By: Nadim Khouri, Chair of the Arab Food and Nutrition Security Blog
On July 17, 2017 the UN Statistics Division released its (first, substantive) annual SDG Report. A quick recap: the SDGs are the Sustainable Development Goals agreed to by basically all countries of the World and that would lead to significant improvements in 17 areas of development.
Everyone should be encouraged to go over the report, focus on the areas they are interested or more practically involved in. They can then draw their own conclusions on how they can “lead, follow, or get out of the way” in the advance of the global community to improve (some would say save) life on our planet.
Here are three areas that may interest our scientific and policy community working on issues of Food Security in MENA.
OVERALL PROGRESS is CLEAR in COMBATING POVERTY—but too many are being left behind:
Poverty being at the root of many of the obstacles from reaching the SDGs at the personal, family and community levels, it is very significant to see that the momentum of decrease in overall numbers and rate of poverty worldwide is continuing. Indeed, the SDG report shows that “An estimated 767 million people lived below the extreme poverty line in 2013, down from 1.7 billion people in 1999. This represents a reduction in the global rate of extreme poverty from 28 per cent in 1999 to 11 per cent in 2013.”
However, there were warning signs at the meetings of the High Level Political Forum (HLPF 2017) this July, that we may have been seeing progress of the “low-lying-fruit type”. Where persons and families close to the poverty line (and therefore most amenable to cross into non-poverty territory) constituted most of the progress made. Martin Ravallion, of Georgetown University was at the meetings and warned that the progress we have seen to date did not include a “raising of the bottom”—meaning that the poverty reduction did not raise all incomes. Incomes of the poorest did remain stubbornly at the same general levels. People were indeed being left behind. The figure below by Ravallion shows this from the angles of consumption—consumption of the poorest remained the same while that of the less poor significantly increased over the years.
The solution? Reaching the SDG1 targets will require innovative interventions that target the poorest and ensure that the result is no just an improvement of their lot, but that they are actually and sustainably out of poverty altogether.
ENDING HUNGER and MALNUTRITION NOT EVEN ON TRACK
Monitoring worldwide and in the MENA region shows that progress in combatting hunger is below the requirement to get to “zero hunger” by 2030. IFPRI, in research, blogs and other publications has shown the link between the persistence of this situation of food insecurity and the many conflicts and tensions plaguing the region. Globally, the LDCs and landlocked countries are seeing some progress overall, but one in four people in these countries suffer from hunger today.
Figure 2: Proportion of Children Under Age 5 who are Overweight or Stunted (2000 and 2016)
LEAVING NO INDICATOR BEHIND…
One important point that was made at the HLPF was the one related to the monitoring of SDG indicators. In the spirit of “you treasure what you measure”, there were many calls for closing quickly the gap between approved indicators and their wide use to monitor SDGs. The UN Statistics Division considers that, of the 230 SDG indicators in total, there are 84 indicators that are still being developed and therefore not yet being monitored—they are known as the “Tier 3” indicators.
Perhaps our universities and research centers in MENA will contribute their knowledge in closing this gap. And this is not only restricted to Tier 3 indicators. For example, the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES), an SDG indicator, is considered well developed and monitorable (“Tier 1”) but in fact is not yet widely used or reported on by the UN.
The global community continues to be mobilized for the implementation of the SDGs. The UN and related agencies are, rightfully, not leading but supporting the effort. The scientific and on-the-ground communities will need to step up their efforts and advocacy to ensure that key SDGs such as SDG 2 on food security and sustainable agriculture are kept on the front burner—it all starts with knowledge and common data. Let’s all read and discuss the new 2017 SDG Report of the UN.