Academic journal article Social Alternatives

Ending Child Malnutrition under SDG 2: The Moral Imperative for Global Solidarity and Local Action

Academic journal article Social Alternatives

Ending Child Malnutrition under SDG 2: The Moral Imperative for Global Solidarity and Local Action

Article excerpt


The second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 2) aims to end all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030, and ensure that people have access to sufficient and nutritious food at all times (UN, Division for Sustainable Development 2017). SDG 2 takes up where the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) left off, inviting multi-stakeholder collaboration to develop and implement policy recommendations and programming to ensure food security and nutrition for all. MDG 1, which aimed for the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, succeeded in lowering the proportion of undernourished people in the developing regions in half between 1990-2015 (UN 2015). However, extreme hunger and malnutrition remain a significant barrier to development in many countries. Moreover, after a period of prolonged decline, global hunger is now on the rise and the estimated number of undernourished people globally increased from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016 (Food and Agriculture Organization (UN) 2017). In October 2017, the UN Committee on World Food Security expressed concern that the world is not on track to achieve SDG 2 and other targets of the 2030 agenda related to food security and nutrition (Committee on World Food Security 2017).

In the introduction to this special issue, Shawki asks whether the SDGs institutionalise a global moral responsibility to respond to global poverty and whether they reflect a collective acknowledgment of extraterritorial legal obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill economic, social, and cultural rights. To be sure, SDG 2 reinforces the importance of the right to food, which is protected under international law, as well as the moral imperative to act that has been driving global initiatives to improve food security since the 1990s.

While there is widespread agreement about the global responsibility to achieve SDG 2, the path to reaching each of its targets will vary depending on how the SDGs are translated into context specific policy measures. Ending hunger and malnutrition is an interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral endeavour. Targets and indicators provide some guidance for measuring progress, but are inadequate to steer an effective multi-stakeholder response with the aim of achieving zero hunger.

This paper begins by addressing the key questions of this special issue of Social Alternatives, namely, the legal and moral foundations of SDG 2. It then turns to a deeper analysis of Target 2.2. and initiatives to reduce childhood malnutrition and stunting at the global and local level. The final section of the paper draws connections between successful initiatives, multi-sectoral approaches, and context-specific universalism. We focus on Target 2.2 malnutrition for two reasons. First, the moral imperative for action to eliminate the worst forms of malnutrition, especially childhood stunting and wasting is undeniable. Although combating hunger is a complex and long-term process, there are simple and effective solutions to address stunting. There is value in drawing attention to Target 2.2 so that immediate investments can be made while policy debates continue over how best to respond to more complex challenges over the long-term. Second, as new issues are identified as key sites of intervention for achieving SDG 2, lessons learned from successful interventions can be adapted and replicated elsewhere.

Achieving Zero Hunger and Ending Malnutrition: A moral and legal imperative

SDG 2 and the right to food

The 2005-2008 food crisis shocked the world and drew attention to ongoing problems of critical food insecurity. The crisis, however, was not new. In 1996, world leaders, activists, and food producers met in Rome for the World Food Summit to clarify the scope of the right to food under article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and other relevant international and regional instruments (World Food Summit 1996: para. …

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