Food security features high on the international development agenda. Two global initiatives in the past decade have reiterated the policies and programmatic actions required to spur urgent action to prevent malnutrition.
First, member States of the World Health Organisation (WHO) unanimously endorsed in 2012 six ambitious and global targets to be achieved by 2025 aimed at improving maternal, infant and young child nutrition.
Second, the 2030 Agenda adopted by 193 world leaders in September 2015 highlighted the urgency of enacting strong policies that leverage the benefits of globalisation while minimising the risks to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Despite such attention on food security and nutrition, progress has been slow. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), an estimated 821 million people today suffer from various forms of hunger and almost 155 million children aged under five are ‘stunted’ (too short for their age) while 52 million suffer from ‘wasting’ (their weight is too low for their height).
These trends have been variously attributed to conflict, climate change, rapid changes in dietary habits and economic slowdowns.
In a rare move, seven Norwegian ministries have collaborated closely in producing a very timely white paper on sustainable food systems, which was launched in Oslo on Friday.
Offering a holistic perspective, it proposes four main sets of interrelated goals—food production, value creation and markets, nutrition and diets, and governance. An important goal is also to coordinate food security policies with the numerous Norwegian government strategies already in place on renewable energy, antibiotic resistance, disaster prevention, environmental pollutants, digitalisation and noncommunicable diseases.
Ensuring food security is no longer only about production, but sustainable production. Similarly, issues of production cannot be seen in isolation from matters of access to, and affordability of, safe and nutritious food.
Moreover, food security cannot be isolated from other aspects of development, including health, education, energy, gender rights, transport and biodiversity. Thus, there is now growing acceptance around the world that food security is closely linked with healthy diets, climate change, biodiversity, human rights, gender equality and
Although the white paper’s focus is primarily on SDG2 (zero hunger), the priorities outlined signal Norway’s interest in taking a leadership role on sustainable development.
The plan to promote sustainable food systems will not only impact SDG 2 but could have major implications for the achievement of all SDGs. However, while the white paper indicates a high level of political interest and sets out ambitious plans, it will require concrete operationalisation of a joined-up policy in the years to come.
Indeed, the success of this bold plan will ultimately depend on the extent to which the various ministries involved can collaborate and achieve policy coherence.