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Fighting hunger: office helps ensure world's access to food.

Food security is a multifaceted challenge that impacts every country around the world. The Secretary's Office of Global Food Security (S/GFS) uses every diplomatic tool at its disposal to address hunger, malnutrition and extreme poverty.

Led by Dr. Nancy Stetson, special representative for Global Food Security since June 2014, the office works with such multilateral groups as the G7 and G20, engages in international negotiation and supports the president's global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future. The initiative seeks to alleviate the causes of poverty, hunger and malnutrition by leveraging multilateral institutions, increasing sustainability, prioritizing strategic coordination and supporting accountability. It focuses on smallholder farmers, particularly women, and has helped 19 countries bolster their agricultural sectors for economic growth. As a result, nearly 7 million food producers have adopted improved technologies or management practices that have reached more than 12.5 million children through nutrition programs preventing and treating under-nutrition and improving childhood survival rates.

Feed the Future's principles are critical to S/GFS priorities and are carried out through multilateral negotiations and the office's diverse portfolios. Dr. Stetson's previous negotiating experience provided the expertise to help S/GFS keep up with changing global realities.

Anticipating and planning for emerging challenges like climate change, pressures on development financing, urbanization and nutrition is where Stetson and S/GFS have begun to provide leadership in the food security space. Climate change and food security are uniquely tied because climate change affects how and where we produce food. Protecting soil, water and the health of forests, rivers and the oceans are all key components of the food system, and U.S. policies and diplomatic efforts therefore focus on preserving functioning ecosystems. To answer a mandate from the president and Secretary Kerry, the U.S. government has helped launch the voluntary Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA), composed of partners across all sectors who address the challenges of food security in a changing climate.

S/GFS supports the alliance by developing demonstration initiatives that can serve as models for climate-smart development. For example, across the Caribbean, livelihoods and food security depend in large part upon healthy oceans, sustainable fisheries and resilient coastal ecosystems. Threats from climate change, including more frequent and intense storms, sea level rise, elevated surface water temperature and ocean acidification, will thus reduce regional food security. To respond, S/GFS and partners are developing the Caribbean Oceans and Aquaculture Sustainable facility (COAST), a new diplomatic effort to promote regional climate-smart food security. It aims to create incentives-based insurance to manage the risks of climate change for the fisheries sector and has incentives to reduce fisheries' environmental impact.

The Department has committed $5 million to the COAST initiative, and S/GFS is working with the World Bank, the Food and Agricultural Organization, and other GACSA members to create what could be a model for risk insurance that will encourage climate-smart practices. Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the initiative is consistent with the Department's involvement in the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture and will "help the most vulnerable cope with the effects of climate change."

Beyond promoting climate-smart food production, COAST is also a model for innovative financing. Official development assistance continues to become a smaller component of overall development financing compared with domestic resources from developing countries, private capital flows, foreign direct investment, private philanthropy and remittances. Foreign assistance must look to new methods of investment that leverage and maximize these other resources.

Another challenge to food security arises from population migration. At an international meeting this year, Stetson delivered remarks about The Economist's 2015 Global Food Security Index and called attention to the impact of increased urbanization on food security. Five million people are moving to cities every month, a mass migration imposing several challenges on the food system. Urban food security and nutrition requires a focus on infrastructure, water, refrigeration, sanitation, energy and transportation.

To promote good nutrition for the world's people, S/ GFS leads the Department's diplomatic work on nutrition and strives to ensure nutrition is part of any dialogue on food security, health or sustainable development. S/GFS has championed nutrition since its inception. In 2010, it launched the 1,000 Days Partnership, which calls for action toward better nutrition in the critical 1,000-day window from a woman's pregnancy to a child's second birthday, a period when better nutrition can have a lifelong impact. Last year, S/GFS shepherded U.S. engagement in the Second International Conference on Nutrition, where the world's health and agriculture communities envisioned a future food system that would eliminate malnutrition in all its forms. Now, S/GFS is focused on ensuring nutrition is discussed at multilateral fora, such as the G7 Summit in Germany and the post2015 development agenda being negotiated in New York ahead of the U.N. General Assembly.

Food security remains a Department priority and is tied to U.S. national security, and international stability and development. According to the World Bank, agricultural development is two to four times more effective in raising incomes among the very poor than growth in other sectors. Food is a building block for economic prosperity, peace, health and development.

S/GFS and its partners in the U.S. government and beyond will continue to actively address food security and nutrition challenges to help deliver on the U.S. investments in global development and shared prosperity.

By Julia Duncan, foreign affairs officer, Secretary's Office of Global Food Security
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Author:Duncan, Julia
Publication:State Magazine
Date:Jul 1, 2015
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