UNITED NATIONS – As the international community fleshes out a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be unveiled next year, civil society activists and U.N. officials agree their success will hinge on policies that address the nexus of poverty, hunger and environmental degradation.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is making a strong push for a politically realistic set of SDGs, points out the latest grim statistics: more than one billion people are still living in extreme poverty and over 840 million are perilously hanging on the edge of starvation and hunger.

“Industrial agriculture, resource extraction by corporations and the international trade system all work against the hungry.” —Anuradha Mittal, Oakland Institute

Danielle Nierenberg, co-founder of the U.S.-based NGO Food Tank, told IPS, “The urgency of finding ways to alleviate hunger, obesity, and poverty in the world is more important than ever before.”

As the SDGs to replace the existing Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are being developed, there is a real opportunity to fight the root causes of hunger – poverty and lack of access to and affordability of food – while also , finding economically sustainable ways of protecting the environment, she added.

And government, businesses, farmers, and civil society all recognise that the time to act is now – especially as climate change is taking a bigger toll all over the world, said Nierenberg, a former director of the Food and Agriculture Programme at the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute.

A U.N. high-level panel, co-chaired by heads of government from Indonesia, Liberia and UK, provided a roadmap last May aimed at eradicating poverty and hunger – possibly by 2030. How that target can be achieved will be left in the hands of an Open Working Group, comprising some 30 U.N. member states, which is expected to formulate its recommendations for SDGs next year.

The proposed SDGs will be an integral part of the U.N.’s post-2015 economic agenda and a successor to the MDGs targeted to end in 2015.

The MDGs aimed at reducing by half the number of people living in extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.

But that goal is unlikely to be reached by most of the world’s poorer nations, primarily in Africa.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, assistant director general and coordinator for Economic and Social Development at the Food and Agriculture Organisation, told IPS the FAO, like the other Rome-based agencies, remains committed to the single goal on food security and nutrition.

“FAO has already committed itself to completely eradicating hunger and malnutrition,” he added.

Sundaram said it is always difficult to prove that the MDGs contributed to reducing the number of people living in hunger.


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