Last week, the State Department announced the creation of a new office dedicated to fighting global hunger. The office is set to open in May. This is potentially a pivotal development in the struggle to fight the hunger and malnutrition that afflicts over 1 billion people worldwide.
Joy Portella, of the charity Mercy Corps, said yesterday, “It is admirable that the State Department has taken a leading role in the efforts to bring all US government agencies together to develop a comprehensive strategy to address global hunger."
Last year, a coalition of charities including Mercy Corps and Save the Children issued a report calling for a new government office to coordinate the U.S. attack on global hunger. Their report was called the Roadmap to End Global Hunger. The Roadmap emphasized coordination among the different U.S. agencies that fight hunger, something the new State Department office hopes to achieve.
There are some differences, though, between the Roadmap and the new State Department office. For example, the Roadmap had the new global hunger office situated in the White House. It also called for the formation of congressional committees on hunger. Clearly, the next few weeks will be very telling about what is to happen to elements of the Roadmap in relation to the formation of the new State Department office.
World Food Programme distribution in Haiti following the earthquake(WFP/David Orr)
It is vital that global hunger reach the top of America’s foreign policy agenda and not just be a side issue. The new State Department office needs to achieve this goal as it combats hunger in Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen, Haiti and so many other countries.
Bruce White of Catholic Relief Services was one of the architects behind the Roadmap to End Global Hunger. He shared his thoughts yesterday on the new State Department office:
"While an overall coordinator has yet to be named and the exact placement of the hunger coordinator has yet to be determined, the opening of a hunger office that couples development and diplomacy is welcome news. During the Roadmap process one of the things we discussed quite a bit was that global hunger needs to be addressed through a comprehensive approach that is larger than just food aid and even larger than just development assistance, but also includes the diplomatic arm of our foreign policy/assistance. As real progress can only be made when national governments are positively engaged in fighting hunger, diplomacy is a key component."
This comprehensive approach includes agricultural development in countries so they can produce their own food supply. School feeding programs also need more support in developing countries. The school meals fight hunger and improve classroom attendance. A country's whole education system can be boosted with these school meals.
Diplomacy is needed to build the international cooperation that is needed to end hunger. No one nation can handle this job alone. But one nation, the United States, can take the lead. Finally, it must be recognized that ending hunger is a key part of building peace globally. Food for Peace is not just a slogan, but a reality.
Leadership is what is needed to win the war against man’s ancient enemy of hunger. Only time will tell if the State Department’s new global hunger office offers a turning point in this age-old struggle.