Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

11 posts from September 2010

Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health

This is part of a series focused on the Millennium Development Goals Summit that took place Sept. 20-22, 2010, at the United Nations in New York City. Bread staff and volunteers were live-blogging from the Digital Media Lounge for the MDG Summit and other events. This is a guest post by Rebekah, who works as an intern with Bread for the World's New York office.  

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World leaders, philanthropic institutions, and other multilateral organizations came together last week to launch the “Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health” in an effort to recommit to lagging Millennium Development Goals 5 and 6.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon kicked off the panel by noting that this focus is both long overdue and represents a savage inequality in the daily lives of women and children around the world. As a person of faith, it was uplifting to hear a multitude of voices committing to ending gender discrimination and noting that the stability of the future is tied to our success in achieving real gains in MDGs 5 and 6.  

There were clearly different levels of commitment in the opening statements. Countries such as Norway and the United Kingdom, and businesses such as Johnson and Johnson made clear monetary commitments. In several cases, they also noted that they planned to double their commitment at the 5 and 10 benchmarks. These amazing commitments were followed by many developing countries leaders noting the progress they have made with regard to an increase in birth rates, increases in immunizations, and other specific health goals. 

The panel was not completely full of friendly handshakes and applause. The moderator, Zeinab Badawi, was happy to point out those countries that were falling behind in their health goals and other countries in attendance that had yet to fulfill their monetary commitments -- which included, dishearteningly, the United States. I was delighted that Secretary Clinton was able to make a brief appearance, but sadly, like China and other countries present, there was no firm, measurable commitment presented in this venue. She noted that the Obama administration was making this topic a priority and we could trust them to be supportive. Yet in the face of firm commitments from Norway and other countries, her request to "trust" their commitment felt a bit flat. It is certainly something we, as people who are concerned about social justice, will have to continue to monitor to ensure that our leaders fulfill the financial commitments that were made to this governing body. 

The panel ended on a promising note. Panelists noted that aid workers know what needs to be done, and they know how to do it efficiently and effectively. In combination with the new strategy, they will now have both a significant monetary commitment and a governing body that will hold its members accountable to the goals that have been put forth.

Read more about the panel on the WHO website.

Highlights of Global Development Policy

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photo via NY Daily News

The long-awaited Presidential Study Directive was released in the form of a new Global Development Policy. The policy was unveiled by President Obama at the U.N. General Assembly’s Millennium Development Goals Summit last week in New York. The president’s speech highlighted poverty as a threat to human dignity and presented poverty reduction as an important component of creating a more secure global environment. Both the policy and the president’s speech highlight the issue of global hunger and underscore the role of Feed the Future within the new development policy.  

Highlights of the new policy include:

  • The elevation of development as a central pillar of our national security policy, equal to diplomacy and defense
  • A long-term commitment to rebuilding the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as the U.S. government’s lead development agency, including “robust policy, budget, planning, and evaluation capabilities” and “leadership in the formulation of country and sector development strategies”
  • The institutionalization of a U.S. Global Development Strategy to be approved by the president every four years that will clarify our development goals and how to achieve them
  • Ensuring that development expertise is represented in the policy- and decision-making process 
  • Establishing an Interagency Policy Committee on Global Development to set priorities and coordinate policy across the executive branch 
  • Creating a U.S. Global Development Council representing the private sector and civil society to provide high-level input
  • Committing to a close working partnership with Congress in establishing a shared vision on global development

Listen to the president's speech to the U.N. General Assembly and find out more about USAID’s role in the new Global Development Policy.

Check out the new Global Development Policy here.

Bread for the World Stands Up to End Poverty

StandForHunger “We will spare no effort to free our fellow men, women, and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected.”—Millennium Declaration

Last weekend, millions of people around the world literally stood up as a demonstration of their commitment to end hunger and poverty. The global event, “Stand Up and Take Action,” came just as world leaders began gathering in New York for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Review Summit, where our own staff members did some live-blogging from the Digital Media Lounge. This year’s fifth annual “Stand Up” event asked people around the world to “stand up, take action, and make noise.” By standing up, concerned citizens sent our world leaders an important (and loud) message: We must keep our promise to achieve the MDGs by 2015.

“Stand Up and Take Action 2010” included a whopping 1,328 Stand Up events in 74 countries, and we at Bread for the World headquarters in Washington, DC, wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Bread staff gathered at noon last Friday to collectively stand up and read the 2010 pledge, which was specially adapted this year to reference the MDG Summit. You can find the complete pledge on the Stand against Poverty website.

Of course, there are lots of ways you can stand up against hunger and poverty, and you don’t need a specific day of the year to do it. Click here to learn more about how you can get involved with Bread for the World. As the 2010 Stand Up pledge reads, “The call to our leaders is simple: End poverty and inequality now!”

Take a look at some of the Stand Up events around the world.


Three Reasons the MDG Summit Matters to People of Faith

This is part of a series focused on the Millennium Development Goals Summit on Sept. 20-22, 2010, at the United Nations in New York City. Bread staff are live-blogging from the Digital Media Lounge for the MDG Summit. Stay tuned for updates. You can also follow us on Twitter @Bread4theWorld.

High-level officials are meeting this week to discuss progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In the midst of these meetings, a group of Christians gathered last night to praise God. Micah Challenge organized a worship service focused on the MDGs. The service was a powerful reminder that God is moving in our time to end hunger (as David Beckmann often says!).

After last night’s worship service, I was reflecting on our call to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. These high-level meetings may feel distant to most, but I believe there are three reasons why the MDG Summit matters to people of faith:

1) Promises, Promises. As one of the speakers said last night, “How long will people languish in the face of promises not met?” Too often, world leaders make promises to eradicate poverty without following up. Leaders are not held accountable, or they think we do not care about the needs of the world’s poorest people. This is where you come in. Your voice is powerful. As people of faith, we are chosen to speak up and demand that our leaders take action. Take a moment today to raise your voice.

2) Faith Without Works is Dead. The MDGs cannot be met by faith alone. We should pray that God helps us to achieve these goals, but faith without works is dead. Let’s encourage our congregations to put our faith into action by writing letters to our members of Congress, working at local food pantries, and educating others about the causes of hunger.


3) One Spirit, One People. Millions of people around the world are paying attention to the MDGs. They are urging their national leaders to commit to meeting the goals. Today, Ireland announced it will devote 20 percent of its aid funding to eradicating poverty. This is a huge step. As people of faith in the most powerful nation in the world, we must urge our leaders to increase funding for effective anti-poverty programs.  

What is one step you will take today to help achieve the MDGs?

Where Were You in Y2K?

This is part of a series focused on the Millennium Development Goals Summit on Sept. 20-22, 2010, at the United Nations in New York City. Bread staff are live-blogging from the Digital Media Lounge for the MDG Summit. Stay tuned for updates. You can also follow us on Twitter @Bread4theWorld.

I graduated from high school in the year 2000. While I was focused on moving to college and making sure all my stuff fit into my dorm room, 189 world leaders were meeting at the United Nations to establish a set of ambitious goals to address poverty. These goals would dramatically transform the lives of millions throughout our world.

Like many people around the world, I am inspired by the Millennium Development Goals. Sure, the U.N. has established goals in the past to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty. But these goals are different. They are set to be achieved by 2015.   

The Millennium Development Goal Summit is an opportunity for our world leaders to evaluate our progress toward meeting the goals. Our world leaders will ask: “How are we doing? What more do we need to do?” For people like you and me, it’s an opportunity to re-evaluate our commitment to the world’s poorest people. We, too, can ask ourselves, “What can I continue to do to be an advocate for the ‘least among us’?"

Share with us why the Millennium Development Goals matter to you.

More Vegetables and Better Diets in Rwanda

In Rwanda earlier this summer, I visited a rural project with the lyrical name, IBYIRINGIRO. It means “hope” in Kinyarwanda, and trumpets this slogan: “That in which we have faith for a better tomorrow.”

The “that” in which Ibyiringiro puts its faith is better nutrition. Better nutrition for a better tomorrow. It is a message carried by neighborhood health workers and put into practice through community-based nutrition education, the promotion of vegetable gardens, and cooking demonstrations that draw big, curious crowds. It began as a program for people living with HIV/AIDS, but the Ibyiringiro philosophy spreads through entire communities.

“We were finding households with enough food but the children were malnourished,” said Erisa Mutabazi, the manager of the Ibyiringiro project for World Vision in Rwanda. “They might have a lot of food, but they didn’t know how to balance it. They would eat only one type of food during a season.”

“More often than not here,” he said, “food insecurity is not caused by lack of food but poor utilization of available food.”

This important revelation will appropriately be at the center of this week’s deliberations on reducing poverty and hunger when the United Nations examines the progress—or lack of it—on achieving the Millennium Development Goals by the target date of 2015. It will be the particular focus of Tuesday’s special U.S.-Irish initiative to highlight undernutrition as one of the world’s most serious but least addressed problems.

Continue reading "More Vegetables and Better Diets in Rwanda" »

“Development for Development’s Sake”

Secretary Hillary Clinton’s speech at the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday provides a good overview of where the United States is now in terms of its foreign policies—all in roughly 5,900 words. She again highlighted the administration’s commitment to development as a strategic, economic, and moral imperative. “It is central to advancing American interests—as central as diplomacy and defense,” she said.

But here’s the zinger: “Our approach is not, however, development for development’s sake," she continued. "It is an integrated strategy for solving problems.”

That message may work with policy wonks inside the Beltway, but it would fall flat with villagers. Translated in layperson’s terms, the message it conveys is: “We are helping your village to develop because it is good for the diplomatic and defense interests of the United States." Whatever happened to giving help because it is needed—and not because it fits our diplomatic and defense interests?

I've spent nearly 20 years as a reporter travelling in developing countries. All the development work I have seen on the ground tells me that ultimately, development aimed at alleviating poverty is in everybody’s interest.


Development Assistance: Well Worth the Money

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof offers us another striking statistic to support poverty-focused development assistance:

Yesterday, his column focused on Susan Retik and Patti Quigley, who lost their husbands in the September 11th attacks and responded by starting an organization, Beyond the 11th, to help some of Afghanistan’s half-million widows.  So far, they’ve reached more than 1,000 women with microfinance and other development initiatives.

Here’s how Kristof describes it:

“Beyond the 11th began by buying small chicken flocks for widows so that they could sell eggs. Another major project was to build a women’s center in the city of Bamian, where the women weave carpets for export. The center, overseen by an aid group called Arzu, also offers literacy classes and operates a bakery as a business.

“Another initiative has been to train Afghan women, through a group called Business Council for Peace, to run a soccer ball manufacturing company. The bosses have been coached in quality control, inventory management and other skills, and they have recruited unemployed widows to stitch the balls — which are beginning to be exported under the brand Dosti.

“Ms. Retik’s next step will be to sponsor a microfinance program through CARE. There are also plans to train attendants to help reduce deaths in childbirth.”

Here’s what struck me:

“All the work that Beyond the 11th has done in Afghanistan over nine years has cost less than keeping a single American soldier in Afghanistan for eight months.”

Wow. That should help us make our point that development assistance is cost-effective.

To learn more about Beyond the 11th, watch “Beyond Belief,” a documentary featuring a visit by Relik and Quigley to Afghanistan to meet some of the women involved with the group.

More Books on Hunger and Poverty

We’ve got a few more books on hunger and poverty for you—any would be great for a church or community small group this fall. Of course, don’t forget to pre-order your copy of David Beckmann’s new book! Exodus from Hunger will be published next month.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Knopf, September 2009. The authors argue that global poverty can’t be alleviated until gender inequality is addressed. They focus on women and girls in the developing world, covering issues such as sex trafficking, maternal mortality, and gender-based violence (including mass rapes and “honor” killings). What makes the book fantastic is the writing and the storytelling—included among the crushing statistics about poverty are compelling stories about individual women and girls who have survived horrific abuses to transform themselves and the communities around them.

In the River They Swim: Essays from Around the World on Enterprise Solutions to Poverty, by Michael Fairbanks, Malik Fal, Marcela Escobari-Rose, and Elizabeth Hooper. Templeton Press, 2009. These writers argue that enterprise and technological solutions to poverty are the best hope for poor nations. Because they were asked to write about their actual experiences working in poor countries, the essays are interesting, informative, and personal. The writers are also candid about poverty-alleviating failures, which is refreshing.

Continue reading "More Books on Hunger and Poverty" »

Accra, Ghana: 'Today a Hoe. Tomorrow a tractor.'

Accra, Ghana—“Today a hoe. Tomorrow a tractor.”

That’s how Kofi Annan described the ambitions of a group of farmers he had met on a visit to Mali before arriving here to head up the African Green Revolution Forum.

“I heard their hope for a future,” said the former United Nations secretary general. “To do better year after year.”

Amid the Forum’s talk of improved seeds, better fertilizer use, micro-financing, building harvest storage facilities, and creating markets, another crucial element for transforming African agriculture is gaining prominence: shifting farmer ambitions from merely obtaining sustenance to making profits, from merely living to making a living.

“Leave behind subsistence farming and run farms as a business, create surpluses,” Annan told the gathering.

It is one of the strange realities of Africa that all of these subsistence farmers, growing food to feed their families and living on the far margins of any economy, add up to the biggest business in Africa.

Continue reading "Accra, Ghana: 'Today a Hoe. Tomorrow a tractor.'" »

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