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Evelijne Bruning
Director, The Hunger Project
The Netherlands, 06-03-2015

On ending hunger and poverty

The singular most representative face of hunger, poverty and exclusion is a female smallholder farmer struggling to make ends meet. Because contrary to what many people believe, hunger and poverty most frequently occur in remote rural areas in relatively stable countries. This is the case today, and will be for the foreseeable future. It is also entirely unnecessary.

Many countries have neglected to invest adequately in rural development. Rural communities often lack the voice needed to demand and enforce effective implementation of such investments. As the World Bank has shown (WDR 2008), investments in agriculture has twice the poverty-fighting power as other investments. Even deeper than a lack of investment lies another root cause of hunger and poverty: the severe subjugation, marginalization and disempowerment of women. This contribution argues for increases in investments (both domestic and ODA) in holistic, multi-sectoral, community-led and gender-focused rural development programs, and for a massive global mobilization of force around the SDGs.

The Hunger Project believes that to build the world we want, we must create a world of opportunity – programs and policies that empower every women, man and child to be the authors of their own development. People living in poverty are not the problem – they are the solution. They must not be treated as target populations or beneficiaries, but as hard-working, intelligent individuals who – when empowered with opportunities – can overcome poverty and preserve our natural environment.

Transforming age -old, deeply entrenched gender inequality is possible, but it requires more than simply targeting women and girls. It requires listening to local women leaders at the forefront of the struggle for equality, understanding the specific barriers, and identifying the interventions most likely to catalyze society -wide transformation. While the brutality and domination of patriarchy are remarkably similar around the world, the “tipping point” interventions are distinctly local: The Hunger Project has proven that political empowerment in India, advocating for girls’ rights in Bangladesh, economic empowerment in Africa, and social empowerment of indigenous women in Latin America are all viable strategies towards ending hunger and poverty.

What we must do to get there

  • Start with women: Women must be the key decision makers and change agents in any development process.
  • Mobilize Everyone: While we deeply value the result implied by the phrase “leave no one behind” it could be interpreted in a paternalistic way. The real point is to empower everyone – to awaken everyone to what can be done to create the world we want, and organize them for effective action.
  • Engage Local Government: Where poverty and environmental degradation is most severe, it is because grassroots level government is starved for resources and decision-making authority – and where communities are denied voice and the opportunity of social accountability. Forging strong, accountable partnerships between grassroots people and effective local government is key to success.

How will we do this

National and sub-national government and all other partners must take steps to create the conditions for community-led development to succeed. This includes:

  • Empower Active Citizenry: ensuring that people’s rights to information, to assembly, and to participation in government are protected and strengthened.
  • Apply Subsidiarity: human dignity, inclusion and social harmony are enhanced when planning, decision-making and resources and moved as close to the people as possible.
  • Plan with all stakeholders: long-term planning for sustainable community development requires all relevant stakeholders to be at the table.
  • Localizing the SDGs: National and International statistics and reviews are important, but are insufficient to inspire and focus community-led development. Data collection must be local, and aggregated upwards, so that community actors can set their own priorities and track their own progress.

Mobilize everyone

Cynicism and apathy stand in the way of progress anywhere. Our commitment must begin with a massive and urgent campaign to inform, educate and inspire everyone on the planet to join in the extraordinary human endeavor of the SDGs. “We the peoples” created these goals through the most inclusive policy-making process in history – and 1000-times that many people need to hear about them, understand them, and see the pathway through to their own unique contributions. Governments, Civil Society, Private Sector leaders, and especially the media have important responsibilities to get the implementation off the ground as quickly and comprehensively as possible. In the Netherlands, we are currently gearing up to implement the proven successful Worlds Best News campaign .


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Promoting inclusiveness in the Dutch policy agenda on trade and international cooperation

This contribution is part of a consultation for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs on how to promote inclusiveness in the Dutch policy agenda on trade and international cooperation.
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Consultation partners

Commissioned by:

Ministery of Foreign Affairs


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The Broker




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