14 October 2013

Global Hunger Index Launch -- What is the added value of resilience?

Today saw the launch of the 2013 Global Hunger Index.

The Index is a joint production of IFPRI, Welt Hunger Life and Concern Worldwide. The launch was at the Houses of Parliament with Lynne Featherstone, the UK's Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development.

IFPRI asked me to present because my IDS colleague Chris Bene had been a lead author of one of the main chapters of the report on resilience in which I also played a role.

I had 8 minutes to present 8 points. Here they are:

  1. The GHI is a simple combination of three indicators: (1) the FAO indicator of "undernourishment" (food supply modified by income distribution to arrive at some semblance of food access), (2) child mortality of under 5's and (3) underweight rates for under 5 children. It is a significant improvement on sole reliance on the FAO "undernourishment" indicator, although it is not close enough to what we really need: a Global Database on Food Consumption.
  2. Progress has been made in reducing GHI scores in all regions (a higher score is worse). But out of 120 countries, the scores for 37 are "serious", 16 are "alarming" and 3 are "extremely alarming" (Burundi, Eritrea, Comoros). South Asia had a better score than Sub Saharan Africa in 2000 but now Sub Saharan Africa has a better score than South Asia.
  3. The big gainers over the past 20 years have been countries which have shown broad based economic growth married to sustained political commitment to hunger reduction: China, Vietnam, Peru, Ghana and Thailand.
  4. Eyeballing the GHI and the Brookings Index of State Weakness, the countries with the lowest scores and weakest gains tend to be fragile, although I have not run a correlation across the two datasets.
  5. One antidote to fragility is building resilience, and one chapter in the report is devoted to this. Chris Bene (IDS) and Derek Headey (IFPRI) are the lead authors. They suggest that resilience is characterised by three capacities: absorptive, adaptive and transformative. In other words it is about avoiding welfare drops altogether, or at least minimising them, and then bouncing back to a better place.
  6. A resilience lens has strategic and programmatic implications. Strategically, let's stop the nonsense around separating development and humanitarian work. Yes there are some different ethical imperatives, but many development initiatives make the need for future humanitarian response more likely and many humanitarian responses constrain development pathways into the future. Programmatically, a resilience lens can have big implications. A good evaluation of nutrition programming in Haiti found that targeting ALL under 2s has a bigger nutrition impact than targeting only under 5s who are malnourished.
  7. Resilience is not a panacea, however. Resilient systems do not have to be pro-poor. The rich have a bigger capacity to buy resilience and the consequences for the poorest of not being resilient are catastrophic.
  8. Finally, some of the countries with the most alarming GHI scores have the highest HANCI scores--HANCI is an index that measures commitment to reducing hunger and nutrition. Just because countries do badly on the GHI does not mean that they are not trying. We should be focusing international hunger efforts on countries which have alarming GHI scores and high HANCI scores.

Lynne Featherstone asked me why some of the countries with alarming GHI scores could also show high levels of commitment on HANCI. I said that even the most committed country needed some growth and to not be buffeted by external shocks that were either from nature or from bad governance in the rich countries (e.g. unfair trade policy, food price speculation, and imbalanced intellectual property rights regimes).


Anonymous said...

High time for rich countries to recognize everyone's right to food and to close the enormous economic inequities between peoples and countries. We need justice not more high sounding theories.

Lawrence Haddad said...

Agree, and commitment indicators can help those claiming rights to hold the duty bearers to account..