|Overcoming Global Hunger (WB)|
Hunger is not a simple phenomenon that yields to simple solutions. The means to overcome hunger cut across the whole spectrum of development challenges: raising agricultural productivity. developing human resources, creating jobs, and improving governance. Consequently, the World Bank, which exists to foster the development of poor countries, has a central role to play in assisting countries to banish hunger.
Recognizing this special responsibility, the Bank responded to Congressman Hall's call to action by offering to organize a conference where those most knowledgeable about hunger - and malnutrition in developing countries could meet to formulate an agenda for action. The objective of this collaborative effort was to (a) identify major elements of an effective strategy to reduce hunger and to generate the necessary political will; (b) build consensus on a priority action agenda to reduce global hunger; (c) assist the World Bank in defining what it can do to help implement the action agenda; and (d) raise awareness about the seriousness of global hunger, the actions that can be taken to overcome it, and what the World Bank is prepared to do to reduce hunger.
From the start the conference organizers recognized that two very different perspectives had to tee taken into account. One was that of country economic managers, the finance and planning officials who devise countries' macroeconomic and sectoral strategies. The other was that of local nongovernmental and community-based organizations whose staff are in direct contact with poor families. Thus, the conference was planned in close consultation with representatives of NGO's who participated actively in the work of the conference steering committee, as did Congressman Hall's staff. InterAction, which has links with NGOs worldwide, coordinated e NGOs contributions.
The tensions that arose from these two different perspectives were immediately evident at the steering committee's meetings, which had- to make difficult decisions on the form and content of the conference. The NGO representatives were interested in influencing the World Bank's country assistance strategies and the design of structural adjustment programs, while Bank staff sew the conference's main task as building a consensus on specific priority actions to be taken at the country level and supported by all those agenciesmultilateral, bilateral, and nongovernmentalactive in the country concerned. These tensions persisted throughout the conference.
The conference was preceded by a one-day preparatory workshop attended by NGO representatives; researchers; and representatives of bilateral and multilateral institutions, including UNICEF, the World Food Programme, the UNDP, and IFAD, as well as the World Bank The workshop provided a forum for experts in food security and nutrition to thresh out the key issues and present their ideas and proposals to the main conference. The workshop participants divided into three groups to discuss the topics of the different sessions of the main conference: (a) the impact of macroeconomic reform on poverty and hunger, (b) the lessons learned from targeted interventions to overcome hunger, and (c) the political economy of hunger. Each group spokespersons to summarize the group's views and conclusions for the benefit of those attending the main conference.
To assist the deliberations of the main conferences, four background papers were also prepares. These reviewed the history of past international initiatives to reduce hunger, sought to clarify concepts and priorities, summarized the lessons of experience from twelve case studies, and set out key issues for the conference to address These papers are included in this volume as appendixes 1-4. The NGOs at the conference prepared and circulated a statement which has been included in this document as appendix 5.
Finally, a separate but related event was held-an evening panel discussion on the ethical dimensions of hunger. The main statements and a summary of the panel discussion that followed are attached in a special concluding section.
The conference was well attended. At times as many as 1,200 people filled the conference hall, and requests to speak from the floor were numerous. Thee concern of the vast majority of participants was to find ways to move decisively from rhetoric to action. Over the years people have made so many speeches about the disgrace of hunger in the world, and yet so little has been achieved to improve the access of the poor to food.
What, then, has been the outcome to the conference? First, the conference steering committee has been reconstituted as a follow-up group and has agreed to promote country-level consultations at which government officials and local NGO representatives could meet to review the food security and nutrition strategies in place end to identify specific additional actions that should be undertaken. Second, a donor group has been meeting to establish a consultative group aimed at improving the earning capacity of the very poor. In the first instance this will concentrate on expanding the provision of financial services to the very poor. Lastly, the World Bank has prepared an action agenda for deepening its support for reducing poverty and hunger.
The analysis set out in the supporting papers prepared for the conference brings out the strong link between hunger and poverty alleviation. Countries such as Indonesia that have achieved rapid growth in per capita incomes have also seen a rapid reduction in the number of families belong the poverty line. At the same time, however, rates of poverty reduction differ considerably among countries with the same per capita income growth rates, and hence the extent of hunger alleviation among countries. Moreover, the extent of hunger among countries at the same level of per capita income varies greatly. The reason for these differences can be attributed in part to differences in the design and implementation of programs directly targeting the hungry.
The case studies illustrate a number of different hunger alleviation programs that allow us some insight into what works best Differences in the extent of hunger alleviation among countries with the same growth rate of per capita income are attributable in large measure to the varying results of the hunger policies and programs different countries have adopted. For example, Chile's remarkable improvement in its social indicators contrasts with changes in the social indicators of other Latin American countries with similar levels of per capita income. This is because of the existence or absence of policies and programs explicitly intended to reduce poverty and hunger and their varying effectiveness. The case studies show that specific interventions targeted to assist those who suffer from hunger especially the very poor-can have a significant positive impact. At the same time, they reveal the ample scope for learning from experience to improve the design and management of these programs to target them better and to make them more cost-effective.
The struggle to banish hunger worldwide is a long-one. The has been too much takking and too little doing This conference was yet another contribution to the debate Now is the time for action.