the work carried out by government bodies. 

Malnutrition in all its forms has to be tackled to achieve a Zero Hunger world. This must be a shared objective. ©FAO

9. Form inclusive alliances.

As stated in SDG 17 (Partnerships for the goals), successful sustainable development programmes require alliances between governments, the private sector and civil society. These alliances should have shared targets based on the public's well-being. Malnutrition in all its forms has to be tackled as a matter of priority. This means overcoming ideological differences.

There are currently more than 30 Parliamentary Alliances and Fronts across the world, representing both national and regional alliances. Japan, Spain, the Philippines and Madagascar are among the countries that have brought together different political groups interested in promoting the right to food and combating hunger.

10. Work towards a shared objective: Building a global alliance for #ZeroHunger

For SDG 2 to become a priority on regional and global political agendas, it is essential that all stakeholders come together to work towards a shared vision for the future. This can be achieved by participating actively at international forums, maintaining an open dialogue with regional parliaments and agencies tasked with matters of integration and supporting the monitoring of regional political commitments. It is also important to work with specialist bodies, such as the agencies of the United Nations, as well as with the support of foreign donors.

Lawmakers from Asia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean will be attending the first Global Parliamentary Summit Against Hunger and Malnutrition, where the fight to make Zero Hunger a reality will take on a global perspective and regional efforts and alliances will be able to support one another and make headway in the same direction.

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2. Zero hunger, 17. Partnership for the goals