Combatting global hunger and poverty continue to be a priority area of political intervention under the new leadership of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The new director of ‘Division 1 for Global Health, Economy, Trade and Rural Development’, Dirk Meyer, spells out the cornerstones and overarching goals.
A world without hunger is possible. With the 'One World, No Hunger' initiative launched in 2014, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has given a new level of priority to this goal. Currently led by Federal Minister Svenja Schulze (German social-democratic party, SPD), the BMZ employs around 1,230 staff at its two offices in Bonn and Berlin. Some of its staff also works for German development policy at German foreign missions or international organisations around the world.
1. You passed the first 100 days in your new role as director of division at the BMZ. What is your position on the current state of affairs?
The crisis in Ukraine has brought food security even more into focus. A shortfall in food supplies from the two major production countries Russia and Ukraine is looming. The already rising price developments in this sector will affect many countries, especially in Africa. To make matters worse, the coronavirus pandemic isn’t behind us either – quite opposite. This crisis continues to spawn so many other crises whose impact on education, health and poverty, among others, are not yet foreseeable. For example, students in Uganda have only recently returned to school – after two years.
We could lose an entire generation in terms of education and vocational training.
There is a great risk that poverty in existing areas will increase even further due to the coronavirus pandemic. Climate change also continues to progress and is already hitting the Global South very hard, which has caused the least amount of the climate crisis and yet suffers the most already.
2. What does this mean for the future direction of development governance?
Within the context of the 2030 Agenda, SDG2 has a key role to play in addressing these multi-crises. The multifunctional nature of sustainable agriculture must not only ensure global food security, but also contribute to poverty reduction as well as income, employment and ecosystem services in rural areas. We address all these facets in the BMZ Strategy on Sustainable Agri-Food Systems. We aim to make structural changes and transform these systems.
Food security and the fight against hunger are part of BMZ’s DNA, and the pursuit for human right to food continues to serve as our compass..
The Federal Government wishes to continue playing a very active role in this area in the future, both in the European and the multilateral context. The BMZ is already actively intervening in immediate crisis situations in coordination with other departments. However, the importance of food security also goes beyond the crisis context and must therefore be approached in a much more long-term and holistic manner.
At the same time, in light of such multiple crises, we want to promote resilience in all key areas of German development cooperation. With our own vaccine production in African countries, for instance, we target the health sector. Furthermore, we aim to further reinforce social welfare. Resilience must also be considered in the fight against hunger and poverty. Achieving sustainable transformation is about building resilient agricultural and food systems with a holistic and sustainable approach. In the spirit of good governance, we must never lose sight of this approach, if we want to be able to quickly balance out unilateral dependencies in times of crises.
3. What are the goals of the new BMZ lead?
Our goal is to make the sustainable transformation of agricultural and food systems equitable, adding it especially in partner countries to the multilateral agenda. Within the scope of German development cooperation, we will especially support the establishment of climate and development partnerships with partner countries.
Climate protection, biodiversity conservation and food security must be seen as a nexus.
Women’s rights and equality are another key aspect in the fight against hunger and poverty. They play a central role in agricultural and food systems and can significantly contribute to their transformation. If women have access to education and health, the development of society as a whole benefits. It improves the situation of families and positively impacts local communities. Our federal development minister Svenja Schulze coined the term feminist development cooperation. We will try to support girls and women even more and promote them in a targeted manner.
4. You mentioned the nexus concept – why is this so important?
Climate protection, biodiversity conservation and food security are interdependent, which means it is not possible to solve these challenges in isolation. Therefore, we need to correlate the international climate debate more closely with the current discussion on sustainable agri-food systems. In this regard, significant progress has already been achieved at COP26. Moreover, there are considerations to add a Food Day at COP27 this year in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. Agriculture has often been presented as a problem factor in the debate on climate mitigation, as its proportional contribution in CO2 emissions is undisputed. This is precisely why we will also invest more in climate adaptation measures, facilitating the discovery of solutions for climate protection and biodiversity conservation with sustainable agricultural practice. In turn, they have a positive impact on soil quality and thus the cultivation of food.
5. So, what is next?
To ensure successful transformation processes, we need to change fundamental rules in this world.
We need to work on the systems and global structures, and then redirect. Of course, this also applies to sustainable agri-food systems. The agenda of the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) included the global transformation of agri-food systems. However, the question of how to govern such systems could not sufficiently be clarified. Therefore, we need additional discussions on the international level within the setting of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), and the UNFSS must continue viable existing concepts. But it is equally important to support our partners in improving governance at the regional, national and sub-national levels – in other words, down to the levels that directly impact food production and distribution.
Since Germany is taking over the G7 Presidency in 2022, it has a special responsibility this year. During the last German G7 Presidency, we agreed with our G7 partners to commit to the Elmau target aiming to lift 500 million people in developing countries out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030. We will not lose sight of achieving this goal and will discuss it with our partners within the setting of the G7 Food Security Working Group.
At the same time, the G7 group will think ahead about what needs to be promoted ‘beyond Elmau’.
Here, reinforcing the monitoring of price and supply developments as well as improving subsidy effects may be starting points. An essential prerequisite for shaping the longer-term, complex transformation process is to further broaden discussion platforms for cooperative solutions outside traditional silos. On equal footing with our partners, we rely on strong multilateral approaches. Thus, we will be even more involved in multilateral forums in the future and contribute to global agenda-setting.
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