Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger is the United Nations’ first Millennium Development Goal, and the UN says that the hunger target is within reach by 2015. Today, according to the UN, about 870 million people worldwide are estimated to be undernourished, and more than 100 million children under age five are undernourished and underweight.
Homi Kharas, senior fellow anddeputy director of the Global Economy and Development Program, will participate with an expert panel tomorrow, March 12, to release the International Food Policy Research Institute’s 2013 Global Food Policy Report. The event runs from 12:25 to 1:45 p.m. (EDT) and will be live webcast by IFPRI.
Kharas has written and spoken on the issue of food security, food prices and global development before.
In 2011, Kharas explained the problem in the volatility of food prices, noting that the challenge is not the high prices per se, but “the rapid and unpredictable changes in food prices that wreak havoc on markets, politics and social stability, rather than long-term structural trends in food prices that we can prepare for and adjust to.” Kharas suggested three policy responses to the problem:
- “First and foremost, break the link between food prices and oil prices.”
- “Second, invest more in agriculture.”
- “Third, get small-holder yields up.”
“Big swings in food prices are happening more regularly (maybe because of climate change and the link to oil),” Kharas wrote,
and proving to be highly destabilizing for development and poverty reduction. The solutions lie in three areas—improving food markets and agricultural production, building political will to integrate food markets across countries, and developing social safety nets in poor countries. All are long-term projects that have been on-and-off for some years now. And because none of the challenges are being tackled with the urgency that is needed, we can expect more of the same in the years to come.
In 2009, Kharas joined Josette Sheeran of the United Nations World Food Programme; Samuel Worthington of InterAction; and then-World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick for a discussion of the global food crisis, the “silent tsunami.”
Hear what Kharas said at the time:
I think blended finance, development finance, is what’s needed, is the future. The U.S. is using a model that was created 40 years ago and I think it’s way past time for modernizing our capabilities.