2013 has the potential to be a watershed year for food and nutrition security.
Part of its potential is because some major groundwork was laid last year. In May, U.S. President Obama announced the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, a partnership between G8 nations, African countries, and private sector leaders that promises to raise some 50 million people out of poverty over the next ten years through investments in agriculture and nutrition. Then in August, UK Prime Minister David Cameron used the Summer Olympic Games as a platform to host a high-level summit on hunger and nutrition that brought together leaders from governments, businesses, and NGOs to discuss new ways of tackling hunger and malnutrition in the world's poorest countries.
I believe this momentum will carry over into 2013 in a number of meetings, starting with a campaign that is bringing more than 50 charities, including Concern Worldwide, in the UK together in a collective call for an urgent overhaul of the global food system. This campaign is going to be a major opportunity to trigger changes in global and national policies that could tear down key obstacles in ending hunger.
"Enough Food for Everyone... IF" -- or the IF campaign -- focuses on four "ifs" that could free millions from the cycle of hunger and food insecurity if we can make them a reality.
1. IF we give enough aid to stop children dying from hunger, and help the poorest people feed themselves
The global food system has suffered from under-investment in agriculture and nutrition, fragile institutions to protect natural resources, limited tax systems, and a lack of transparency. Although there is no single recipe for success, the campaign calls for a suite of financing instruments to tackle this issue.
The evidence for action is overwhelming: investments in agriculture and nutrition, coupled with actions that ensure equal access to land, build community resilience to food price and weather changes, and strong access to markets, can reduce hunger and spur growth. According to the World Bank, in low-income countries, growth that is led by agriculture is five times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in other sectors.
2. IF we stop poor farmers being forced off their land, and use crops to feed people, not fuel cars
Small-scale farmers, women farmers, and pastoralists often do not have formal access to, and control over, the natural resources they need to produce food and secure their livelihoods. Concern and other international NGOs are leading the search for innovative solutions to break the cycle of hunger, by addressing its root causes, and thereby empowering people to have their voices heard and to have a say on issues like land acquisitions, private sector investment deals, and government policy design.
In Tanzania, Concern is helping farmers obtain formal land titles, which has wide-ranging benefits. Small-scale farmers' livelihoods can be protected and boosted by increasing access and control over land. The overwhelming benefits are security, and access to loans. Land titles give farmers legal recognition. If land is appropriated thereafter, compensation must be paid. Once farmers have formal land titles, they can have access to loans, which allows them to invest in their farms and increase their yields. Binding policies at the international and national levels are also needed to improve the access to land and water as well as to ensure the transparency, fairness, and monitoring of land policies and investments.
3. IF we stop big companies dodging taxes in poor countries, so that millions of people can free themselves from hunger
Developing countries often lack the resources to finance food and nutrition security and bring innovative solutions to scale. According to Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), poor countries lose as much as three times the aid they receive to tax havens. Essentially, for every £1 received in aid, they are losing three in avoided tax. In the coming years, the economic growth in emerging and developing countries will offer great potential for securing new sources of financing to fight hunger but this potential must be harnessed.
New players like emerging economies and the private sector will play an instrumental role in supporting this shift towards more sustainable financing for food and nutrition security and bringing innovative solutions to scale. They must work in partnership with governments of developing countries and local communities to tackle problems that undermine the fight against hunger like tax evasion and lack of transparency. In the long-term, this will enable countries to build better systems to collect taxes from its citizens and companies, in order to finance their fight against hunger in a way that is not dependent on foreign aid.
4. IF we force governments and big corporations to be honest and open about their actions that stop people getting enough food
Very few governments have transparent budgets. According to the Open Budget Index 2010, 74 out of 94 countries surveyed fail to meet basic standards of transparency and accountability. This lack of transparency makes it hard for the government to account for its actions, and for the public to see where public money is going. Detailed agriculture budgets, for example, are seldom available at the sub-regional level meaning that farmers have no way of holding the government to account if funding is not adapted to their needs.
Transparency is crucial to ensure that food and nutrition security are actually prioritized in public investment plans. In addition, transparency allows for investments to be tracked, monitored and evaluated which is key to scaling-up successes and learning from mistakes. However, limited government capacity to build and implement transparent budget systems remains a challenge. Civil society and donor countries have a role to play in supporting governments in their efforts to build these new and more accountable public spending systems.
If we move the needle on these four issues, 2013 could mark the beginning of the end of world hunger. To do this, we need as many voices as possible to tell our leaders that we will no longer accept "if" when it comes to making hunger history. We can't afford "if" any longer.
To get involved in the IF campaign, please visit www.concern.net/if.