By J Nastranis
UNITED NATIONS (IDN) – Hunger can be eliminated in our lifetimes: This was the underlying conviction when United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Zero Hunger Challenge in 2012. The Zero Hunger vision reflects five elements from within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which taken together, can end hunger, eliminate all forms of malnutrition, and build inclusive and sustainable food systems.
Nearly two years after the international community adopted a set of 17 SDGs to be achieved by 2030, some “20 million people are on the brink of starvation”, the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned. “We can only achieve Zero Hunger if we transform the rural economy, put smallholders at the centre and invest in sustainable agriculture and food systems,” said Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, Climate and Natural Resources.
She was delivering a joint statement on behalf of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) during the thematic review of SDG2 by the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) convened under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
Semedo noted that according to preliminary UN estimates after years of decline, hunger is on the rise again, and warned that protracted crises, conflict and extreme weather events such as drought linked to climate change threatens to reverse progress made in the fight against food insecurity.
The Forum involved nearly 2,500 participants, including ministers and other representatives from government, the UN system, civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders. It is held annually to review progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs.
The pace of implementation of the 2030 Agenda must be accelerated, a high-level United Nations meeting stressed in its final declaration on July 20. The Forum’s Ministerial Declaration noted that “putting the furthest behind first” means taking action to address the root causes of poverty. The Declaration also highlights poverty as a main cause of hunger.
Almost 80 percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas where people depend on agriculture, fisheries or forestry as their main source of income and food. Tackling poverty and hunger requires recognizing that food and nutrition security and rural livelihoods, including those of family farmers, fishers and pastoralists as well as indigenous communities, are intrinsically linked.
In the thematic review of SDG14, FAO in recognition of the vital role of oceans in food security, nutrition as well as regulation of climate change and economic development, stressed the need to rebuild fisheries and prioritise small-scale artisanal fisheries
The importance of multilateralism to address global problems was a central theme of the high-level segment of the Forum from July 17 to July 20. Held on an annual basis, the high-level segment represents the culmination of ECOSOC’s annual cycle of work and convenes a diverse group of high-level representatives from Government, the private sector, civil society and academia for policy dialogue, review and recommendations on the 2030 Agenda and other internationally agreed development goals.
“Solidarity and working together is more important than ever,” Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava, the outgoing President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), told the opening of the high-level segment of the Council’s 2017 session, which coincided with the three-day ministerial meeting of the High-Level Political Forum.
He noted that more than 767 million people lived in extreme poverty, according to 2013 figures cited by the UN. In addition, inequalities remain deep, conflicts and terrorism threaten humanity, and global temperatures are on the rise.
“Multilateralism is based on the recognition that we cannot overcome these – and other – global challenges in isolation,” Shava underscored. “Collective support for the poor and most vulnerable is in the interest of all of us.”
Also speaking at the opening, Secretary-General António Guterres noted the interlinkages between sustainable and inclusive development, conflict prevention and natural disaster preparedness. One of the main stressors on the world, he said, is climate change, impacting global megatrends – such as population growth, climate change, food insecurity, water scarcity, and chaotic urbanization in certain parts of the world.
He urged the more than 70 ministers and other senior government officials participating in the Forum to recommit to the Paris Agreement and its implementation: “This is something that I believe is very important not only because of its absolute need for mankind and the future of the planet but because it is also the right and smart thing to do.”
Guterres also urged developed countries to abide by their commitments in relation to official development aid, while at the same time noting that this is not enough to fund the implementation of the SDGs. “We need to create conditions to help States be able to mobilise more their own resources,” he said, citing the need for tax reforms and fighting money laundering and the illicit flows of capital.
This year’s meeting, the second since the adoption of the new development agenda in 2015, was on the theme of Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.
In addition to the high-level discussions, this year’s Forum, which began on July 10, included discussions on the challenges and gaps in reaching the development agenda in 44 countries that volunteered to give progress reports, and more than 120 side events related to the SDGs.
To achieve the Goals, the “essential ingredient is partnership,” said Peter Thomson, President of the 71st session of the General Assembly, at the opening of the 2017 Partnership Exchange, which was held as part of the Forum.
Thomson urged “effective collaboration and partnerships between governments, private sector, civil society, local authorities, schools, universities and our communities.”
He echoed the Secretary-General’s call for critical funding, from development assistance as well as private financing, and also highlighted collaboration in technology and innovation, and the need to raise awareness about the development agenda.
“The 2030 Agenda is a new social contract for the world,” said Thomson. “As such, global consciousness must be raised to its contents, to its transformative message and to what I see as a set of individual rights and responsibilities that emerge from it.”
A week after the High-Level Political Forum assessed the progress on implementing the 2030 Agenda, the newly elected ECOSOC President, Marie Chatardová, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the UN, stressed her priority to push forward the Sustainable Development Goals.
“I wish to announce that the key priority of my Presidency will be to develop initiatives towards fostering sustainable, resilient and inclusive societies through participation of all,” Chatardová said after her election by acclamation on July 27.
Delivering her first remarks as President, Chatardová welcomed the enormous interest among Member States to participate in the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), “It proves that we take our shared vision of a better world seriously,” she said.
The VNRs aim to facilitate the sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, with a view to accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The Reviews also seek to strengthen policies and institutions of governments and to mobilize multi-stakeholder support and partnerships for the implementation of the SDGs.
Noting several positive developments towards reaching the 2030 targets, such as unprecedented technological advancement and innovation, she said that nevertheless, the world continued to experience rising inequalities in most countries.
Echoing similar sentiments, Wu Hongbo, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said inequalities among and within countries are deep and addressing them is important for achieving sustainable development and peace. International support for sustainable and resilient societies is based on the recognition that “we cannot overcome global challenges in isolation.”
Against that backdrop, the Chatardová declared: “If multilateralism is to stay relevant in this evolving context, we need to take these challenges seriously, and work on devising solutions to address them. I believe that the ECOSOC system has a key role to play.”
To explore further collective action on the issue, she announced her intention to convene an ECOSOC Special Meeting at UN Headquarters in May 2018. “We must work together and make all efforts to achieve what we have set out: ‘to leave no-one behind.’ Truly no one!” she stressed. [IDN-InDepthNews – 30 July 2017]
Photo: Every day too many men and women across the globe struggle to feed their children a nutritious meal. 795 million people – one in nine – still go to bed on an empty stomach each night. Credit: WFP Website.
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