Towards food security

I have been asked to assist the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in developing public policies and strategies which can help to achieve the goal of food and nutrition security for every member of the human family. There is indeed a long road ahead of us.
The reform of the CFS is a fundamental change in the international governance of food security and nutrition. We are convinced that the food and nutrition security problem will find its solutions on the ground where nearly two billion women and men toil in sun and rain, night and day to produce food for us. We also know that it requires interventions from local to global levels. It requires an integrated approach. To be effective, these interventions need to be strongly coordinated — between countries, between sectors and between actors so that there is synergy among technology, public policy and farmers’ efforts.
Past experience shows that this task of generating such synergy is not easy. This challenge explains the need for CFS to create a process like the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) that stands at the interface of expertise and policy-making and aims to promote the fusion of political will and professional skill:
w Member states need to ground their deliberations on shared and sound experience and expertise, analysis and advice. They must be informed of the uncertainties at play, their nature and their level, while at the same time deliberating on methods of scaling up successful efforts.
w Controversies need to be identified and, if they cannot be resolved, their fundamentals must be disentangled.
w Political decisions should promote community-level food security systems, based on climate resilient farm technologies.
This is why CFS should make the most of the dedicated, shared and independent expertise that HLPE represents.
When we look at the issue of knowledge in food and nutrition security, we face essential and, to my feeling, embarrassing questions.
Despite all the knowledge and new technologies, there are still over 925 million hungry people world over.
Hunger persists in spite of numerous national and international nutrition safety net programmes.
The very reason for our common failure is not the shortage of knowledge. We have to mobilise knowledge, based on successful accomplishments at the field level for shaping public policy and action. We have to look on how it can convert technical know-how into field level do-how.
We have to look at how the successful models can be used to raise public awareness and generate a “we shall overcome” spirit. In other words, it is solution- and success-oriented knowledge that is now urgently needed.
It is very important that the members of HLPE and all policymakers at national levels, and all UN organisations, share a common understanding of the exact role of HLPE.
The joint meeting between the Steering Committee of HLPE and the bureau of the CFS on September 16-17 was a decisive step towards generating a common wavelength in relation to the way forward.
HLPE was created because sometimes it is difficult to even identify the very nature of the problems ahead. It was created because policy-making in such a complex environment is very difficult and needs advice at a more strategic level, advice that can help policymakers identify emerging issues and prioritise decisions relating to resource allocation.
We, HLPE and CFS, are, in our relations, at the beginning of a process from which we will both learn. But this is, to our belief, the common understanding that we share now on the specific role and added-value of HLPE in matters relating to sustainable food and nutrition security.
What do I, as the Chair of the Steering Committee of HLPE, expect from it?
To begin our operations, we now need a clear mandate from CFS and its bureau. We need to know on what key issues the panel should provide knowledge-based strategic advice, so that the advice becomes demand-driven and fulfils a felt need.
At our meeting with the bureau of CFS, it was recognised that while it is important for HLPE to receive directions from CFS on what issues to report on, it was also equally important for HLPE to perform a pro-active role and identify major emerging and strategic issues for policy advice and recommendation.
In that sense, interaction between CFS and HLPE is a two-way process.
The CFS bureau has already made much progress before the Steering Committee members were appointed. This resulted in the identification of topics for round tables, and, in particular, the Round Table on Risks and Vulnerabilities. A possible outcome would be directions given to HLPE.
We feel the issue of climate change is of paramount importance in relation to agriculture, food security and nutrition, and that it deserves to be specifically discussed at CFS and with an input from HLPE. But it could be tackled in a subsequent year, after a review of the current activity and initiatives in the field, particularly the Cancun conference.
The demand from CFS is important. The supply from HLPE is also important. We need to have better visibility through increased and appropriate levels of contributions to the Trust Fund that supports the work of HLPE.
HLPE needs minimal secretariat, technical support to work properly during the two years’ mandate assigned to it.
We, HLPE Steering Committee members, have decided to meet again in December. We are already at work to define our internal working methods, in the framework of the rules of procedures that you have given us. We have organised ourselves to prepare the scope of a study on price volatility and its impact on vulnerability to food insecurity. We will constitute project teams, based also on the suggestions emerging from this meeting of CFS.
In this manner, we can foster the emergence of a coalition of the concerned with reference to elimination of hunger.
We are determined to bring a new and meaningful contribution to the work of the Committee on World Food Security.

M.S. Swaminathan is the chairman of the National Commission on Farmers. He is considered to be the father of India’s green revolution.

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