Highlight 2015: Final spurt for the Sustainable Development Goals

Biovision helps shape the change towards sustainable development in accordance with the UN's Agenda 2030. Through intensive lobbying, Biovision succeeded in placing agroecology in the UN's global sustainable development goals (SDG 2, No Hunger). The journey was long and intense. By 2015 Biovision had almost reached its goal, as the following article from our August 2015 newsletter tells.

At the Ministerial Roundtable in Addis Abeba, Hans R. Herren called for a global change.

The United Nations are due to adopt the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in September this year. As part of the preparations for this summit, both Biovision and the Millennium Institute have been calling for the goals to be clear and concrete, especially Goal 2 on food security and sustainable agriculture.

As a result of its strong presence in New York in the last two years, the project Changing Course in Global Agriculture – a joint initiative by Biovision and the Millennium Institute (MI) under the direction of Hans R. Herren – has been able to respond effectively to the ongoing developments in the negotiations. For example, during bilateral discussions with those negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the project has provided regular specialist data on sustainable agriculture and put forward concrete proposals for the actual wording of the goals. In addition, at a high-level Roundtable Discussion in New York in March 2014, they were able to put forward a specific process – SHIFT – that would change the course of global agriculture.

Development Goal 2:

The current draft of the Post-2015 Declaration has the following wording for SDG 2: “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” Similarly, the draft includes eight targets, which broadly correspond to our demands for fairer and more sustainable food security, i.e. access to adequate food, combat hunger and malnutrition, support small food producers, promote sustainable agriculture and food systems, maintain the diversity of seeds, increase investment in agricultural infrastructure and research, improve global food commodity markets and control excessive volatility in the price of agricultural produce.

In addition, other issues regularly championed by Biovision/MI during the negotiations, e.g. “reductions in food losses and waste” and “soil degradation” have been included in the Agenda. There is a good chance that these draft SDGs will be adopted in September and the international community will sign up to a new framework for sustainable development for the period to 2030. Without funding, the goals cannot be implemented! Since the end of 2014, the international community has also been discussing the resources required for the SDGs. The negotiations have been complex as topics have also included systemic issues such as debt relief for developing countries, tax avoidance, the improper flow of funds as well as reforms to financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF. The “Addis Abeba Action Agenda” agreed at the 3rd Conference on Financing for Development held in the Ethiopian capital in July 2015, is, therefore, an important milestone in the creation of a sustainability agenda.

Even though many developing countries and civil society rightly criticised the fact that the Addis Conference failed to mobilise sufficient resources to solve the wide ranging global challenges, there were some important successes in the field of agriculture and food security. For example, the “Addis Agenda” confirmed the principle that greater financial support is needed for sustainable agriculture and that more public investment must feed into agricultural research and infrastructure, in particular as a way of improving access to markets for small farmers.

Although it is encouraging that resources are promised for the implementation of the agricultural and food goals, many delegates, particularly those from developing countries, made it clear that they had expected stronger signals from donors. For example, the Conference missed the opportunity to strengthen the position of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), even though this body will have a crucial role in the implementation of SDG 2.

After the summit the real work will begin

The intensive efforts to agree the right framework for a paradigm shift in favour of ecological agriculture as part of universally agreed SDGs will be brought to a temporary halt with the UN Conference in September in New York at which they are due to be ratified. However, even if the SDGs are adopted, it is then that the real work will begin, i.e. their implementation over the next 15 years. During that period Hans R. Herren and his team will continue to introduce innovative solutions that make an effective contribution to the change in the course of global agriculture and food systems that is so urgently needed.