The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were implemented this year, but the More and Better Network, an organization that supports the fight to eradicate hunger and poverty, wants to help establish a common plan so that the world can accomplish these goals. When the 2015 deadline for the U.N. Millennium Development Goalspassed, countries around the world revisited key international problems and adopted a new set of goals to continue efforts to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. The new sustainable development agenda includes 17 SDGs with specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.
While these goals do include specific targets, the United Nations emphasized that individual countries are expected to take the lead in carrying out the policies, plans, and programs needed to achieve the goals by 2030. As such, many nonprofits, NGOs, and other national and international organizations are taking steps to assist nations in developing a strategy to do so. Food Tank recently had the opportunity to interview Aksel Naerstad, the international co-coordinator of the More and Better Network, about how his organization plans to help accomplish the SDGs.
Food Tank (FT): More and Better recently put an emphasis on SDGs and the lack of a common plan to carry them out. Why do you feel that a common plan and way to track progress is crucial to accomplishing the SDGs?
Aksel Naerstad (AN): We have focused on the need for plans on the national level and want to both challenge and work with the governments to achieve the SDGs. The member organizations decide what they want to focus on, but together we focus on:
- Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
- Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
- Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
- Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
- Goal 15: Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss
We all know that these and the other SDGs will not be reached unless the governments really prioritize the SDGs and have the right policies, plans, and commitments. Therefore, we discuss and propose what kind of policies and actions are needed to reach the goals.
FT: What solutions have you and your member organizations discussed to this end?
AN: First of all, we prioritize the needs of the small-scale farming families, which feed the world and constitute the majority of people in most of the world. Central elements in our policies are to promote, fight for, and practice food sovereignty and agroecology. We also very much build on huge processes the More and Better Network and most of the members took part in in 2009 and 2012. The first was to develop a document, named Policies and actions to eradicate hunger and poverty. The second was a part of the work to influence the Rio+20 Conference in Rio de Janeiro to focus on sustainable agriculture as important for achieving sustainable development. Two hundred and eighty-four organizations signed on to the first paper and 188 to the second one.
FT: How has More and Better been supporting the international efforts to accomplish the SDGs?
AN: First of all, I want to underline the importance of the work on the national level, which is the priority of most of the members of More and Better. Some members have also been engaged in different international processes. As a network, we prioritize to take part in the work of the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) to the U.N. Committee on World Food Security (CFS) to influence CFS and the member governments to implement policies and actions to reach the SDGs and to monitor the work.
FT: What developments in technology or policy aimed toward eradicating hunger and poverty are you excited about?
AN: The most positive and encouraging, I think, is the enormous increase of support for agroecology the last few years. The combination of farmers’ movements, scientists, and NGOs working together for agroecology and showing that it is possible to nourish 10 billion people with real sustainable agriculture, cool the planet, and create millions of jobs and viable communities gives enthusiasm and hope for real changes. I also want to highlight the increased support for food sovereignty and for climate justice.
FT: What obstacles is More and Better struggling to overcome in the fight to end hunger and poverty?
AN: More and Better is a network of about 120 organizations in 46 countries with very different political and economically situations, and each organization focuses on what they see as most important. For the overall situation, I will say that the political and economic power of the multinational companies is a main obstacle. The interests of many of these companies are to keep on the road for unsustainable development. The common belief that industrial high-input agriculture is the only way forward for feeding the world is also an important obstacle. I strongly believe that we have to work on two fronts: to fight against the policies and actions which create and preserve poverty, hunger, malnutrition and damage the environment; and to practice, show, and promote the positive alternatives which exist.
FT: What will More and Better be working on in the coming months and years?
AN: Our biannual General Meeting decides the priorities and policies of the More and Better Network. The next such meeting will be in October this year. However, I think it’s quite clear that we will have the same main priorities in the coming years: push and fight for implementation of the SDGs, more and better support to small-scale sustainable agriculture, and promoting food sovereignty and agroecology.