Written by Brendan Rice, Student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Originally posted at the Universities Fighting Global Hunger Blog.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ annual symposium, Advancing Food and Nutrition Security at the 2012 G8 Summit, brought together G8 and African leaders, international organizations, businesses, and civil society to emphasize the importance of agricultural development and nutrition security.
As a student and a member of the growing Universities Fighting World Hunger movement, this event was incredibly powerful and motivating. As students, we frame hunger as a structural issue. Food price volatility and under-investment in agricultural sectors of developing countries are structural issues that continue the crisis of hunger. These underlying causes of hunger can seem infinitely enormous and complex, but the symposium leading up to the G8 Summit at Camp David gives context and invigorates the work that we all do towards making hunger a distant memory. At the symposium, leaders including President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and the rock star, Bono, showed that advancing food security is a priority. The work that we do on our campuses is not done in isolation. Instead, we are tapping into an energy that is now emanating from the highest levels of power.
At the symposium, President Obama laid out the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which builds off of the commitments made at L’Aquila. The new phase of this shared initiative towards global food security focuses on empowering agricultural growth through country plans, private sector involvement, and G8 commitments.
Framing hunger as a solvable problem is central to the work that we do as students. As a human family, we have the tools, resources, and knowledge to end hunger in our world of plenty. This issue is not necessarily about coming up with a solution. Instead, it is about advancing the steps we already know work to end hunger through creating the public and political will to do so. The symposium and Obama’s announcement set up a framework of global imperatives.
Despite the diverse ideas and sectors represented, there were a number of themes that emerged throughout the symposium, many of which were clearly outlined in Secretary Clinton’s closing speech. These included a focus on smallholder farmers, nutrition with a focus on the first 1000 days of life, and the importance of women in food security. The heads of state of Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania all made clear the importance of investing in the agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers, many of whom are women.
The framework is in place, and now it is time to move towards action. During his speech at the symposium, President Obama called for “all hands on deck.” Students and future leaders are central to maintaining the commitments made and continuing to demand a food-secure world. Secretary Clinton laid out the challenge succinctly in her speech at the symposium. By 2050, there will be 9 billion people on the planet, and agricultural productivity must increase by 70 percent in order to keep pace. Bono stated that this challenge can and will be met, but not without Africa. Bono reminded us that the issue of hunger sears our collective conscience, so as a collective soul, this challenge is one that we must confront.
Representing students from around the world, Universities Fighting World Hunger is moving through strong conviction and grounded motivation to end hunger. To borrow a thought from Secretary Clinton, what can hold us back can be as simple as “plain old inertia.” In this we find hope because as part of the next generation of leaders, the inertia of the morally outrageous status quo of 1 billion people going hungry will be replaced by the exhilarating possibility of a fair and just global food system.