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Executive Perspectives

EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: Global Hunger is on the Rise

19 September 2018

“The world has already committed to ending hunger by 2030 through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). More than ever we need science and government to work together urgently to build consensus on the interventions needed to do so.”

Carin Smaller of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), David Laborde of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Jaron Porciello of Cornell University’s Atkinson Center for Sustainable Development discuss the environmental causes of the recent increase in global hunger and explain the collaborative project they’ve helped create to build consensus on the interventions needed to end hunger and transform the lives of the world’s poorest farmers. Sherah Beckley, Editor Thomson Reuters Sustainability.


Every day too many men and women struggle to feed their children a nutritious meal.

In a world where we produce enough food to feed everyone, 821 million people – one in nine – still go to bed hungry each night. Even more – one in three – suffer from some form of malnutrition.

This is according to a new United Nations report, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, released yesterday. With limited progress being made to feed our growing populations, nearly 151 million children under five are affected by impaired growth and development due to poor nutrition.

Climate variability is a key driver behind the recent uptick in global hunger and a leading cause of the severe food crises many vulnerable communities currently face. The complex effects of a changing climate undermine all aspects of food security, including availability and access to food.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also highlighted the urgent need for governments to take climate action today lest we run the risk of “runaway climate change” by 2020.

This new report confirms why investing simultaneously in agriculture and environmental sustainability is more crucial than ever.

This reality also confirms our past assessment. Our research in 2016 showed that 15 years of collective efforts culminating in USD 11 billion of additional public spending annually, including USD 4 billion from donors, were needed. Delays in action and increasingly adverse conditions, such as climate variability and conflicts, are increasing this need for funding every day.

The price tag may seem jarring, but the consequences of inaction are far more severe. The rising levels of food insecurity and different forms of associated malnutrition are a warning of the urgent need to act.

This year Cornell University, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), started a project to build consensus on the interventions needed to end hunger and transform the lives of the world’s poorest farmers—while protecting the environment.

By combining state-of-the-art modelling techniques with expert evidence, this collaborative project aims to support donor efforts to achieve global commitments to end hunger, through focusing on smallholder farmers, while addressing climate change and other environmental problems.

The world has already committed to ending hunger by 2030 through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). More than ever we need science and government to work together urgently to build consensus on the interventions needed to do so.

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