We must find sustainable ways of dealing with hunger, says Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director, World Food Programme
What is the most significant challenge in the transition from emergency relief to sustainable food security and nutrition?
How can the international community overcome this divide between development and humanitarian assistance?
Achieving sustainable food security and nutrition for all will require a twin-tracked approach, one that gives equal priority to improving long-term, durable economic and agricultural productivity and the need to ensure access to nutritious food during a crisis. We must have an international aid architecture with financing mechanisms that reflect the reality faced by the people we assist. The Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda will only be successful if it is supported by a financial framework that breaks down the distinctions between development and humanitarian resources. This would include predictable, multi-year funding for food security and nutrition programmes that build the resilience of vulnerable populations before, during and after a crisis.
What can be done to improve the ability of governments to respond to food security and nutrition crises?
Political will, good governance and peace are the most critical factors that determine whether a state can make sustained progress against food insecurity and nutrition objectives. Many countries have dramatically reduced hunger by making it a top priority of their domestic agenda. The allocation of resources is clearly important, but resources generally flow from serious commitments made at the highest levels of government.
Hunger has been described as a multidimensional problem. What does this mean for you?
I could not agree more with that description. It is the multidimensional nature of hunger that makes it so challenging. If we look at undernutrition, there is no single, one-size-fits-all solution. Undernutrition is not simply caused by lack of access to nutritious food. Factors including access to clean water, sanitation, cultural and dietary preferences, and household economy all contribute. We need to engage at the community level with multiple partnerships to improve childcare practices, hygiene and sanitation conditions, education, and food consumption patterns.
What can be done to better coordinate global efforts to eradicate hunger and malnutrition?
Successfully fighting hunger requires an enabling environment that creates incentives for key stakeholders to sharpen their focus on improving food security and nutrition outcomes. The United Nations Secretary General’s Zero Hunger Challenge is a global multi-stakeholder platform that encourages the private sector, civil-society leaders, NGOs and governments to coordinate their actions at the country level. The Zero Hunger Challenge provides a global policy framework to integrate national and local food security and nutrition interventions, ranging from support for smallholder agriculture to maternal health programmes and the elimination of waste. This framework, already in place in more than 30 countries, reinforces complementarity and inter-sectoral collaboration, and provides a solid foundation for promoting sustainable development.