Next week will see a key event related to the process to envision the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Government officials will gather in New York for a meeting of the Open Working Group to debate ideas in 19 different areas, including food and nutrition security. By mid-summer, this group will make recommendations to the United Nations General Assembly about a possible next set of development goals for adoption in 2015.
Since they were established in 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have become a report card for how the world is performing against major problems affecting the poor, and they have helped to drive unprecedented progress for those living in extreme poverty. This progress is real; the MDG aimed at halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has been reached ahead of the deadline, as has the goal of halving the proportion of people who lack access to safe drinking water.
As leaders gather in New York to discuss a new set of goals, we believe they should focus on building on what has worked and what will be needed in the future. The unfinished MDG agenda must be met and a lasting end to extreme poverty should continue to be at the core of what comes next. We should make sure that any new goals, like the MDGs, are specific, measurable, and attainable.
One of the key issues that will be discussed is food security and nutrition. The fact is that three fourths of the poorest people depend on agriculture for their nutrition and income. But degraded natural resources, limited access to services, information and technology and continual shocks, including severe weather events, are making it hard for these farmers to grow enough food to feed and provide for their families.
Over the last few months, the foundation has sought the advice of some of the world’s leading thinkers on agriculture, food security, and nutrition, and we have distilled their thoughts into a suggested set of targets and indicators. The goal of this exercise is to be specific and in doing so spur a global conversation about what goals and targets are needed to drive improvements in food security and nutrition for the next 15 years.
At the broadest level, we recommend a focus on eliminating hunger by increasing sustainable agricultural productivity. In other words, we believe the way to help millions of farmers lift themselves out of poverty and hunger and to meet the projected increases in global food demand – up to 60 percent by 2050 by some estimates – is by helping farmers to grow more food, more sustainably. We believe that this should be done in such a way that empowers smallholder farmers, particularly women, protects the environment, and addresses nutritional needs, particularly those of women and children.
The agriculture and nutrition targets we propose integrate the needs of the most vulnerable with the need for better technology, environmental safeguards and improved economic opportunity. We are concerned not only with growing more food while using fewer resources but also with what will be grown, how it will used and whether it will leave us all better off. This is no small task, so what we choose as a goal and the targets that we use to track it are critical.
We believe that ‘sustainability’ must be embedded into the post-2015 agenda. We see it as key to ensuring that progress is more than just achieving short-term results and is about building communities and economies that can thrive over the long-term, while protecting the environment for future generations. Only by acting and thinking holistically will we be able to preserve any progress that we make on food security and nutrition.
At the foundation, partnership and goal-setting are core to the way we work. We believe that if the global community is to make significant progress on poverty and hunger, we must work together. We can start by agreeing to a common goal and set of targets to eliminate hunger and malnutrition. We welcome your thoughts on our proposal.