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Global responsibility

by Christian Schmidt

Opinion

Smallholdings must become more productive: Bangladeshi farmer with a motorised plough.

Smallholdings must become more productive: Bangladeshi farmer with a motorised plough.

Pledges to fight hunger must not get stuck in “could”, “should” and “might”, argues Christian Schmidt, Germany’s federal minister for food and agriculture.

“There is food for everyone, but not everyone can eat, while waste, excessive consumption and the use of food for other purposes is visible before our very eyes.” Pope Francis did not mince words when he addressed the participants of the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition in Rome in November. The pope is right. Today, some 800 million people on Earth are suffering hunger. The human right that is violated most is the right to sufficient food. Moreover, there are about 2 billion people who are malnourished in spite of their meals. At the same time, some 1.4 billion are overweight. These numbers have consequences, not only in terms of individual health, but also in terms of thwarted economic and social development in entire countries and even world regions.

In November, more than 150 countries, including Germany, endorsed the Rome Declaration on Nutrition. They thus committed to the goal of ending hunger all over the world and to prevent all forms of malnutrition, undernourishment and nutritional deficiencies. Evidently, we share awareness of this issue and the political will to act. However, the implementation of intentions must become more convincing than in the past. It is imperative to improve matters, and the politics of “could”, “should” and “might” must end.

The Rome Declaration is not a legally binding document. But we will certainly be entitled to ask questions when a partner does not fulfil a commitment. Governments that do not live up to their pledges will have to tell the world community the reasons.

Hunger, need and malnutrition are urgent issues of our time. I am among those who demand a UN Decade of Food Secu­rity. It will be a decade during which the international community tackles hunger with determination, and rich nations no longer close their eyes to hunger, need and malnutrition. We must rise to the challenges, together – and in a comprehensive manner that cuts across sectors. Sustainable development and good governance are needed to ensure food secu­rity in developing countries. In a UN Decade of Food Security, we will move closer to balanced nutrition for all.

Agriculture and food-processing industries must play a key role. One reason is that they produce what people eat. The second reason is that three of four persons who are exposed to hunger live in rural areas, and that share indicates the kind of massive traction we will get from building strong, sustainable and nutrition-sensitive food systems in poor world regions. This is what I want to achieve.

Ten years ago, the Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture contributed to making the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation adopt the Voluntary Guidelines on the Right to Food. The Guidelines spell out the right to adequate food in tangible terms and indicate appropriate action. I very much appreciate this approach.

Accordingly, I not only want to see the end of hunger included in the UN Sustainable Debelopment Goals; I insist that balanced nutrition for all people must become our shared vision and goal as well. In all international settings, Germany will stress the urgency of food security.

Fighting hunger and malnutrition is not at all like tilting at windmills. This battle can be won! We need stamina however. Progress may be slow, but success is already evident. When the international community held the 1st International Conference on Nutrition in 1992, one billion people suffered hunger. That number has gone down in spite of the world population’s continued growth. A world that feeds every person in a sufficient, adequate and healthy way is a vision that can come true. It is up to all of us to make it happen.

Christian Schmidt is Germany’s federal minister for nutrition and agriculture. http://www.bmel.de

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