Developing strategies to end hunger
 

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Day Two in Rwanda

Connie Bwiza, member of Rwandan Parliament (Photo credit: IGIHE LTD)

Faustine Wabwire and Todd Post continue reporting from Rwanda.

On Monday we met with Connie Bwiza, a member of parliament, to hear how women in Rwanda are shaping policy and helping to transform the country. Connie has been in parliament since 1998. She represents Kiyovu, an area of Kigali.

We learned of Connie back in Washington, DC. She has played a prominent role in Rwanda's post-conflict reconcilaition and rehabilitation. She is also involved in several international women's organizations. 

When we contacted her before leaving Washington, DC, she was excited to meet and share what women have accomplished in Rwanda since the genocide in 1994. She also arranged for us to meet with her teenage sons and niece in a separate interview to talk with them about Rwandan youth, the generation born after the genocide, but we’ll say more about that later in the week.

The same day as our interview with Connie an article about Rwanda appeared in the New York Times discussing some of the latest developments in the country’s meteoric rise since the genocide. The article scarcely mentions the role of women and conveys how much of a secret it remains to the public at large.

It turned out to be a mournful day for East African women, especially Faustine, because the parliament in her native Kenya had just passed a bill legalizing polygamy. Connie was outraged and explained how damaging the bill is to all East African countries. Not only is it an affront to women in the region, but it threatens to wreck the close economic ties that countries in the region are building. 

The difference between attitudes towards women in Rwanda and Kenya is not as gaping as this bill might cause you to think. Faustine describes it as a shocking anomaly, and I should add that it remains to be seen whether the president of Kenya will sign the bill into law. Public pressure is already mounting to strike it down.

Such a bill would never come up in Rwanda. A female majority in parliament would not allow it. Moreover, it would not be possible because it does not comply with the rule of law. In Rwanda, the law mandates that every bill introduced in parliament must be evaluated for its effect on men and women, and if a bill is not deemed gender neutral it has no chance of passage.

There is something to be said for the importance of reaching critical mass. Rwanda has held three elections since a new constitution was passed. In the first election cycle, women gained 48 percent of the seats in parliament, and then increased it to 56 percent, and in the most recent increased it still further to 64 percent. Norms don’t change all on their own, change requires a prod from policy, and in Rwanda with a majority of women in parliament there is a veritable guarantee there will be a prod working to up end gender inequality. 

 Countries all over the developing world have passed laws reserving a share of the seats in parliament for women. Thirty percent is the most common figure because the gender equality goal of the Millennium Development Goals includes a 30 percent target. But what is equal about 30 percent, when women make up 50 percent of the population? Todd Post

Starting the Chat on Women's Empowerment

Hunger Report Monday 2

This past Friday — the eve of International Women’s Day — Bread for the World and the Institute hosted a Twitter chat with senior policy analyst Faustine Wabwire on how women’s empowerment can help end hunger. Research continues to show that, in nations and communities all over the world, gender bias is a principal cause of hunger. In fact, 55% of the reduction in hunger from 1970-1995 can be attributed to improvements in the status of women.

Senior Hunger Report editor Todd Post, Faustine, and other members of the Institute are currently at work developing the 2015 Hunger Report, to be released in November 2014, which will propose policy changes to improve women’s economic, political, and social status. International Women’s Day offered a prime opportunity to expand the discussion to the Twitter-sphere, resulting in a fruitful dialogue that  touched on the varied dimensions of women’s empowerment in the United States and around the world and gave us a chance to hear new perspectives.

Here’s a brief recap of where the chat went, with a smattering of sample tweets:

We had a lot of help getting the word out.  

We started by asking "Why women's empowerment?"

We examined the role of women in agriculture and the food system.

We looked back to the role of the Millennium Development Goals, and ahead to the threat of climate change. 

We pondered where hunger and poverty rates correspond — and where they don't. 

We acknowledged the influence of culture.

We heard from health experts on the role of good nutrition and access to health care. 

We shared resources with each other. 

We talked jobs and wages as next steps toward gender parity in the United States. 

We had many to thank for a rich online discussion. 

Derek Schwabe

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  

 

Infographic: Four Steps to Ending Hunger in America

Hunger Report Monday 2

A fresh Hunger Report always comes with a new weekly blog series to break it down -- a space to examine the recommendations more closely and consider their ramifications in the context of recent events. This is that space. Welcome to week one. 

To start the 2014 Hunger Report Monday series, we're recapping -- through visuals -- the report's central recommendation: to put an end to hunger in the United States by 2030. Our research confirms that: 1) hunger is a significant, long-ignored problem in America; 2) the U.S. government and population are fully capable of solving the problem; and 3), ending hunger will take decisive leadership, firm political will, and a clear national plan. This infographic sums up our vision of what that plan should look like in four steps:

We will not achieve a lasting end to hunger without a commitment to all four parts of this plan. Because problems like hunger are multifaceted, their solutions must be as well. Policies tend to address social problems in isolation from each other. Instead we should be thinking holistically, which makes it possible to see the relationships between various causes of the problem.

Right now, Bread for the World members around the country are urging the president and Congress to recognize the reality of America's broken social contract and set a clear course for solutions by adopting a plan to end hunger. President Obama took a promising first step last week with his speech on the problem of widening income and wealth inequality in the United States, with mentions of such contributing factors as the stagnant minimum wage, which continues to hold low-wage workers and their families below the poverty line. Inequality and the policies that perpetuate it are top concerns of this year’s Hunger Report.

You can sift through the specifics of the four-step plan to end hunger by starting with the 2014 Hunger Report Executive Summary, available for download in PDF or ebook formats in both English and Spanish. Next week, we'll continue our visual survey of the report's top messages with other new infographics.

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

UN Hears One Million Voices on “Development After 2015”

One Million Voices on Development After 2015

In a survey of over 800,000 people globally, access to nutritous food ranked among the most frequently mentioned development challenges. (Source: World We Want, A Million Voices report)

Since last year, leadership at the United Nations has been working very hard to find out what development issues matter most to ordinary people around the world. The process of developing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 has been criticized as not inclusive; the U.N. wants things to be different as the world sets successor development goals for the period after December 2015, the deadline for the MDGs.

So they’ve set out to poll everyday people the world over about their priority issues -- and last week they were proud to report that they’ve heard one million voices. And it turns out people had a lot to say.

The MDGs were created to drive improvement in the livelihoods of the world’s poorest people -- and they have. More progress was made against hunger and poverty in the 2000s than during any other decade in history. But the exclusive group of officials from donor countries and international organizations that came up with the MDGs largely overlooked a valuable resource -- arguably the most authoritative source -- on how to overcome poverty: poor people themselves. You can read more about the MDG process and its implications in the 2013 Hunger Report.

The World We Want 2015 effort reached its one million voices through a combination of 88 open national consultations, 11 thematic dialogues, and an online global survey amplified by social media. The essential question put to global citizens: “What issues matter most to you?” Here’s a brief look at some of the main ideas expressed:

  • Top issues: Education, health care, government accountability, better job opportunities;
  • Top values: Universal human rights, equality, justice, and security (underpinned by more accountable governments);
  • The urgency of improving people’s lives today;
  • Concern about growing inequalities (e.g., income, wealth, access to education);
  • The interconnectedness of issues and the need for a holistic, sustainable set of solutions;
  • The need for data collection methods that measure progress more accurately.

Although The World We Want is particularly focused on hearing from people in developing nations, who are most urgently affected by development problems, it is intended to collect opinions globally and to include a wide spectrum of views. Americans are not yet well represented in the results – only 26,000 of the first million respondents are from the United States. But people here have more reason than ever to be concerned about “the world we want” – and the country we want. During the Great Recession, hunger in the United States grew by almost 40 percent, and it has barely budged since the recession’s official end nearly four years ago. Today, one in six Americans struggles to put food on the table.

The World We Want reminds us that most people around the world want the same things: quality education, jobs, health care, and yes, food. And we’ve learned from the MDG experience that when we set goals whose progress can be measured, we can accomplish more in less time. That’s why more Americans need to speak up about the issues we care about and press our elected leaders to adopt and carry out realistic plans to solve our most critical problems.

The 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, will be released in less than three weeks here in Washington, DC. Using lessons from the world’s experiences with the MDGs, it lays out a feasible plan for the United States to confront our high levels of inequality, unemployment, and poverty directly and to end hunger in this country by 2030.

If you haven’t yet, take the time to tell the U.N. about the world you want. We’ll keep you posted on the 2014 Hunger Report release here on Institute Notes. Derek Schwabe  

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

SOFI Puts Number of Hungry People at 842 Million -- An Improvement

This morning with the release of its annual report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI), the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced a continued drop in the number of people suffering from chronic hunger. The new figure is 842 million, which is 26 million fewer people than last year’s report of 868 million.

This improvement offers additional evidence that the global response to the 2007-2008 food price crisis – a response that included a U.S. pledge of $3.5 billion for food security, agriculture, and nutrition and led to the establishment of Feed the Future – helped prevent a longer-term reversal of global progress against hunger and is contributing to current progress on hunger. The food price crisis, during which the costs of staple grains such as rice and maize suddenly doubled or tripled, is believed to have driven an additional 100 million people into poverty. 

Undernourishment in the developing regions

 FAO reports that if the average progress of the past 21 years continues through 2015, malnutrition in developing regions will reach a level close to the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing hunger by half, but “considerable and immediate additional efforts” will be necessary to fully meet the goal. The report recommends that food security and agriculture remain targeted priorities on the post-MDG, post-2015 development agenda in order to sustain progress.

The SOFI report also notes:

  • In some countries, there are many more stunted children than the data on how many people lack sufficient calories would suggest. Because stunting is evidence of chronic malnutrition in early childhood and is accompanied by irreversible damage to a child’s physical and cognitive development, “nutrition-enhancing interventions are crucial” and require a range of food security and nutrition actions in areas such as agriculture, health, hygiene, and water supply.
  • The most signi­ficant decreases in hunger have occurred in East and Southeast Asia and in Latin America. Sub-Saharan Africa still has the highest hunger rates. Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and North Africa made only modest progress over the past year, while West Asia recorded no progress.
  • Though economic growth is a key driver of progress against hunger and poverty, it is not always equitably shared. In many countries, particularly middle-income countries, people who are among the “poorest of the poor” are in danger of being left behind.

You can access the full SOFI report, the executive summary, and the most recent country-level data for every indicator here at the SOFI webpage on FAO’s website.

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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