From words to action: Antigua & Barbuda and the Zero Hunger Challenge
Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the access to adequate and quality food has been considered a basic human right. Since then, numerous calls for the total elimination of hunger have been raised in international forums and by the foremost world leaders. The latest, and perhaps the boldest, was made by the Secretary General of the United Nations himself, when he launched “The Zero Hunger Challenge” at the Rio + 20 Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012, inviting all nations and organizations to be boldly ambitious in working together to put an end to hunger.
The “Zero Hunger Challenge” of the Secretary General of the United Nations is comprehensive and audacious. It’s goal is to ensure 100 % access to adequate food by all persons all year round; zero stunted children less than 2 years old; all food systems to be sustainable; a 100 % increase in small holder’s productivity and zero loss or waste of food. Different leaders have expressed their full agreement with this challenge. Among them the Director General of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), who has indicated that this organization is fully committed to the Zero Hunger Challenge.
Perhaps the only country that decided to resolutely move from words to actions in the case of hunger has been Brazil. Some 10 years ago, when Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva was elected President, he and his Minister of Food Security and Fight Against Hunger, José Graziano da Silva, decided to make the eradication of hunger a top priority of the administration, mobilizing all institutions of the Government in this effort through the “Hunger Zero” program. In spite of the difficulties, they were highly successful and their strategy and program received worldwide acclaim. The Brazilian population also recognized these efforts and Lula was first reelected as President, showing the impact of his policies. After his second term, the country elected a successor from his own party, showing the country’s support for policies such as “Hunger Zero”. The Brazilian case indicates that to be bold in the fight against hunger is not only a moral obligation but also pays political dividends.
Given this context, we truly welcome the initiative of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to make the fight towards the eradication of hunger a top national priority, inviting all international and regional organizations and institutions as well as other countries to support these efforts. It is an encouraging fact that the first mission to the country to commence this hunger eradication initiative was composed by five international organizations: FAO, PAHO, IICA, WFP, and ECLAC.
For years experts and academics have been analyzing the issue of hunger. We know that to adequately solve the issue a twin track approach must be followed: the immediate problems of the vulnerable groups must be faced with urgency, while at the same time working decisively to solve the structural problems that underlie hunger. We also know that we must adopt measures to increase food availability, as well as focusing in food accessibility, distribution and social policies, food utilization and nutrition policies, as well as ensuring the stability of food supply. Because of the interdependent nature of the problem, an integrated approach must be followed. Different Ministries need to work together and political support from government officials, political leaders, parliamentarians, civil society organizations, the private sector and others is necessary.
Antigua and Barbuda represents an excellent opportunity to move from words to action. International support is needed to overcome some of the limitations and constraints that the country faces in dealing with this complex problem. However, the country has the basic elements of a social protection system already in place, and this could serve as starting blocks for more efficient policies and programs. For us who work daily towards the eradication of hunger, the express commitment that Antigua and Barbuda has made towards guaranteeing the right to food for every one of its inhabitants is a golden opportunity to put all our combined knowledge and know-how to achieve concrete results on the field in the shortest possible time frame, an opportunity we shall not waste.