Food security needs policy coherence
Ending hunger and malnutrition – the chief manifestation of food security – is among the greatest challenges humanity faces. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), there are approximately 850 million undernourished people in the developing world – this population is mostly a subset of the 1.3 billion people that the World Bank estimates to be living on less than 1.25 US dollars (USD) per day. Progress has been uneven, and the world is not on track in reaching the hunger targets established as part of the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG1).
Better Policies for Development, published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2013, emphasises that building global food security requires a cross-cutting approach to policy coherence for development (PCD). This is critical to addressing the multiple dimensions of global food security, and to dealing with conditions that constrain development, such as barriers to trade, markets, knowledge and technology. It also advocates for going beyond the “do no harm” stance and adopting a more proactive approach to PCD. This entails policies that create synergies across sectors, such as agriculture, trade, investment, environment and development co-operation, and that foster an enabling environment conducive to food security.
The publication explores ways in which more coherent policies in advanced, emerging and developing economies alike, as well as, globally can contribute to improved global food security, thereby accelerating progress on MDG1 and whatever hunger targets are established for the post-2015 development agenda. It offers recommendations in four areas:
- Specific policy reforms, in terms of avoiding policies that create negative spillovers, such as trade distortions and biofuel mandates. This includes adopting beneficial policies, such as sharing knowledge that can contribute to developing countries’ efforts – for example, in research and development, or in the design of risk management tools.
- Coherence in developing countries tailored to country-specific circumstances. Better Policies for Development recognises that the policy mix is likely to vary according to a country’s level of economic development and its structural circumstances, including its comparative advantage in agricultural activities.
- Recommendations on how development co-operation policies can be more coherent with national food and nutrition security priorities and strategies.
- Priorities for global action, highlighting areas where OECD analysis can inform more specific recommendations.
The key policy messages emerging from this analysis include the following:
- The challenge of ensuring global food security is first and foremost one of raising the incomes of the poor so that they can afford the food they need to lead healthy lives. In many countries, the majority of the poor make their livelihoods through smallholder farming. Therefore, agricultural development plays a role in raising incomes. Fostering wider economic growth that creates diversified rural economies with jobs both within and outside agriculture is also important. Social protection instruments are needed to bolster incomes, consumption and nutrition in the short term, and in the longer term, to build resilience and stimulate
productive investment and local economic development.
- Increased investment, primarily from the private sector, is needed to raise incomes and increase the supply of food sustainably, notably by raising productivity. For this to happen, greater trust is needed between investors, governments and local communities, including farmers. Governments have an important role to play in establishing framework conditions that complement and encourage responsible public and private investment. Priority areas for public spending, with aligned official development assistance (ODA), include basic services in education and
health, rural infrastructure, and research and extension
- Trade will become an increasingly significant factor in ensuring global food security. Countries need to avoid policies that distort world markets and make them a less reliable source of food supplies. Support for supply-side capacities may be needed to help poorer countries and population groups benefit from trade reform, along with complementary measures to minimise adjustment costs.
For more information see: OECD (2013), Better Policies for Development: In Focus 2013: Policy Coherence for Development and Global Food Security, OECD, Paris.
Ernesto Soria Morales
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development