United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has proclaimed 2015 as “a chance to change the course of history”. This is the year when the global community builds on the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals and begins a new journey by adopting and implementing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While UN member states have yet to approve a final document, from the drafts and discussions it appears that these goals, when adopted, will ambitiously set a 15-year target for making hunger and extreme poverty relics of the past.
Achieving zero hunger will require determined political leadership at the national level, supported by sustained engagement and investment from the affected countries themselves, as well as the entire international community. The Report of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing indicates that achieving zero hunger by 2025 – a precondition for the overarching goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 – will require annual investments of an estimated $50 billion. This is a sum far in excess of the amount currently allocated to food aid from official development assistance (ODA). Given the competing demands for ODA, a significant increase in the share for hunger eradication seems elusive.
Recognising the limited scope to expand ODA means that achieving zero hunger will require broadening the donor group and creating a more comprehensive financial tool kit, including additional financial mechanisms: harnessing private-sector revenue to generate innovative financing tools; increasing support from traditional and non-traditional government donors; and developing local capacity for revenue-raising strategies. Establishing these new mechanisms for multilateral, multi-year resources will require collective global high-level commitment and consensus, including G7 leadership and support.
The Third International Conference on Financing for Development will take place this July in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in advance of the SDG summit in the autumn. This global high-level leadership summit must produce an outcome document that includes these and other required comprehensive financial tools, beyond ODA. Collective global credibility requires a feasible financing strategy for delivering the ambitious proposed zero hunger indicators.
Realising the proposed zero hunger outcomes will also require investments unimpeded by the historical development-humanitarian divide. The G7 platform offers an opportunity for leading the dialogue that could drive a conference outcome at Addis Ababa for the post-2015 financial framework that could fundamentally change the global and state financing classifications, which govern the international humanitarian and development system.
The conference will convene against a backdrop of unprecedented humanitarian need. The needs of 805 million food-insecure people and 160 million chronically malnourished children are now overshadowed by the emergency food and nutrition needs of conflict-displaced victims; more frequent and intense natural disasters; and public health emergencies that do not recognise national boundaries. The unprecedented level of acute need is highlighted by the fact that, for the first time since the Second World War, the number of refugees and displaced persons now exceeds 52 million people. As a result, the post-2015 financial framework supporting zero hunger must address the challenges of the requisite funding and programmatic continuum through response, recovery and development without regard to institution.
Beyond short-term responses
Specifically, the financial framework should ensure appropriate international and national actions where possible, and meet crisis-affected populations’ immediate food-assistance needs, while simultaneously building their resistance to future hunger- and nutrition-impacting shocks. Currently, the majority of humanitarian food-assistance funding is dedicated to meeting the immediate hunger and nutrition needs of people affected by quick-onset emergencies, including conflicts, natural disasters, protracted crises and displacement. Because of limited resources, humanitarian financing mechanisms largely focus on delivering short-term responses. The scope and duration of humanitarian funding provide limited opportunities for transforming the drivers of vulnerability and risk. Adequate levels of development funding often fail to materialise during emergency response and recovery or in fragile or conflict settings. Changing the paradigm to simultaneously meet the immediate and long-term food-assistance needs of affected populations will require blending the mechanisms for funding emergency response, supporting recovery and strengthening the resilience of vulnerable populations.
The World Food Programme’s (WFP) post-2011 drought response and recovery programme in Niger provides an excellent example. During the crisis, families received the food commodities necessary to meet their nutrition and dietary requirements. After the first distributions, the government – working with local and international non-governmental organisations, the Food and Agricultural Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, as well as WFP – developed and led the implementation of a response and recovery plan, which included building community water-catchment basins and water-retention facilities, as well as implementing and, where appropriate, scaling up drought-tolerant crop-planting methodologies. Admittedly, the success of this initiative is as yet untested by another drought. However, the immediate increases in small-farmer income, child-nutrition indicators and overall food security of the participating population substantiate the programme’s value.
Yet funding shortages threaten both the scaling up of the programme and the continuation of ongoing activities. After the drought, while acknowledging success, humanitarian funders with limited budgets significantly reduced or discontinued their support. Development donors, who recognise the value of WFP’s work and the need for ongoing resources to ensure the programme’s success, provide little – if any – investment support. This is largely because WFP is perceived by many as only a humanitarian actor.
An integrated approach
The post-2015 financial framework must provide a coherent link between development, humanitarian and climate finance, regardless of institution. The framework must recognise the food security and nutrition threads between the various elements of the post-2015 development agenda, including the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction; the proposed goals to be agreed at the sustainable development summit; the climate change framework agreement that will come from the 2015 Paris Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; and the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit.
Even if the financial framework adequately identifies the necessary investment tools and resources to achieve the goal of zero hunger, failure to overcome the juxtaposition of funding now delineated by humanitarian versus development activities and actors will preclude the global community from knitting together the post-2015 agenda threads.
G7 donor policy frameworks could take this opportunity to align with the emerging post-2015 agenda threads. Policy frameworks providing funds for programmes delivering immediate response, as well as simultaneous sustainable and durable outcomes regardless of the ‘humanitarian or development’ label or actor, will both meet immediate needs and reduce the vulnerability of populations over the long term.
Investments from G7 donors, based on this new, integrated policy framework, can also serve as a catalyst for innovative approaches integrating private capital markets into outcome-driven investment instruments. In addition to investing their own resources, G7 donors would perform a vital role by identifying and testing scalable market-based financing solutions that would attract these otherwise risk-averse actors. These investments will potentially help to shape the future of humanitarian and development financing.
WFP’s Food Security Climate Resilience Facility (FoodSECuRE) represents one such example of a mechanism that seeks to bridge humanitarian and development financing, while providing a viable opportunity for a mix of public- and private-sector funding. FoodSECuRE is a multilateral fund dedicated to supporting community-based food assistance and nutrition programmes that build climate resilience.
FoodSECuRE has the capacity to release funds based on climate forecasts to help reinforce community resilience before a shock occurs. It will also improve the capacity of WFP and partnering governments to anticipate climate disasters and begin planning for longer-term recovery from the onset of a crisis. FoodSECuRE would provide multi-year financing to support the effective response and recovery from natural disasters, ensuring affected populations can quickly get back on the path to achieving zero hunger.
Need for leadership
Eradicating hunger is an achievable goal. Accomplishing this objective requires a global community agreement on a financial framework that includes diverse adequate funding sources and tools, as well as a successful policy aggregation of development and humanitarian financing.
Leadership from the G7 could help move us all towards realising this outcome, through its agreement and support at the Third International Conference on Financing for Sustainable Development. The time has come to make hunger history. The road to success leads through Addis Ababa.