Developing strategies to end hunger
 

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SOTU 2014: Obama, Africa, and the Pope

Photo for SOTU 2014

President Barack Obama participates in a joint press conference with President Macky Sall of Senegal at the Presidential Palace in Dakar, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

What President Obama says about U.S. global priorities in tomorrow's State of the Union address can set the tone for several upcoming opportunities to forge historic partnerships to make progress on global hunger and poverty.

In March, the president will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The topic of their discussion will be global inequality.  The World Economic Forum identified the rising gap between rich and poor as the greatest threat to global stability for the next decade.

In April, more than 500 young African leaders will be coming to Washington, DC, as part of the president's new Young African Leaders Initiative. The program will provide both leadership training and mentoring in the United States, and opportunities for participants to put new skills to use to build economic opportunity in their communities once they return home.

And last week, the White House announced that the president will host the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit on August 5-6. The summit will bring African presidents from across the continent to Washington to strengthen ties and build on the progress made since Obama's visit to three African countries in June 2013. During that trip, the U.S. president focused on commitments to global food security; expanding economic growth, strengthening democratic institutions, and investing in the next generation of African leaders.

This year's SOTU themes can pave the way to strengthen partnerships with these new audiences in the global community -- to the benefit of everyone, but particularly the world's 842 million hungry people.

By Michele Learner and Faustine Wabwire, Bread for the World Institute  

 

Rhode Island Becomes Third State to Mandate Paid Parental Leave

Hunger Report Monday 2

Last week, Rhode Island joined a small, but growing, group of states that have made paid parental leave a right for working parents. New Jersey and California are currently the only other states that have implemented laws mandating paid family leave. Washington is set to enact paid-leave legislation next year, and both New York and Massachusetts have bills pending. Several other states—including Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Colorado, and Oregon—are also investigating similar measures. More state-level action on paid leave demonstrates waning patience with Congress’ prolonged inaction on the issue. 

The United States remains the only advanced economy in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid parental leave (see infographic below). What is now a societal given for families in other developed nations is still a luxury in the United States—mostly available to the wealthiest Americans. In fact, about 40 percent of U.S. workers are not even guaranteed job-protected family leave that is unpaid.

We know that creating abundant, better-paying jobs is the first step to ending hunger in America. But wage rates are just one component of the economy that is out of balance. The changes in society over the past half-century—most prominently, the new norm that most women are in the paid workforce—have not been accompanied by policies that adequately reflect these realities and ensure that workers have the support they need to meet their responsibilities. 

Too many jobs do not pay enough, do not enable parents to balance work and family responsibilities, and do not provide workers with any bargaining power to negotiate higher pay or more flexible schedules. Government policies currently in place do not go far enough in addressing these problems. In the United States, where the expectation is that parents work outside the home, government has a role in protecting the welfare of children, elderly people, and people with disabilities by setting standards to ensure that all workers can fulfill their job and family commitments.

The absence of a federal provision for paid parental leave is an anachronism, but it’s sadly not the only one. “In virtually every area of work-family policy, provisions in the United States tend to be less well-developed and less equitably distributed than those in most peer countries,” write Jane Waldfogel and Sarah McLanahan in the journal The Future of Children,published by Princeton University and the Brookings Institution. More than four in 10 private sector workers—and more than 80 percent of low-wage workers—do not have paid sick days. In other high-income countries, the law specifically permits workers to request flexible scheduling, while in the United States, many workers worry that even giving the impression of any sort of work-family conflict could get them fired. 

The stark economic conditions (especially high unemployment rates) facing many families today are aggravated by the inadequate response of policymakers. States like Rhode Island, New Jersey, and California have set a good example by choosing fair national labor standards that foster supportive work environments and a more stable economy—which will result in lower rates of hunger and poverty.

Read more about the role of work-family policy in ending hunger in chapter two of the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America

Derek Schwabe

The 2014 Hunger Report in Tweets

The 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, was launched just before Thanksgiving. For the past month, Institute Notes has featured a series of posts offering previews of the report. We pointed out that widespread hunger now threatens to become a scandalous “new normal” situation in the United States – it’s risen by nearly 40 percent since 2000.We made the case that not only is it an achievable goal to undo the damage the Great Recession did to U.S. food security, but it is also feasible to eradicate hunger entirely by 2030. We presented a carefully researched four-step plan that leaders at all levels, in partnership with local communities, can use to end hunger in our country. Our most recent post, coinciding with the report launch on November 25, offers a brief recap of these four steps.

In just the few days since the launch, we’ve received a lot of feedback -- on the launch presentation, the report, and the exciting new ways we’re presenting its messages on hungerreport.org. Here’s a quick round-up of what our partners and friends have been talking about: 

1. An Expert Panel of Perspectives

No one has more authority to speak on hunger in America than those who have experienced it. At the Hunger Report launch, panelists Barbie Izquierdo, Dominic Duren, and Sharon Thornberry helped humanize the effects of even a seemingly small change in policy or funding.

2. No Paper Needed

The executive summary is available for iPad and eReader download, and the entire report can now be read in page-flipping book format at hungerreport.org/downloads.

3. Interactive Stories

The policies examined in the 2014 Hunger Report have very real impact for millions of Americans. At hungerreport.org/profiles we present four stories that combine multimedia and interactive data to make that clearer than ever.

4. Infographics to Share

Hunger’s causes and solutions are complex. That’s why we need the full report to give them the space they deserve. But a good place to start is with the 2014 Hunger Report infographics -- to get the top messages of the report in bite-size form, and pass them on through social media. 

5. Hope

The panel of speakers at the launch agreed that it doesn’t have to be this way. Ending hunger is not an impossible dream. With strong commitment and the right tools, we really can end it.

Check out HungerReport.org to explore all of the tools available to Hunger Report readers, and if you missed them, be sure to read  blog posts onetwothree, four, and five of the 2014 Hunger Report series.

Derek Schwabe

The Philippines Is calling. Who Is Listening?

Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, made landfall on the eastern coast of the Philippines last Friday, November 8, 2013. As of today, more than 10,000 lives are known to have been lost. A total of 9.8 million people are now believed to have been affected by the storm as relief and rescue efforts continue to reach new areas along the storm’s destructive path.

Emergency assistance is urgently needed, and you can help survivors by joining the ongoing efforts of  agencies such as Catholic Relief Services.


Typhoon-haiyan
 Photo credit:Paula Bronstein/ Getty Images

It’s also important to look at the bigger picture. Droughts, floods, and other disasters that endanger millions of people at a time are increasingly common. For example, the Philippines is no stranger to typhoons or other natural disasters. But Typhoon Haiyan, the 24th storm to hit the country this year, is the most powerful typhoon in the country’s history. Last year, more than 1,000 people died in a single typhoon.

The increasing frequency of devastating weather events over the past decade is in line with the effects of global climate change as predicted by climate scientists. Extreme events such as Typhoon Haiyan and its impacts are sobering reminders to the international community that we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action.

The feasibility of ending hunger and extreme poverty depends on the world’s ability to manage large-scale disasters linked to climate change as well as economic shocks such as food, fuel, or financial crises. All of these factors pose significant risks to the pace and sustainability of reducing poverty.

As the Philippines and the global relief community face the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, UN climate talks are under way in Warsaw, Poland. The annual Conference of the Parties (COP 19) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) runs from November 11-22. The climate change talks in Warsaw must mobilize the political will to begin doing what it will take to limit climate change.

Bold action is needed now.

Developed countries must show they are meeting their commitments under the climate convention. Vulnerable communities will be stuck in a grim cycle of ever-more-frequent, ever-more-destructive natural disasters unless the global community takes emergency measures to prevent the planet from becoming more than 2 degrees Celsius warmer than in pre-industrial times -- the absolute threshold for preventing the most nightmarish scenarios of the Earth’s future.

Faustine Wabwire

Resilience Ranks High On 2013 World Food Prize Agenda

Last week in Des Moines, Iowa, the 2013 World Food Prize Symposium brought together more than 1,000 international scientific, business, and policy experts from more than 65 countries. The weeklong dialogue on ending hunger has been called the “premier conference in the world on global agriculture." This year's World Food Prize Laureates are pioneers in biotechnology: Dr. Marc Van Montagu of Belgium and Dr. Mary Dell-Chilton and Dr. Robert Fraley of the United States.

Among the many key issues discussed was the need to build resilience: in families, in communities, in nations, and in the world. Bread for the World Institute's recent Briefing Paper, A Global Development Agenda: Toward 2015 and Beyond, emphasizes that responding effectively to climate change means building resilience in communities where people have always struggled to produce enough food. This task demands strong and organized political leadership, infrastructure, and resources at all levels — local, regional, national, and international. At the same time, understanding the interactions between agriculture and climate well enough to know how to respond effectively will require new investments. We need to improve data collection and analysis so that we can create and implement evidence-based adaptation measures that work.

2013WFPDaviD_Turkson

Rev. David Beckmann, president of  Bread for the World,  and Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson,  president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, The Holy See, The Vatican, at the World Food Prize Symposium. Photo Credit: John Coonrod

Highlights:

  • Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson has served as the president of the Roman Catholic Church’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in The Vatican since 2009. His remarks focused on the importance of addressing long-term food security issues while respecting both the land and rural populations, and of promoting sustainable agricultural development in poorer countries.
  • Tony Blair, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, is currently Patron of the Africa Governance Initiative. Mr. Blair spoke on a panel entitled 40 Chances in a reference to the number of growing seasons an average farmer has during his or her lifetime. With the theme of “Redefining the Fight Against Hunger, Poverty, and Suffering,” this discussion focused on the drivers of food security, which include aid effectiveness, trade, private sector investment, and technological innovation. Mr. Blair also announced new joint programs designed to foster market-based solutions to global challenges in the areas of hunger, poverty, and conflict.
  • President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson of Iceland stressed that the need to respond to the problems caused by increasing climate volatility is one of the most pressing current issues worldwide. 

Also last week, the 2013 Global Hunger Index report was launched at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, DC. The report, The Challenge of Hunger: Building Resilience to Achieve Food and Nutrition Security, calls for breaking down the silos between the emergency relief and development communities and for focusing on approaches that enable people and systems to better resist, absorb, and transform in response to shocks such as droughts, floods, and food price volatility.

Click here to watch video footage of 2013 World Food Prize sessions (Note - Footage is grouped by day and time.)

Faustine Wabwire 

2014 World Development Report Champions Future Preparedness

Visual representation of the World Bank's 2014 World Development Report (source: The World Bank)

The World Bank released its 2014 World Development Report (WDR) last week. Previously, “risk management” was not a commonly-heard phrase in global development, but the WDR makes a good case for why it should be. As the world — developing regions especially — anticipates economic crises and more frequent natural disasters in the context of a rapidly rising population, the World Bank argues that people now more than ever need to be better prepared to cope with whatever the future may bring.

Over the past 25 years, there has been unprecedented progress in improving livelihoods in developing countries. Driven by global efforts such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), national and international leaders have joined with partners across civil society, the private sector, and local communities to identify and carry out effective strategies. The world has met the MDG target of cutting the rate of extreme poverty in half. Other measurements of the eight MDGs also reveal considerable progress. But the World Bank warns that these advancements could easily be lost if national governments do not take decisive steps to identify and prepare to mitigate both existing and emerging risks. New risks are, however, accompanied by a host of new opportunities. Inaction may be the riskiest option of all.

WDR $1.25 per day

Even after the unprecedented efforts of the past few years, more than half of the population of the developing world lives on less than $2.50 a day. And as we mentioned in Institute Notes last week, there are still 842 million people who are chronically hungry. All are vulnerable to falling deeper into poverty, hunger, and poor health when confronted with economic and environmental shocks or armed conflict.

The focus of this year’s WDR is on reliable information and sound planning. In its own words:

The WDR 2014’s value added resides in its emphasis on managing risks in a proactive, systemic, and integrated way. These characteristics underscore the importance of forward-looking planning and preparation in a context of uncertainty.

Other major players in global development concur with the WDR assessment. For example, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has just released its Global Hunger Index, which argues that greater resilience in international agricultural and economic systems is critical to boosting food and nutrition security.

In her recently launched briefing paper, Bread for the World Institute’s Faustine Wabwire also stresses the importance of resilience in whatever post-2015 plan emergesto replace the MDGs. Preparing more effectively for the future – whether in the United States or in developing countries – is (not coincidentally) a major emphasis of our 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, to be released on November 25. Keep a lookout for upcoming Institute Notes posts with more details on this exciting new report as that date approaches!  

Derek Schwabe

Canada Measures Progress on Nutrition, Calls for Renewed Global Efforts

At the launch of the global Muskoka Initiative during the 2010 Group of 8 (G-8) summit, the government of Canada promised to “make a significant, tangible difference in the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people.” The Muskoka Initiative, signed by all G-8 member countries, focuses on articulating principles, developing measures, and promoting transparency and accountability in health outcomes.

Canada and the other Muskoka signatories have contributed to impressive progress in the past two years. According to the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (CAN-MNCH), in 2012, an extra 700,000 children reached their fifth birthday as compared to 2010. In more than 125 countries, maternal death rates have fallen sharply in the past five years.

Three years into the initiative, Canada is on track to meet its five-year commitment of Can$2.85 billion (the Canadian and U.S. dollars are currently close in value; Canada’s pledge is about U.S. $2.76 billion). It has already disbursed 60 percent of the total. Moreover, encouraged by the results associated with its investment, Canada recently committed an additional Can$203.5 million to support the Muskoka principles. Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently hosted a United Nations event on the health of pregnant women and young children, where he made the announcement.

Impact 2025
A symposium, IMPACT 2025: Working Together for Global Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, was held last month in Ottawa by the Canadian government and CAN-MNCH. According to reporting from the event, “…despite some remarkable progress, improvements in [maternal, newborn, and child health, MNCH] have been uneven across and within countries.” Participants came together to make a series of recommendations to the Canadian government to support current investments by:

·         Maintaining political momentum

·         Leveraging global leadership in MNCH to reach the Millennium Development Goals

·         Strengthening accountability frameworks

·         Promoting private sector engagement

·         Collaborating through a “Whole-of-Canada” approach

These efforts by our neighbor to the north remind those of us in the United States that there is global political momentum behind efforts to improve health and nutrition outcomes for women and children. This global nutrition momentum confronts the “massive unfinished agenda” in nutrition that I wrote about previously. Global efforts must respond to these unmet needs through new collaborations that leverage available resources and emphasize best practices.

Such collaborations will help build an evidence base of what has produced successful results—an important tool for moving forward, as emphasized in the 2013 Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition. Advocacy groups such as Bread for the World need these successes to help make the case to the U.S. Congress that sustaining robust funding for nutrition is a smart investment of taxpayer resources—prevention efforts that will be leveraged by other donors and by national governments to make a “significant, tangible difference” in the lives of millions. 

Scott Bleggi


The Clock is Ticking: Toward 2015

In May 2013, the High Level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda—a group tasked with advising the United Nations Secretary General—released its report A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development. The report advocates five “global shifts”:

  • Leave no one behind;
  • Put sustainable development at the core;
  • Transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth;
  • Build peace and effective, open, and accountable institutions for all; and
  • Forge a new global partnership.

Bread for the World Institute's latest briefing paper, A Global Development Agenda: Toward 2015 and Beyond, emphasizes that the post-2015 development agenda provides an opportunity to promote equity and equitable growth in all countries. It is also an opportunity to recognize linkages across key areas: food security and good nutrition for all; agricultural development; women’s economic empowerment; and good governance and effective institutions. Goals should be formulated in ways that capture the great potential of coordinated approaches, which have proven to be highly effective in responding to multiple development challenges.

Last week in New York, a special event convened by the president of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) sought to review progress made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and to chart the way toward December 2015, the MDG deadline.The Millennium Development Goals Outcome Document released at the event calls on the global community to build on past achievements, redouble its efforts, and accelerate progress on the MDGs.

Faustine Wabwire

First Global Gathering of SUN Countries in New York

Hunger Report Monday

Efforts to improve maternal and child nutrition reach new heights this week as representatives from 42 member countries of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement gather in New York for their first-ever global meeting.

As one of the events taking place on the margins of this week’s United Nations General Assembly meetings, the SUN Global Gathering will draw increased political attention to the urgent problem of early childhood malnutrition and provide a space where government and civil society leaders can share “best practices” from their experiences in seeking solutions to malnutrition at the national and local levels. As the General Assembly takes up the issue of how to formulate the global development goals that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire in December 2015, the presence of SUN leaders will send a clear message: nutrition must become a pillar of the post-2015 development agenda.  

The surest indicator of chronic malnutrition is stunting. One in four children around the world is stunted—and being far too short for their age is only the most visible sign. When children are stunted, they lose—not only in physical size, but in health, physical and cognitive development, and the long-term capacity to lead a productive life. Nutrition is a critical element of human development that affects many other issues, including poverty, education, agriculture, gender equity, economic development, and climate change. (You can read more about the cross-cutting nature of nutrition interventions here).

The timeline above reminds us that much has happened since September 2010, when developing countries founded the SUN movement and donors—led by the United States and Ireland—launched the 1,000 Days Call to Action to support it. What started as the recommendations of a scientific series in the leading medical journal The Lancet on what we know about early childhood malnutrition has grown into a global partnership. To date, 42 countries (up from 35 since this past June) with high rates of maternal and child malnutrition have joined SUN. The movement has grown rapidly as governments and civil society leaders increasingly recognize the irreversible damage that early childhood malnutrition inflicts on whole generations—and, conversely, the tremendous return on national investments that prevent it.

The 2013 Hunger Report is chock-full of stories on maternal and child nutrition, stunting, the 1,000 Days window, and the SUN movement. It’s all related to our recommendation for a bull’s-eye goal of ending mass hunger and extreme poverty by 2040. 

Download the report at www.hungerreport.org to get the full story on Bread for the World’s recommendations on nutrition in the 1,000 days from pregnancy to age 2. Derek Schwabe

World Bank President Reminds G-20 to Step-Up Investments in the Developing World

 

World Bank President, Dr. Jim Kim comments on G-20 meetings in St. Petersburg. (World Bank)

The Group of 20 (G-20) wrapped-up its two-day leaders’ summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, last week. World Bank President Dr. Jim Kim cut to the chase about global poverty—reminding global leaders still uneasy about a sagging world economy that continued investment in the developing world is not only critical to ending poverty and hunger, but good for business. With little more than two years left until the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in December 2015, Kim challenged rich countries and private sector investors not to shy away from, but instead to redouble, financial commitments in poor countries.

Kim emphasized the increasingly pressing need for leaders to “grow our global infrastructure facility.” Infrastructure—both physical and financial—is still a key item on the G-20 development agenda. This is because improving infrastructure is a prerequisite for sustained progress on the MDGs. Though donor support for it is a stated priority for most developing countries, it has been largely absent from donors’ agendas. Agricultural development has its own specific infrastructure needs (e.g., storage facilities to preserve crops longer), as does the health sector (e.g., programs to train more health workers). Among the many physical infrastructure challenges, building roads to areas without access to services is one of the most important. Cross-sector infrastructure needs include collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data.

The G-20 agenda has included the problem of high and volatile food prices ever since the initial food price crisis in 2007. In June 2011, the G-20 agriculture ministers called for greater transparency in commodity markets and committed their countries to collectively establish an early warning system that would compile information on food stocks, crop supplies, and demand. The ministers also agreed to “ensure that national food-based safety nets can work at times when food prices rise sharply and governments cannot access the food required for these safety nets at an affordable price.”

Commitments to economic growth in the developing world can be easily derailed in the name of shorter-term goals. But as Kim pointed out, the G-20 must keep its priorities straight. Taking steps to help millions of people who need better economic opportunities should be at the top of its agenda.

Read more about the G-20 and investments to end hunger in Chapter 2 of the 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach: Global Development Goals. Derek Schwabe

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