How the UN Committee on World Food Security could take the global lead towards eradicating hunger by 2030

The Zero Hunger Goal agreed in New York in September as a part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda is a historical and inspiring commitment. Now we need to ensure that all needed policies and actions are in place to realize the vision of a world free of hunger by 2030 through a human rights based approach.

The UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) can and should play a cornerstone role in ensuring we achieve the Zero Hunger Goal. In fact, it was reformed in 2009 to be fit for purpose and be the global body to lead the efforts to eradicate hunger and achieve the right to food for all in a sustainable way. A key element of his success is its inclusive and participatory approach that fully involves those most affected by hunger and small scale food producers. During the first years after its reform, the CFS proved it can deliver on a number of key elements of the vision of its reform. In fact, notably the CFS already played a critical role in promoting policy coherence by successfully negotiating key normative tools such as the Guidelines on Tenure, the Global Strategic Framework and by finalizing the negotiations on the Framework for Action for Food Security and Nutrition in Protracted Crisis. All those elements are critical to realize the right to adequate food for all which underpins all CFS tools.

However, in order to lead the global efforts to achieve zero hunger by 2030, the CFS should step up its game by both fully realizing its reform vision and by renewing his efforts and level of ambition. This will require Member States to commit resources, political leadership and provide ambitious vision to ensure that the CFS can fully deliver on his role as the foremost and most inclusive body of the global governance on food security and nutrition.

The 2015 Plenary of the CFS, as well as the first months of the next biennium, provide an opportunity that should be seized to put the committee and, more broadly, the global community, on track to deliver the SDGs vision by 2030. Member States at the CFS should:

  1. Assess how and take action to accelerate progress in eradicating hungerand achieving the food related targets of the SDGs. This will notably involve:
  • Strengthening the CFSleading role for improved coordination among all stakeholders at all levels. The CFS should lead on the SDG Hunger Goal and be in a position to provide recommendations to other initiatives, forums and organizations, including the private sector, on how to improve, make more coherent and effective their policies and actions and strengthen mutual accountability towards SDGs.
  • Increasing efforts to ensure CFS productsare fully implemented by all actors. The Guidelines on Tenure, the Global Strategic Framework and the Framework for Action are critical tools. The CFS should take the lead and ensure that adequate resources and support are in place to help countries and other actors in their full implementation.
  • Increasing efforts to address policy incoherence. Despite the CFS work in the last years there are still many areas including agro-ecology and key environmental sustainability issues, genetic resources, markets and trade and climate change that require serious attention and evidence based decisions and action to ensure that all countries and stakeholders policies and programs contribute to achieve the zero hunger goal.
  • Supporting Member Statesto assess their food and agriculture policies, programs and actions and improve them to ensure they will reach the zero hunger goal. Countries’ support was a key part of the CFS reform but it hasn’t received enough attention. More efforts are needed starting by implementing the decision included in the previous program of work of the CFS to facilitating country-initiated multistakeholder assessments on sustainable food systems, food security and nutrition.
  • Promoting multistakeholders mechanismsat country and regional level that fully involve those most affected by hunger and small scale food producers.
  1. Fulfil the commitment to develop the innovative monitoring mechanismaimed at strengthen accountability at all levels. This was a critical element of the CFS reform document that has not been implemented yet. It is not acceptable that, after several years of discussions, the Plenary this year will agree only on some technocratic tools to assess the effectiveness of the CFS. CSOs developed a credible and pragmatic proposal to develop an innovative monitoring mechanism that was discussed several times during the last year and improved following a number of inputs from Member States. The development of an innovative monitoring mechanism is also absolutely critical to ensure that the CFS can play its role to track and learn lessons from the SDGs Hunger Goal implementation in an open, transparent, effective and participatory manner. Is the CFS ready for the job? Is the CFS willing to open the space for substantive discussions on the progress towards the SDGs Hunger Goal? Will it take the lead on those issues, like land rights, that cut across various Goals and are vital for the realization of the 2030 Agenda?

There is a historic opportunity for the CFS to be the place where all actors come together to assess progress and assess successes and failures. For this reason, the CFS should also be consulted on the SDGs indicators relevant to its mandate before they are finalized and all the indicators should be assessed against already agreed CFS guidance. The position of Member States on the CSOs proposal to develop an innovative monitoring mechanism will be a test that will illustrate which countries and regions are serious about implementing their commitments and which ones don’t want to be accountable. The risk is high, namely that world leaders will have less political instruments to achieve the Zero Hunger Goal.

  1. Provide adequate resources to ensure that the CFS can continueto be the central pillar of the global governance on food security and nutrition and can up its game to lead the global efforts toward the elimination of hunger and malnutrition. The current funding situation is alarming and it would be unacceptable if key donors just few weeks after the adoption of the SDGs fail to provide adequate resources to the CFS to deliver its multi-year program of work for the next two years. This would cast shadows on their intentions to go beyond commitment on paper and act to support the implementation of the SDGs. It would be also be a very negative signal if major workstreams are not adequately funded when an over-expensive evaluation of the CFS is.

The CFS is at the crossroad between fulfilling its own mandate and risking to lose relevance. Oxfam firmly believes that it has proven to have the potential and the right setting to ensure those bold decisions, that are needed to eradicate hunger and malnutrition forever, are taken and implemented. There is no other body that has the legitimacy, the inclusiveness and that proved to be as effective as the CFS that can deliver on the job.

It is now up to governments, soon to convene in Rome, to prove to be both, pragmatic, and visionary, and ensure that the CFS will be in a position to deliver successfully the Zero Hunger Goal on behalf of all citizens of our planet. Will be they up to this challenge?

This entry posted by Thierry Kesteloot, Oxfam Senior Policy Advisor, on 9 October 2015.