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A moral commitment to end hunger

An opportunity to steer the course of the entire world comes along only once in a generation—if that often. Looked at one way, we are at a crisis moment that should force us to act. But we could also look at the confluence of positive events that is happening this year that could set the world up to do what no generation has ever done: end hunger and extreme poverty by 2030.

Last month, Pope Francis released his highly anticipated encyclical, Laudato Si, or “Praised Be.” Laudato Si makes a strong moral argument for why all peoples must confront climate change. It makes a clear connection between changing global weather patterns and hunger.

{mosads}This week, world leaders are gathering in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the Financing for Development Conference. It will be the international community’s first opportunity apply the lessons found in Laudato Si. The leaders and others are meeting to discuss how they plan to finance new sustainable development goals (SDGs) proposed by the United Nations.

SDGs are targets relating to future development. They include ending hunger and poverty by 2030, empowering all women and girls, and taking urgent action to combat climate change. 

The proposed SDGs are vital to improving the lives of the almost 800 million people around the world living in hunger. The U.N. will likely adopt some version of the SDGs during its summit this September. After this, every member country will be expected to work toward achieving these goals.

Climate change threatens to undo the steady global progress we have made against hunger and extreme poverty. Changing climate patterns are resulting in more droughts, floods, and extreme weather events, making it even harder to grow and secure food. Millions of people throughout the world are feeling these effects.

My first visit to the eastern parts of Kenya was a wake-up call for me. I realized the devastating effects of climate change on communities that are already struggling with hunger. Climate change is not a myth. It is undercutting the gains we have made in development over the past decades.

When I asked a mother of four about her thoughts on climate change, she said, “It is destroying the dreams of my young family. I want to abandon this farm. It no longer produces enough to nourish my family…yet I have nowhere to go.”

Clearly, it will be impossible to end hunger and extreme poverty without addressing climate change.

One step the United States and its partners can take in Addis Ababa is to recognize the importance of strengthening local capacity for development. A country determining its own course is vital to reducing hunger and mitigating the effects of climate change.

Efforts should focus more directly on collaborating with local governments, businesses, and non-governmental organizations. Those on the ground often have the best solutions. Strengthening local capacity would also help countries deliver for their own people, and enable citizens to hold their governments accountable.

The U.S. should enthusiastically support and elevate local capacity on the global development agenda. It should also ensure that building local capacity remains a core objective of U.S. development assistance.

We are at an unprecedented moment in history. The international community can end hunger and extreme poverty by 2030. Let’s hope our leaders take on that commitment this week in Addis Ababa. Because, as Pope Francis reminded us, it is our moral responsibility.

Wabwire is the senior foreign assistance policy analyst at the Bread for the World Institute, a research organization that provides policy analysis on hunger and strategies to end it.


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