In cooperation with the G7 Research Group and G20 Research Group

The quest for a world without hunger and poverty

The developing world requires continuous support from G7 members if we are to eradicate hunger and poverty for good, writes Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh

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Published
25-May-2016

I attended the 27th G8 summit in 2001 at Genoa in Italy, where I made a fervent call upon the world leaders to make our planet free from hunger and poverty. Fifteen years have passed, and the scenario of global hunger and poverty has been transformed but not at a desired level. We are still far away from meeting the basic needs of the people.

Despite remarkable progress in science and technology, adequate food for all is yet to be ensured. Instead, increased conflict and the rise of militancy have worsened the human rights situation and spread poverty, eroding our achievements.

We live in a connected and interdependent world. A culture of cooperation should be fostered, which in turn will lead to peace and prosperity.

Poverty, I think, is the main cause of starvation. It is the number-one enemy of the citizens in developing countries, compounded by climate change, which further erodes food security and coping mechanisms.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly 800 million people out of 7.3 billion on the Earth suffer from malnutrition. That means one in every nine is not getting the required amount of food. Of those people, 780 million live in the developing countries and 281.4 million in South Asia alone.

But why does a single human being remain unfed on this earth? Mother Earth has sufficient resources for the survival of all creatures.

Remarkable progress in Bangladesh
In Bangladesh, we have worked relentlessly to fulfil the basic needs of our citizens. Braving all obstacles, Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in terms of food security, nutrition, education, health, social protection and women’s empowerment. We have already achieved self-sufficiency in food production. Growth in gross domestic product (GDP) was sustained at over 6.3% during the last six years and 7% this year. We achieved most of the Millennium Development Goals, including maternal and infant mortality. The poverty rate decreased to 22.4% in 2015 from 38.4% in 2006.

We have established nearly 16,500 community clinics and union health centres to ensure services to the rural people, especially women and children.

I think education and human development are the best ways to eradicate poverty and empower the women of Bangladesh to participate equally in the economy of the country. Therefore, we have launched massive programmes to ensure that 100% of school-going children are enrolled in classes and have access to textbooks up to the secondary level at no cost. More than 17.2 million students have been brought in under different stipend programmes.

We have widened social safety net programmes for the relatively poor and disadvantaged people, allocating $3.94 billion this year, targeting women especially.

But several issues are knocking at our door to try to undo our achievements. Of those, the most formidable is the impact of climate change.

Although my country contributes minimally to global warming, we pay a high price for the impacts of climate change, which pose an existential threat to a low-lying deltaic Bangladesh.

The changing climate is a stark reality for our people. Erratic cyclones and tidal surges, river erosion, the changing pattern and intensity of rainfall, droughts, the increasing intensity of natural disasters and sea-level rise all put our precious developmental gains under threat. We already see the lives and livelihoods of most farmers, fishers and artisans coming under increasing stress due to the adverse impacts of climate change. Many millions would be compelled to move out of their homes. We estimate 2-3% GDP loss each year if we fail to manage the impact of climate change, the effects of which will be disproportionately borne by women and children.

A call to richer nations
Bangladesh and other developing countries need continuous support in terms of resources and capacity development to build climate resiliency. We need knowledge and technology transfer to establish local and sustainable solutions. We need a more responsible and forward-looking attitude from the rich countries to make the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement meaningful.

The leaders of the world’s richest G7 countries (possessing 64% of the net global wealth, equivalent to $263 trillion) gather at the 42nd G7 summit in Japan. You are the key players in shaping global socio-politico-economic scenario.

As a representative of developing countries, I would like to call upon the G7 leaders to figure out effective means that can bring a positive change in the global hunger-poverty situation. Let us commit our actions in the true spirit of justice, trust and cooperation. Let us redeem the faith our people reposed in us. Let our posterity remember Ise-Shima G7 as the beginning of a new chapter in the history of eradication of poverty and hunger from Mother Earth.