18 July 2011

Can the “commitment” to reduce hunger be measured? Should it?

The Irish Hunger Task Force was quite clear in its recommendations that someone should be measuring the commitment to reducing hunger – for rich and poor countries alike. It’s no longer acceptable to talk rather airily about “political will”. Wishful thinking on this is unacceptable, we need to now measure political commitment. But how? Any why?

The “why” is easier than the “how”. It is important to assess political commitment for several reasons:

• To hold governments to account
• To help mobilise society against hunger
• To bridge the divide between rhetoric and reality on political will
• To help government’s prioritise their own efforts to reduce hunger
• To highlight the political nature of hunger

How? An IDS initiative in partnership with Save the Children UK, ActionAid, Trocaire and Irish Aid has produced its first set of results in advance of a first report due out in late August. These were presented at a workshop at Action Aid today.

The Hunger Reduction Commitment Index (HRCI) initiative has operationalised “commitment” as a mix of publicly stated intent and action. It constructs an index from 9 secondary data indicators, 3 from each of 3 categories: policy focus on hunger, legal framework to support hunger reduction and public expenditure on hunger related sectors. The index needs to undergo further sensitivity analyses (and needs to figure out how to incorporate primary data collection on commitment) so I don’t want to talk too much about the specifics. Some preliminary observations:

• The preliminary rankings are quite different from the admirable ActionAid Hunger Free index which conflates hunger outcomes and hunger commitments and the IFPRI/Concern Global Hunger Index (which only looks at outcomes)
• When you focus solely on commitments, some countries rank a lot worse than they do on the HungerFree scorecard (China drops from 2 to 12 out of 21 countries) and some do better (Ethiopia moves up from 10 to 4)
• Brazil does well on commitments and outcomes, so it stays high in the rankings on this new index at number 1
• Malawi, comes out as 1 in the HRCI (number 4 in HungerFree index), which adds a twist to the current strained relationships with the UK
• The new index of commitment is compared against outcomes, administrative capacity, voice and wealth. It is interesting to see that several countries who have high commitment scores have medium admin capacity scores (e.g. Malawi) and low voice scores (e.g. Ethiopia), while some have low commitment scores and high admin capacity (e.g. Mozambique)

Many questions were raised by participants at today’s workshop:

• How are the primary data going to be incorporated into the index? How can perception indicators be made comparable across countries?
• How will the index, and the process of constructing it, be empowering for communities who are food insecure? How can their voices be contrasted with the voices of in-country “experts”?
• How do we reconcile a set of indicators that work for a range of countries with a set that are more meaningful at the country level?
• How do we avoid confusing messaging on hunger given the other indicators out there?
• How do we make the index the beginning of a dialogue rather than a name and shame exercise?

These are all issues that will be addressed in the next country-led phase of the initiative (assuming we can find resources). The opportunities for linking the next phase of the initiative into nationally owned processes around MDGs and right to food movements and into international debates (e.g. FAO reform process, and various accountability initiatives) seem plentiful.

I will give an update when the full report is available in late August.

1 comment:

Jose Luis Vivero said...

Dear Dr Haddad,

Some time ago we were introduced to each other, electronically, by Simon Maxwell. I like to the idea of measuring commitment as a movement to increase accountability and political will. In that line, with a former colleague in FAO, Dr. Andrew Macmillan, we proposed an International Public Register of Commitments against Hunger, so as to write and ratify whatever funds publicly voiced by Presidents in international fora and UN events. The Register would work for Presidents and Ministers of developed and developing countries, enabling the tracking of commitments, disbursements and expenditures.
That could be an idea to be further explored and developed by your team in IDS.
Best regards
Jose Luis Vivero