The new report on the State of Food and Nutrition Security in the World, published on 11th September by 5 United Nations agencies, reveals a further increase in hunger. The members of the Coalition Against Hunger (including Eclosio) have decided to respond to this alarming report. What are the causes? What are the solutions? What is Belgium’s position?
New increase in hunger in the world: it is urgent to transform the agri-food model
In 2015, the international community adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the second of which, #HungerZero, commits to eliminating hunger by 2030 and ensuring that everyone has access to healthy and nutritious food all year round. Despite producing more than enough food to feed the planet, hunger has been on the rise since the adoption of the SDGs. The new report on the State of Food and Nutrition Security in the World, published on 11th September by 5 United Nations agencies, reveals a further increase in hunger. From 784 million people in a situation of chronic undernourishment in 2015, this has risen to 804 million in 2016 and 821 million in 2017.
The United Nations agencies are also concerned about the sharp rise in obesity, which now affects more than one in eight adults worldwide (18.6% of the population in Belgium). And the report points out that hunger and obesity coexist in many countries, primarily affecting the poorest families, either because they have no access to food, or because they are most exposed to poor-quality, energy-dense, nutrient-poor food.
Conflicts and climate change
The new report identifies two main reasons for the resurgence of food insecurity: the increase in conflicts since 2010 and the effects of global warming. These two factors are destroying local food systems and increasing people’s vulnerability. But beyond pointing out these important reasons, the report does not call into question the global food system, which cannot fulfil its function of feeding each and every one of us, while taking care of our planet.
Change the model
For the Coalition Against Hunger, which brings together 22 Belgian NGOs, hunger is not inevitable. But if we want to achieve the MDGs and realise the right to food and nutrition for all, we urgently need to change our model. We need to transform the dominant industrial food model, which is the main cause of greenhouse gas emissions and the destruction of biodiversity, as well as creating poverty and malnutrition. Industrial agriculture monopolises the land and water on which rural communities depend for their livelihoods, contributing to conflicts. In the face of this model, controlled by a handful of multinationals, there are over 500 million family farms, producing more than 80% of the world’s food. Yet many farmers and their families cannot make a decent living from their work. Remember that 70% of the world’s hungry live from agriculture! Changing the model means making the transition to agroecological systems and food sovereignty; it means supporting sustainable family farming by taking into account the specific needs of women and men; it means strengthening the rights of farmers; and it means better regulating multinational companies to put an end to abuses.
A number of initiatives are moving in the right direction at international level: the United Nations has declared a decade of family farming (2019-2028); the Human Rights Council is in the process of finalising a Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and has launched a working group on the establishment of a binding treaty on the respect of human rights by companies; and agroecology is beginning to establish itself within the FAO as the best model for combating hunger, reducing rural poverty and meeting the challenges of climate change.
What about Belgium?
Faced with the challenges, Belgium lacks ambition. The NGOs, members of the CCF, have denounced the guidelines for Belgian cooperation on agriculture and food security adopted by Minister De Croo last year, which turn away from support for sustainable family farming and food-insecure populations in favour of support for the private sector and new technologies as the new paradigm for our cooperation. This is a direction that the Minister intends to enshrine in his new bill on development cooperation. Belgium is also wary of adopting the new Declaration on the Rights of Peasants, on which the final vote will take place at the Human Rights Council on 27 September. The United Nations report reminds us of the imperative need to change course to achieve the right to food for all. We call on the government to take part.