The UN on Main Street
Whatever your opinion of the United Nations, most concerned citizens of the world probably agree that some problems cannot be solved within the privacy of our national borders and that it benefits us all to reach across and work together on complex issues. Most of you reading this would also probably agree that those problems include climate change, environmental degradation, and hunger. Other suggestions? The 193 member states of the UN settled on 17 of them: 17 borderless problems to be solved by 17 sustainable development goals (each with its own colorful icon) broken down into 169 specific targets. To be achieved by 2030.
Yes, the UN has a history of big ideas and big agreements that fizzle out in practice. And while international governmental collaboration like that done at the UN can operate as an ethically-driven counterbalance to the profit-driven influence of massive global corporations, it often doesn’t. These are certainly not the only critiques. But I think these agreements are important (and not just because I have a soft spot for international reports), because without those big ideas it is very easy for countries to get selfish, parochial, and short-sighted. Additionally, Transforming Our World (that’s its title) is special in that it puts every single country in the “needs improvement” category and the goals therein apply to everyone, from the US to South Sudan. “Every country needs to change the way it operates, considering the wider impact of its policies and actions beyond its own national borders, to contribute toward a sustainable future for the world.”[i]
Having all these big objectives together in one list means that the intersectionality cannot be ignored. You cannot achieve Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere, without addressing Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. You cannot Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (Goal 13) without Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
But what I really want to talk about is the goal of ending hunger and how Main Street Project actively supports that goal. Hunger, like poverty, is never just about one thing, certainly not “feeding the world” (blog post next week!). This report highlights some important guidelines for addressing those interconnected problems – guidelines that have been central to Main Street Project from the beginning of our agricultural work, and which are being replicated in the area, region, and other countries.
Goal #2’s title in full is “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” (For the purposes of this piece, let’s ignore the mushiness of the word sustainability.) There are eight “targets” listed for goal 2. I’ve selected a few which should look familiar to any Main Street Project followers:
2.3 By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment
2.4 By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality
2.5 By 2020, maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, including through soundly managed and diversified seed and plant banks at the national, regional and international levels, and promote access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, as internationally agreed.
That is the what. We are the how. We are not the only how, but cultivating person-centered, regenerative systems like ours can help solve for all of the above. The implementation of Main Street Project’s practices around the world would move us closer not only to eliminating hunger, but also the Sustainable Development goals of eliminating poverty, protecting our waterways and oceans, reducing inequality, ensuring healthy lives, combating climate change, protecting terrestrial ecosystems, and reversing land degradation. Our work is detailed, analytical, and rigorous, but our aim is always higher. Our mission, like that of the UN commission, is nothing less than Transforming Our World into one that is healthy, resilient, and equitable.
[i] United Nations Special Adviser David Nabarro. 2016 Global hunger index: Getting to zero hunger. Download at http://www.ifpri.org/publication/2016-global-hunger-index-getting-zero-hunger. P23Social tagging: food security > hunger