A call for partnerships and good policy: that’s how the SDG conference was kicked off by three major players in the field of food security. In the ‘Global challenges’ forum, moderated by Louise Fresco, Akunwumi Adesina (president African Development Bank), Paul Polman (CEO Unilever) and Ertharin Cousin (former director United Nations World Food program) shared their views on the SDG ’zero hunger’. Their conclusion: the willingness and the resources are present, it is the leadership that is lacking.
According to Polman, there is no one to actively take charge in solutions, since the global governance system is obsolete. He therefore pleas for companies to take their role in actively driving solutions, and take the responsibility to use their power to oversee the entire production chain. “Two billion people suffer from malnutrition, and companies like Unilever can reach 2,5 billion people a day”. He calls for individual leaderships and partnerships. Cousin pointed out however that actors in the developing community too often believe private companies are “only in it for the profit”, and should open up to their inclusion. Adesina added that large international banks could join in partnerships to take away financial risks that might exists for the private sector. When moderator Fresco summarized this need for an universal collaboration as the suggestion for an IPCC on food, this was applauded by both panel members and the audience.
It also turned out that much can be gained by changing the perception and situation of agriculture. Adesina wanted to make agriculture “sexy” for the youth to start a career in and unlock the potential it has. According to Cousin, making it sexy alone is not enough. Her statement ”it can be sexy but if it ain’t making any money, it is not going to be sustainable” showed exactly the urgency to turn agriculture into a way for families to sustain themselves and ensure that “no child goes to bed hungry”.
Finally, the panel members saw great possibilities and needs in involving the youth: “The youth is more open minded: we should provide them with tools and make way for the change and innovations young people will bring”, Cousin explained afterwards. Adesina shared the statement of how important the youth is: “We often talk about how the future belongs to young people, but today belongs to them. We should always make decisions with them and not about them”. When asked about this and the feasibility of the SDG’s, he added that with “with the right leadership, political accountability, partnerships and accelerated actions there is absolutely no reason why we cannot achieve the SDG’s within the next 15 years”.