The Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) taking place in Rome this week represents a major opportunity for national and global leaders to reassert their commitment to tackling hunger and undernutrition.
Latest findings from the Institute of Development Studies’ (IDS) Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Donor Index (HANCI) show that the UK has topped the rankings and is making a clear effort in the fight against hunger and undernutrition. While the level of UK official development assistance (ODA) spending on nutrition is not the highest of all the donors, it is stable and commitments are consistently met. However, the UK lags behind other donor countries on several areas including aid for agricultural development, food security and climate change.
Launched today, the HANCI donor index is a league table that measures the political commitment of donor governments to reducing hunger and nutrition in developing countries. The index seeks to hold donors to account and assesses their performance against 14 indicators spanning the dimensions of agriculture and food security, nutrition, climate change, gender and social protection.
Globally, levels of hunger and undernutrition remain unacceptably high. One in eight people in the world are estimated to be suffering from chronic hunger and in 2011 undernutrition contributed to 45 per cent of the deaths of children under 5. By measuring the commitments HANCI can be a powerful tool for civil society to make sure donors are coherent and stable in their support to address hunger and undernutrition.
A high level of donor commitment is essential to prioritise the fight against hunger and undernutrition. This commitment is about more than just giving aid, it is also about countries’ engagement in international treaties that help combat hunger and undernutrition and the coherence of countries’ domestic policies in relation international aid objectives to issues such as agricultural trade protection and the use of biofuels. Taking such a rounded approach, the HANCI Donor Index shows that a country such as the USA, which is a big donor in absolute money terms, ranks 19th out of the 23 donor countries on overall political commitment. The USA has a particularly weak performance on collective action through international treaties.
Lead HANCI researcher at IDS, Dr Rajith Lakshman said: “Donors can play a leading role in the global fight against hunger and undernutrition. They can do so through providing a fair share of aid, by meeting spending promises, and doing so in a steady manner. That’s what the UK and Canada do right, and this is why they are at the top of the index and why some others are not.”
Austerity has clearly had an impact on donors prioritising hunger and undernutrition action and may continue to do so. At the bottom of the Index are Greece, Italy and Portugal. While Australia is high up in the index, the data used for building the index does not yet capture Australia’s severe aid cuts, and a strategy turning towards trade rather than aid, so it remains to be seen if its focus on prioritising hunger and undernutrition will endure.