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More 'commitment from rich countries' needed for Millennium Goals

Following the Millennium Development Goals summit in New York, Deutsche Welle spoke with Annika Soeder, a senior official with the Food and Agriculture Organization, which is working to help reduce global hunger.

Annika Soeder

Soeder says both rich and poor countries must do more to fight hunger

The recent Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit in New York saw some 140 heads of state and government meet to review the progress of the MDGs agreed 10 years ago to cut poverty, and improve gender equality, health and education. Deutsche Welle spoke with Annika Soeder, assistant director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations about the path ahead for the Millennium Goals. Soeder is in charge of the FAOs Office of UN Coordination and MDGs Follow-up.

Deutsche Welle: What did you make of the summit declaration?

Annika Soeder: It's taking stock of many earlier commitments, and it's always good that commitments are being renewed, but we need more delivery from all strands in order to be able to achieve the goals. I think it's possible, but we need more input from all stakeholders … I'm looking for commitments from rich countries to help more. I'm looking for commitments from poor countries to do more together with their people to change their hunger situation. And I also look for change in some global policies, like trade policies and the agricultural policies of the rich world, which is actually destroying the possibilities for many poor countries.

So what now that this summit is over? Should, for example, several countries be held accountable for progress, or lack thereof? Should there be an annual results-based discussion?

There should be a results-based discussion and we should know more about the achievements in different countries. I'm not at all against having some kind of scoreboard where we look at the achievements. Then we have to recognize that it's not all about achieving and contributing to the individual goals. They all work together, and it's all about development, about solving development situations in general and not only about the individual goals and targets. But I'm very much in favor of showing more of the results and showing more of the gaps that we need to fill, because I think such peer reviews will help countries to work harder and achieve more.

Hungry children in Asia reach for soup handouts

Soeder says there are still nearly 1 billion people suffering from chronic hunger

So how can you hold countries responsible?

Well I think one way to hold them responsible is to show the achievements and the lack of achievements, without blaming but just by telling. This will also help people in various countries hold their governments accountable.

And how about the progress on Millennium Development Goal 1 (MDG1) to halve hunger by 2015?

MDG1 and the target on hunger is not on track because more than 900 million people are actually suffering from chronic hunger. We know it's possible to change that, but we need a lot of political will and a lot of work to be able to do that in five years, so it's quite a dramatic situation.

Do you think MDG1 is reachable?

It is reachable if we change policies and if we do the right things. Many countries show that it's possible: Ghana, Nicaragua, Malawi, Vietnam, and others. But still, so many people suffer. It's a silent and ongoing disaster that we really need to speak about, and we need to urge leaders in poor countries and in rich countries to take their responsibility to make this change happen.

You say there are countries that are fighting hunger successfully. What is it that they're doing right?

They're challenging the policy environment by investing more public money into facilitating agriculture for people to be able to produce food and then get income and be able to buy food. They invest in roads, so the food can get out and be sold. They invest in irrigation, invest in storage, invest in women, because in many poor countries the women are the ones who actually deal with the land and produce the food. So through those means many countries have achieved, but it's still a very long way to go, and that is why the FAO, together with many other partners in the United Nations and in civil society, we blow the whistle on this ongoing disaster because we really feel we need to give a voice to all these people who are hungry.

Interviewer: Christina Bergmann (dfm)
Editor: Susan Houlton

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