Developing strategies to end hunger
 

116 posts categorized "Good Governance"

Too Many SDGs?

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Vuk Jeremić, President of the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly, opens the first session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Photo source: UN Multimedia.

Late last month, the U.N. General Assembly’s Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) submitted its proposal for a set of goals to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when their deadline, December 2015, passes.

The SDGs, to be presented for approval at the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September, are an effort to accelerate and intensify the gains in human development that the MDGs began. The MDGs galvanized remarkable global political commitment from rich and poor countries alike – and this is why they inspired significant progress against poverty and hunger.

The eight MDGs are concise and easy to remember – e.g., cut the rate of extreme poverty in half, reduce maternal mortality by three-fourths. They have proven to be easy to explain to the public and to adapt to the circumstances of individual countries.  At this writing, there are 17 proposed SDGs – which run the risk of losing the simplicity that made their predecessors so popular and effective.  It may sound simplistic, but it is also accurate:  in order to spur lasting improvements, the SDGs must be marketable.

One of the most significant critiques of the MDGs has been the non-inclusive way in which they were formulated. The voices of developing country leaders, civil society, and low-income people themselves were largely absent from the MDG discussion. This is something that the UN has worked very hard to remedy this time around. A list of 17 proposed SDGs is a good sign— many more people have contributed their thoughts, making it more likely that the SDGs will avoid the blind spots of the MDGs.

Stronger global partnerships based on mutual respect are also a major theme of the Africa Leaders Summit, taking place this week in Washington, DC. The emphasis on trade in this first-ever event reflects the evolving view of U.S.-Africa relations – and U.S. relations with all developing regions – as focused on shared goals that are nonetheless country-owned. Thus, each country will pursue goals such as ending hunger by 2030 according to its own national circumstances and priorities. If well-packaged and well-presented, the SDGs will undergird this partnership model.

Keeping the list of SDGs wieldy is essential, however. Early research in the psychology of memory found that generally, human beings do not retain lists of more than seven or eight meaningful concepts at once. The results of a more recent study by psychologists at the University of Missouri, Columbia indicated an even smaller list, placing the optimal number of distinct ideas that a young adult can store in short-term “working memory” at three to five. Conventional wisdom, from speeches and sermons to advertisements, affirms this finding.  Three-point speeches are the norm, and you will never see a commercial that tries to sell you on 17 concepts at once.

Like many other stakeholders, we at Bread for the World Institute have made our case for why the issues most important to us—a goal to end hunger and a nutrition target—should be represented in the SDGs. And there are many other critically important concerns. But there are only so many seats on the plane. What’s most important in the end is that the plane is light enough to take off. If people can’t grasp the goals easily, they will have a much harder time getting behind them.

The General Assembly should explore practical ways to preserve the breadth of the proposed SDGs while making them as accessible as possible. Grouping is one possibility:  the 17 goals could be sorted into four or five descriptive categories that are easier to name and summarize.

Communicating complex ideas without oversimplifying or alienating your audience is about striking a delicate balance. The potential impact of the SDGs hangs in that balance.       Derek Schwabe

A Perfect Opportunity to Make Progress Against Hunger

Photo for African Leaders Summit

 Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Heads of state and government have converged on Washington, DC,  for President Obama's historic summit with African leaders, taking place today, August 4, through Wednesday, August 6.

In addition to its focus on advancing trade and investment in Africa, the summit will "[highlight] the depth and breadth of the United States’ commitment to the African continent and... enable discussion of concrete ideas to deepen the partnership," according to the White House.

One sign that this deeper partnership is becoming a reality is the U.S. government's four-year-old global food security initiative, Feed the Future. As we've discussed frequently on Institute Notes, Feed the Future focuses on smallholder farmers as the key to the agriculture-led growth necessary to significantly reduce hunger and poverty. In just the past year, Feed the Future has reached nearly 7 million smallholder farmers, and Bread for the World Institute President David Beckmann calls the initiative "a down payment on global food and nutrition security." For more on the future of Feed the Future, listen to a Voice of America interview with Institute senior foreign assistance policy analyst Faustine Wabwire.

The African Union, for its part, committed to ending hunger by 2025 at its 2014 summit, held in late June in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. This year also marks 10 years since the adoption of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), where governments committed to making agriculture a higher priority. As discussed in the Institute's short paper, The Push-Up Decade: CAADP at 10,10 of the 54 African Union member states have reached the target set at the outset of allocating 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture.

Equipping Africa's next generation with the tools needed to build a more peaceful and prosperous future is a top priority for both African countries and the U.S. government.  The African Leaders Summit is paired with another first-of-its-kind effort, a U.S.-based training program and White House summit for 500 African leaders ages 25 to 35, part of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) launched by the administration in 2010.

Simple numbers tell us why the focus must be on the next generation: as of 2012, the median age in sub-Saharan countries was 19.7 (by comparison, the U.S. median age is about 37). A startling 85 percent of all the people in sub-Saharan Africa are younger than 45.

The potential of such a young continent is enormous. But the data also point to an immense barrier to realizing that potential: hunger and malnutrition. In some countries, stunting -- an indication of chronic malnutrition early in life that affects a person's health and intellectual development for a lifetime -- affects more than 40 percent of all children.

Of the current 53 member countries of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, 34 are sub-Saharan African nations. SUN member countries have identified malnutrition, particularly during the 1,000 Days between a woman's pregnancy and her child's second birthday, as a critical problem in their societies. They are working together to bring proven nutrition interventions  -- many of them straightforward and inexpensive actions such as providing iron supplements to pregnant women -- to many more women, infants, and toddlers at risk. 

The African Leaders Summit, particularly today's discussion of "Resilience and Food Security in a Changing Climate," is a rare chance for leaders to use the growing partnership links between the United States and African countries to solidify global goals and concrete actions on hunger and nutrition. 

Michele Learner

For Families in Central America, Heartbreaking Decisions

Percent Change in Unaccompanied minors
Why are so many more unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border with Mexico? Most (about 75 percent) of the new wave of minors are not actually from Mexico, but have made the long journey through Mexico from the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

If the surge of child migrants were caused by softer U.S. policies -- or rumors of softer U.S. policies -- we would expect many to be from Mexico. After all, Mexico, which shares its long border with the United States, is the home country of the majority of undocumented immigrants here. But as we see in the above graphic, Mexico is not the source of the increase. In fact, the number of unaccompanied Mexican children has changed little, and even declined since 2009.

The primary causes are, instead, deep poverty and extreme levels of violence in Central America. The striking disparities between the haves and have-nots in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador sustain high levels of hunger and malnutrition, particularly among young children, whose rates of stunting are soaring. At the same time, the three are the most violence-plagued nations in the hemisphere. Gangs often choose to recruit elementary school children; those who refuse to join are sometimes killed along with their entire families, and girls are frequently targeted for gang rape. This is why so many of those trying to cross the U.S. border are children and teenagers.

Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala Lead the World in Murder Rates
As long as poverty, inequality, and weak governance persist – and often worsen – many families in these three countries face a dilemma no parent should have to face: keep their children home even though they can’t protect them, or send them on long, dangerous journeys in hopes that they will reach a safer place.

To resolve the crisis of the unaccompanied child migrants, border control is not enough. The root causes are at home. Thousands of desperate families have determined that fleeing, even with the risk of never reaching their destination, is the best option their children have. The United States can do a great deal to help alleviate poverty and enable Central American governments to protect their citizens. Read more about specific policy recommendations from the Institute’s senior immigration policy analyst, Andrew Wainer. Derek Schwabe

Which Country Is Most Committed to Ending Hunger?

This time last year, I  blogged about the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI), which combines a number of variables to come up with a ranking of how serious a country’s central government is about fighting hunger and malnutrition. We know that lack of political will is the only reason the world hasn’t ended hunger yet – so efforts like HANCI are important.

Government commitment was measured by indicators such as the creation and implementation of new policies and programs, the strength of existing programs, and whether the efforts are supported with sufficient funding. The first HANCI, last year, ranked Guatemala at the top because of its substantial “improvements in providing clean drinking water, ensuring improved sanitation, promoting complementary feeding practices, and investing in health interventions.” HANCI also noted that the Guatemalan government had launched a national campaign, the Zero Hunger Plan.

The second HANCI report, released this week, once again ranks Guatemala, along with Peru and Malawi, at the top. In these countries, governments, civil society organizations, and international partners are collaborating on programs that are making a difference to people’s health and well-being. It is no surprise that the three are also leaders in the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, with active civil society networks that advocate for improved nutrition with their governments. SUN countries emphasize the “1,000 Days” window of opportunity on nutrition, which lasts from a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday.

HANCI 2

In this chart from the HANCI report, nutrition rankings are the Y axis (vertical) and hunger rankings are the X axis (horizontal). The closer a country is to (1,1), like Guatemala (GTM), the higher its score.

Learn more about Guatemala’s efforts by watching a recent PBS NewsHour segment, “Widespread childhood malnutrition is a paradox in agriculturally rich Guatemala".

 

The PBS broadcast features interviews with government leaders such as Luis Enrique Monterosso, head of the country’s hunger and malnutrition agency; leading private sector businesspeople on why they believe that ending malnutrition in Guatemala is imperative; and Save the Children-Guatemala, which implements programs funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Early successes in Guatemala stem from the recognition that nutrition is important across development sectors; offices devoted to agriculture, health, education, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are all working on nutrition issues. In health, direct nutrition interventions such as feeding malnourished infants are complemented by “nutrition-sensitive” actions in other areas – actions aimed at tackling the underlying causes of malnutrition. These programs together comprise “bundled interventions,” which experts at The Lancet medical journal, the Copenhagen Consensus, and IFPRI consider one of the best uses of development assistance. Bundled interventions fight malnutrition in cost-effective ways; in fact, the benefits they bring are worth many times their cost.

Scott Bleggi

What Should Post-Millennium Development Goals Look Like?

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), endorsed by 189 countries in 2000, are an unprecedented global effort to achieve development goals that are identified collectively, achievable, and measurable. Globally, substantial progress has been made toward many MDG targets. The targets for MDG 1, the first of the eight goals, are to cut in half the proportion of people living with hunger and poverty by December 2015. The poverty target has been met. The hunger target has not, but it is still within reach if all countries are willing to do their part. According to the latest State of Food Insecurity (SOFI) report, 842 million people, or roughly one in eight people in the world, suffered from chronic hunger in the period 2011-2013. This is down from the figures for 2010-2012 (868 million) and for 2009 (1.02 billion).

This is a historic time. As the December 2015 MDG deadline approaches, global efforts to establish an agreed post-2015 development agenda are intensifying. The world’s attention and resources will be focused on this new set of goals for the next 15 years. Unlike the MDGs, which were crafted by a team of experts who came mainly from the United Nations, the process of setting a post-2015 development agenda is largely participatory. The U.N. is working with governments, civil society, the private sector and other partners to identify public priorities through the My World Survey.

Informed by the experience of the MDGs, Bread for the World Institute's briefing paper A Global Development Agenda: Toward 2015 and Beyond emphasizes that formulating a universal post-2015 development agenda is critical to promote equity and equitable growth worldwide. It is also an opening to recognize that key areas are clearly interwoven: food security and good nutrition for all; agricultural development; women’s economic empowerment; and good governance and effective institutions. The new goals should be conceptualized and worded in ways that capture the great potential of coordinated approaches, which have proven to be highly effective in responding to complex development challenges with many “moving parts.”

Dao_farmers_harvestingPhoto credit: IRF2015

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.

Another group helping to conceptualize and frame the post-2015 development agenda was formed as a result of the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development (usually called “Rio+20”), which took place in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The conference’s outcome document, The Future We Want, called for the creation of an intergovernmental Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals. The OWG was tasked with developing a proposal that both built on the progress made under the MDGs, and created a single post-2015 framework that placed poverty reduction and sustainable development at its core.

This week, June 14-20, the 12th Session of the Open Working Group met at U.N. headquarters in New York.  The OWG's Working Document outlines 17 Focus Areas that are likely to succeed the current MDGs. They include sustainable agriculture, food security and nutrition; gender equality and women's empowerment; and promoting equality among nations.

While the My World Survey, High Level Panel recommendations, and Open Working Group document are all important to the creation of truly global post-2015 development goals, the most critical task is still ahead: to establish effective implementation mechanisms of the goals and their targets so that the world’s poor and marginalized people- wherever they may be- are not left behind. This should apply to all countries.

Faustine_Typepad

Poverty Holds Back Africa's Rise

Photo for Mozambique IMF conferenceRecently (May 29-30), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the government of Mozambique hosted Africa Rising: Building to the Future, a gathering of African finance ministers, central bank governors, and other leaders to look at key challenges and next steps for African economies.

“The gains of the last decade, during which many countries in sub-Saharan Africa saw sustained high rates of economic growth and an impressive reduction in poverty, have been nothing short of remarkable,” said IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

“However, there is still a long way ahead to meet the aspirations of the continent," she continued. "Extreme poverty is still too prevalent ... Now is the time to look at the policies that will take the region to the next phase of its economic development.”

We know that the link between economic growth and lower poverty rates is not automatic or guaranteed. In fact, Mozambique, the host country, vividly illustrates the idea that growth, while necessary, is not sufficient.

In 2013, researchers reported that although Mozambique has enjoyed economic growth of 7 percent to 8 percent for two decades, more than half of the nation's population lives below the poverty line. Stunting among children under 5 fell only slightly in the decade 2003-2013, from 48 percent to 43 percent.

Carlos Castel Branco, an economist at the Institute for Social and Economic Studies (IESE) in Maputo, pointed out that over the same decade, 2003-2013, food production per capita in Mozambique did not increase. In fact, it has declined slightly, while food prices have increased. Castel Branco said that less than 1 percent of all private investment went to basic food production for the domestic market.

Edna Possolo, head of the nutrition department at Mozambique's Ministry of Health, said it is encouraging that Mozambique is part of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement. The government has prepared a multi-sectoral plan to fight malnutrition; Possolo said that the greatest difficulties are in implementing the plan. Many people believe that malnutrition is purely a health problem, and thus, only the Ministry of Health needs to be involved. Donors often prefer to fund programs to cope with the symptoms of malnutrition, rather than structural approaches that take longer to achieve tangible results.

But more donors are involved than five years ago, Possolo said. And Mozambique's civil society is receiving support from the SUN Multi-Partner Trust to help ensure that the full plan is implemented.

The priority measures that Mozambique has identified and begun to carry out include: a large-scale vitamin A supplementation and deworming program for children ages 6 months to 5 years; iron and folic acid supplementation for pregnant and postpartum women; treatment of acute malnutrition; optimization of infant and young child feeding practices; and large-scale fortification of wheat flour and edible oils.                     .

These two areas of focus -- supplementation for vulnerable people and fortification to supply the nutrients everyone needs -- are in line with the emphasis on ordinary low-income people that the Africa Rising meeting participants agreed is needed to fight poverty in Africa. A deeper structural transformation is needed so that ordinary citizens can benefit from the boom, participants declared. As the joint declaration approved at the meeting points out: "Policies need to be designed in such a way to ensure that a surge in growth can also spur structural transformation."

Photo: Gustavo, 2, with his mother Constantia in Cobue, Mozambique. Gustavo has recovered from severe malnutrition -- the result of a bout of malaria at a year old. Photo by Rebecca Vander Meulen.

Michele Learner

“Nutrition for Growth” At One Year: Tracking Global Pledges

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Nutrition and education link in Guatemala school feeding. (Joe Molieri/Bread for the World)

We recently marked the first anniversary of the historic global nutrition event “Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger Through Business and Science” (N4G), held in London in conjunction with the 2013 G-8 Summit. Co-hosted by the governments of the U.K. and Brazil and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), the event brought together leaders from business, government, science, academia, and civil society. They made ambitious financial and political commitments to provide better nutrition to women and children in the 1,000 Days “window of opportunity” from pregnancy to age 2; reduce the numbers of stunted children; and help put an end to deaths from severe acute malnutrition. More specifically, they agreed to prevent at least 20 million children from being stunted and to save at least 1.7 million lives by 2020.

How pervasive a problem is malnutrition? The number of people suffering from chronic hunger declined from 868 million in 2012 to 842 million in 2013. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the number of undernourished children has been reduced by 17 percent in 20 years. Yet undernutrition is still the cause of nearly half of the deaths of children under age 5.

Globally, nearly one in four children younger than 5 is stunted due to chronic micronutrient deficiencies. Stunting is a condition linked to increased susceptibility to common illnesses, lower levels of academic achievement, and lower lifetime earnings, said UNICEF in its recent report, "Improving Child Nutrition: The Achievable Imperative for Global Progress".

Severe acute malnutrition is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention. According to the World Health Organization, there is a 30 percent to 50 percent mortality rate for children younger than 5 who develop severe acute malnutrition.

How ambitious were the N4G commitments? Altogether, leaders pledged an historic $4.15 billion to tackle malnutrition via investments in multiple sectors: agriculture; health; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); education; and social protection programs. They did so in the realization that nutrition is intertwined with all these sectors -- and that a person who is malnourished in early childhood can never reach her or his full potential.Commitments were made to new partnerships and scaled-up research. An annual Global Report on Nutrition was announced (the “first annual” report will be released in November 2014 at the Second International Conference on Nutrition). An annual global nutrition meeting alongside the UN General Assembly was initiated.  A Global Nutrition for Growth Compact puts nutrition at the center of the world’s development agenda. A group of businesses has pledged to improve the nutrition (and hence the productivity and health) of 927,000 employees in 80 countries. See a complete list of commitments.

A year after N4G, what progress has the United States made? The U.S. government has made nutrition a higher priority in meeting our global development assistance commitments. In a time of almost universal budget cuts, Congress reached a bipartisan agreement to boost funding for nutrition in the FY 2014 federal budget. USAID recently announced a new global multisectoral nutrition strategy. The agency credits the “strong advocacy and dedication” of civil society organizations such as Bread for the World Institute for the release of the strategy, which will “align our important global nutrition commitments.” The USAID strategy will be used to develop a U.S. Government Global Nutrition Coordination Plan, to include USAID, four cabinet-level departments (Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Treasury, State), the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Peace Corps, and the White House. The plan is designed to accelerate “progress toward relevant WHA targets and other U.S. government commitments by maximizing the impact of government actions.” 

Civil society organizations, including those in the nutrition stakeholder community such as the Institute, are clearly a driving force in getting this high level of U.S. government commitment to nutrition. Legislative and non-legislative advocates are working seamlessly to increase funding for nutrition activities and to shape an effective policy and program operations agenda. USAID operational partners are designing nutrition projects that encompass several sectors of development assistance.

Of course, commitments and action by the governments of countries with high burdens of malnutrition are essential to success. To date, 51 such countries have come together in the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement in order to work -- governments and civil societies together – to expand successful nutrition programs. 

Working together, civil society will monitor the pledges made at N4G to ensure that they are honored. We will help ensure that diverse government nutrition policies and programs come together in the most effective way possible. Malnutrition is a major component of global hunger, so tackling it more effectively will bring us much closer to our very feasible goal, ending global hunger by the year 2030.

In a recent blog post, David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and Rick Leach, CEO of WFP-US said: “From climate change to civil liberties, the world is at a critical point right now with many issues. Global nutrition is no different, and, as such, deserves adequate attention as its reach is vast and implications deep. Future generations depend on decisions we--governments, NGOs, faith leaders, community leaders, investors, scientists, educators, and others--are making and actions we are taking right now to ensure that they can reach their full potential. Not only can we reduce undernutrition--we must if our children's children are to thrive.”

Scott Bleggi

Data to End Hunger: Hacking for Women’s Empowerment

Data Do-Gooders Heading Photo

Bread for the World Institute is excited to announce our first live HelpMeViz Hunger Report hackathon event. On Saturday, June 28, the Institute, in partnership with the website HelpMeViz, will bring together coders, data scientists, and data visualizers in Washington, DC, as we tackle two data visualization challenges for our upcoming 2015 Hunger Report. The report, currently being drafted, explores why women’s empowerment is essential to ending global hunger. We hope to feature the visualizations developed at the event in the report, either in print or online at hungerreport.org.

HelpMeViz is a website open to anyone who is searching for feedback on visualization designs, from seasoned designers and data visualization specialists to individuals seeking to improve their graphic displays.  It offers an online community where all types of visualizations are welcome, including simple bar or single-line charts, full-blown infographics, and interactive visualizations.

Here are the visualization challenges that we will tackle:

Exposing Gaps in Data on Women’s Empowerment

Over the past few decades, we have learned a lot about the marginalization of women around the world and its costs to human development. Data authorities such as the World Bank and the United Nations have set out to develop holistic ways of measuring women’s empowerment and gender equality across countries, defining a minimum set of 52 indicators for doing so. But even the most advanced women’s empowerment indexes available today still miss critical elements of what it means for women to be empowered in the developing world. Far too many of the indicators that compose women’s empowerment indexes depend on largely unreliable, old, or inconsistent data for far too many countries. This significantly compromises the accuracy and integrity of the index and makes it much less reliable for policy makers who base decisions on it.

In our upcoming 2015 Hunger Report, Bread for the World Institute will identify key missing data in current women’s empowerment indexes and explain why better data are essential to continued progress. We’ll need help from hackathon volunteers to visualize where those gaping holes in the data lie.  

Women’s Empowerment and Stunting

Childhood stunting (far below average height for one’s age) is a condition that indicates long-term malnutrition. It currently affects one in four of the world's children. When a child is stunted, she is prevented from growing, learning, and later earning to her full potential. As we begin to explore years of data on women's empowerment from the World Bank and United Nations, we want to ask the question: Do countries that significantly improve the status of women also eventually see lower rates of stunting? Research from countries around the world has shown that when women are empowered to earn more and have a greater say in home finances, they are more likely than men to invest additional income in promoting the welfare of their children -- through nutritious food, for example. Are there data that support a relationship between women’s empowerment and improvements in stunting?

HelpMeViz Hunger Report Hackaton

Up to 25 guests will be invited to the HelpMeViz Hunger Report Hackathon. We will provide participants with the datasets, work space at Bread for the World’s offices, and breakfast and lunch during the event. Participants will also receive a printed copy of the 2015 Hunger Report when it is released, and an invitation to the report’s launch at the National Press Club in November, 2014.

The event will be blogged live on HelpMeViz. We hope that interested people all over the world will want to lend their voices and skills to these challenges. Data will be made available when the event begins, and visualizations, conversations, and comments will be posted to the site in real time.

If you would like to attend the event in Washington, DC, email HelpMeViz with a short paragraph that describes your interest and your skillset (statistics, programming, design, etc.) with the phrase “Bread for the World” in the subject line.

You can check out the most recent 2014 Hunger Report, complete with interactive stories and data, infographics, and featured stories online at hungerreport.org. Derek Schwabe

USAID Launches a New Nutrition Strategy

Today at the Chicago Council’s Global Food Security 2014 event in Washington, DC, Senior White House Advisor Ambassador Susan Rice announced the release of the USAID Nutrition Strategy.

This is a landmark step toward ensuring that nutrition concerns remain at the heart of the U.S. development assistance agenda.

Bread for the World Institute has been an active participant in the development of the nutrition strategy, along with other members of the nutrition stakeholder community (both advocacy and operational partners of USAID). The draft strategy was first released for public comment in December 2013.

The nutrition strategy recognizes the essential role of nutrition in human development (especially in the “1,000 Days” period from pregnancy to age 2). Moreover, the strategy acknowledges that high rates of chronic malnutrition can cause significant losses in a nation’s GDP and carries other economic costs. The USAID strategy also lays the foundation for the development of a comprehensive “whole-of-U.S.-government” nutrition strategy later this year.

Improving maternal and child nutrition has been a major part of the Institute’s non-legislative advocacy efforts for the past three years. The USAID nutrition strategy comes after our successful efforts to clarify exactly where nutrition programs are funded within the federal budget, to persuade the administration to identify a high-level spokesperson for nutrition in the U.S. government (Administrator Shah was named), and to help win needed reforms in U.S. food aid policies and programs.  The Agricultural Act of 2014 (the “farm bill”) authorized changes that will increase the efficiency of food aid programs and delivery, allow greater flexibility to purchase food for distribution closer to where it is needed, and provide additional options for using new specialized food products that have been fortified with vitamins and minerals.

The strategy recognizes that nutrition is “multi-sectoral”-- meaning that effective nutrition interventions can be done not only in health programming, but also in agriculture, education, and water, sanitation and health (WASH) projects. Direct nutrition interventions can be complemented by indirect nutrition actions for maximum impact. Key direct actions include 11 “essential nutrition actions” articulated by the World Health Organization and identified as particularly effective in fighting malnutrition in the research published in the Lancet Maternal and Child Nutrition series. Indirect nutrition actions are nutrition-sensitive activities that target the underlying causes of undernutrition. Combining direct and indirect actions by “bundling” projects that include both has been found to be the most effective development investment a country can make.

USAID is committed to the World Health Assembly 2025 Nutrition Targets (see box), and is developing additional nutrition targets it will use to track and evaluate its development assistance. Included in these is a target in Feed the Future programs of reducing stunting in the regions where Feed the Future works by 20 percent in five years.

WHA Targets

The Nutrition Strategy will ensure flexibility (as new evidence of successful interventions becomes available) by including a robust learning agenda that supports research to fill knowledge gaps, a rigorous program of monitoring and evaluation, and a means of quickly disseminating and apply lessons learned to ongoing programs. USAID will immediately begin issuing guidance for its overseas missions on how to implement the strategy. A framework document for the wider whole-of-U.S. government nutrition strategy, called the Global Nutrition Coordination Plan, has been completed, and additional information on this plan and a request for public comment have now been released

Scott Bleggi

Constructive Approaches to Achieving Shared Development Goals

Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-OH) speech earlier this month at the American Enterprise Institute advocated constructive conservatism, which he described as an approach to ending poverty that relies on data-driven, evidence-based solutions. Media in his home state of Ohio called the talk Portman’s “anti-poverty coming out speech.”

US Capitol Building seen through a field of red and purple tulips
Architect of the Capitol

The speech offered plenty of room for debate. While there is support across the political spectrum for responding to the country’s drug addiction problem with treatment rather than incarceration, a key part of the senator’s speech, Portman also opposes raising the federal minimum wage, in contrast to Bread’s position.

But looking at the bigger picture, the idea of “constructive conservatism” deserves attention from hunger advocates. Collecting data and evaluating evidence of the effectiveness of various anti-poverty programs—and then scaling up the best-performing programs to achieve national targets for reducing poverty—may seem like no more than common sense. But many of Sen. Portman’s colleagues in Congress oppose this approach, as AEI president Arthur Brooks noted after the speech. Since they do not agree that the federal government should fund a safety net at all, they consistently vote to cut spending on anti-poverty programs. So far, we have not heard much from these decision makers about the impact in the future of reducing national anti-poverty efforts now. 

“Constructive conservatism” could be an alternative that does indeed foster progress against poverty. In the hunger policy community, we know that setting and striving toward goals on reducing poverty works. Back in 2000, when the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted by nearly 200 countries, many leaders and experts thought that the targets were strikingly ambitious, if not outright unreachable. Cut hunger in half within 15 years? Ensure universal access to primary education? But today, the evidence shows that the world is on track to meet nearly all of the MDGs by their deadline, December 2015.

In fact, the MDG effort has been so successful that the world is now setting new, post-2015 development goals. As Bread for the World participates in the global process of determining just what those goals should be, we are hopeful that the goals will apply universally – to all countries.

Such universality would support the United States in establishing hunger and poverty as priority problems and in tracking our progress. It could also help bring together Americans from across the political spectrum who support constructive efforts to reduce poverty -- to put effective solutions in place. 

Stacy Cloyd

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