By Glen Tarman, International Advocacy Director at Action Against Hunger
It is a New Year like no other. We are – for the first time ever – living in a world in which there is an ambitious international agreement by all nations to end hunger and malnutrition by a specific date. New global goals come into effect on 1st of January including targets to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030.
Ultimately, the success of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be judged in the affected communities in the most vulnerable communities on earth. It will become evident in the stabilisation units run by NGOs like Action Against Hunger in the Sahel or when community volunteers arrive at villages in South Sudan to measure and weigh the children. When child malnutrition numbers start falling dramatically – and far more lives are being saved – we will know the global goals can succeed.
World leaders gathered at the United Nations in New York in September for the sustainable development summit at which they set out the world’s to-do list for the next 15 years: the 17 SDGs to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
One of the targets of the MDGs was to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by the end of 2015. It came very close to being met. Yet, still, 795 million people – nearly one in 9 people in the world – cannot lead a healthy active life due to hunger; the number of children suffering undernutrition is counted in the hundreds of millions; and, 3.1 million children die each year due to malnutrition.
That good nutrition is a major goal of this new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development makes total sense: it is a driver of development and of what must be inclusive economic growth. Addressing malnutrition will save lives, reduce inequalities, and build strong and resilient individuals, families, communities, and populations.
Action on the long road ahead
We are at a new beginning of what will be a long and extremely challenging 15-year journey. To produce the life-changing and life-saving results needed on hunger and malnutrition, an immediate and dramatic upscale of action is needed from all nations.
Countries need to accelerate their action on nutrition across health, water, sanitation and hygiene, agriculture, education, food systems, social protection and women’s empowerment. The underlying causes of hunger – climate change, conflict, poverty and inequality – must become the top political priorities of our century in deeds as well as words.
Global targets on nutrition need to be followed now by national ones that balance achievability with the ambition required to create lasting change. If we continue ‘business as usual’ and current investment levels of aid and national resources on nutrition remain constant, we will not reach the global nutrition targets or the wider SDGs, and we will fail this and the next generation.
Make politicians accountable
While governments can and should set their national plans to end malnutrition in the context of the SDGs as soon as possible, the Government of Brazil has stepped forward with a global moment for them to do so. The day before the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics begin a major nutrition summit will take place in that city. Global leaders can show leadership by going to Brazil to announce increased resources for nutrition, national targets and policy commitments to put the world on track to end child malnutrition.
In the SDGs declaration every leader of every country has put on record that they are resolved “to end hunger everywhere between now and 2030”. Citizens and civil society will need to keep up sustained pressure to hold governments accountable on this promise to bring about the true urgency needed to free humanity from hunger. 2016 must be about the action to make this vision of the road to 2030 a reality – year by year, a world without hunger coming closer.