Marc Cohen: Let them Eat Promises: Global Policy Incoherence, Unmet Pledges, and Misplaced Priorities Undercut Progress on SDG 2

In Food Ethics, 2019. Edited by Dan Banik

Cover Food Ethics


Marc Cohen 


The international community has adopted and endorsed an ambitious global development agenda for the period 2015–2030 in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 2 seeks to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. This reflects a broad international consensus on the unacceptability of hunger articulated previously at the 1996 World Food Summit and reiterated at the 2008 High-Level Conference on World Food Security. In 2009, at their L’Aquila Summit, the G8 heads of state and government pledged a significant expansion of aid to agriculture, in order to address the global food-price spike of the preceding year.

However, serious global policy incoherence severely undermines this apparent political will to end hunger and boost developing-country agriculture. In particular, although official development assistance to agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa (hunger’s center of gravity) doubled between 2003 and 2012, the share of total global aid going to agriculture, at just 5% in 2014, is well below the 20% share of the mid-1980s. In addition, donor-country agricultural trade and security policies often undercut support for agricultural development in the Global South.

Furthermore, there is incoherence within donor policies on aid to agriculture, which tend to focus more on promoting commercialization and exports than on boosting smallholder productivity and the economic empowerment of women farmers. For their part, developing-country governments have not fulfilled pledges to increase their own agricultural development budgets (as seen in the African Union Declarations of Maputo and Malabo), and the bulk of those budgets go to recurrent expenditure rather than development investments. In Sub-Saharan Africa, military expenditures account for a greater share of public funds.

This paper suggests that while policy makers in both the Global South and North treat food security and agricultural development as priorities, these remain in a relatively low position on policy agendas because other concerns respond to much stronger constituencies.


Tags: SDG2, SDG17, Food Policy
Published Sep. 30, 2019 5:25 PM - Last modified Oct. 4, 2019 11:06 AM