Written by Todd Post, senior editor with Bread for the World Institute and the author of the 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach – Global Development Goals.
The Thanksgiving holiday in the United States is one of the few times we can count on our national media looking for stories about hunger. At Bread for the World, we publish our annual report on world hunger to coincide with the holiday. The 2013 edition, Within Reach – Global Development Goals, was released this week.
“Within reach” refers to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and setting new goals in a post-MDG framework. At Bread for the World we pay special attention to MDG 1, cutting hunger and poverty in half. According to the World Bank, we’ve already met the poverty target, and new data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization indicates we’re much closer to meeting the hunger target than we had thought just a couple of years ago. Within Reach argues that with a strong push, we can reach the hunger target by 2015.
The report is also focused on the post-MDG agenda and setting new global development goals. A new global development framework, with new goals, will almost certainly succeed the MDGs. Over the next three years, designers of the post-MDG framework will be wrestling with what these should be. Given the progress we’ve made over the last 25 years against hunger and poverty, Within Reach argues they cannot be relegated to the background in favor of other issues.
We applaud U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Zero Hunger Challenge, but this should not be an open-ended challenge as the Secretary General left it. Ending hunger and poverty by 2040 is possible and we propose this for a post-2015 deadline. 2040 is twenty-five years after the MDGs expire, or roughly a generation. Frankly, there’s no reason we couldn’t do it sooner, but a generation is a rhetorical marker we think will resonate with the public.
Bread for the World is known mainly as an advocacy organization. We lobby the U.S. government for what we call poverty-focused development assistance, which altogether amounts to less than one percent of the federal budget. I mentioned above our focus on the media. We had other motives in publishing this report now. We believe the immediate aftermath of the U.S. election is the opportune time to get the MDGs and the post-MDG process on the agenda of a newly elected president. Of course we didn’t know who would win the presidential election while we were writing the report. The fact that President Obama prevailed almost certainly gives us a better chance of drawing his attention.
President Obama has yet to define his international development priorities for the second term, but if the first term is an indication of what the priorities might be, we think he could find ending hunger and poverty a compelling one. During the first term, he demonstrated right from the start that he was willing to spend political capital on hunger and poverty. His leadership within the G-8 was critical to the establishment of the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.
Bread for the World works within a tight network of U.S. faith-based and non-faith-based organizations focused on international development. We hope this report will also rally our partners, particularly the faith-based groups, who were early supporters of the MDGs to join us in recommitting to achieving the goals. Dozens of leaders from faith-based organizations we work with signed a statement of support that appears in the front pages of the report.
Faith-based groups in the United States helped President Bush to realize that fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa needed to be part of his legacy on foreign assistance. The MDGs are probably going to be a harder sell. In the United States, neither political party wants to identify too closely with the United Nations. But at least members of the Obama administration have been willing to say the MDGs by name, and we had an official from the administration speak at the launch of the report on Monday in Washington, DC. This is a start for what we hope will be a productive dialogue with the administration about its engagement over the next three years with the MDGs and the post-MDG agenda.