No Small Agenda: Changing the World

David Nabarro UN photo

By Stephen H. Padre

Give anybody three wishes, and many people would ask for world peace and perhaps an end to all suffering from calamities such as hunger.

David Nabarro might ask to have 17 wishes granted instead of three. It’s Nabarro’s job, in some ways, to end hunger and poverty. And slow down climate change. And ensure clean water and sanitation for all the world’s people. Plus several other monumental, earth-changing tasks. Quite a lot for just one person to handle.

He’s the man appointed as a special adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a process known by the U.N. as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Nabarro – and many others – thinks the world can actually achieve these goals. He doesn’t have a genie in a bottle to grant his wishes, but he does have the entire U.N. system behind him.

(The outcomes of the recent World Humanitarian Summit were added to the 2030 Agenda and Nabarro’s portfolio.) 

Addressing part of that system, the World Food Program, at its board meeting in Rome, on Feb. 8, Nabarro described the challenges he and the rest of the world face. “Implementation requires all of us to transform our work to a people-centered and planet-sensitive agenda with local, national and global momentum for implementation,” he said in a speech to the board. “We must remember at all times that it is about the wellbeing of future generations…”

Nabarro was born in London and is a physician by trade. He has more than 30 years of experience in public health, nutrition, and development work at the national, regional, and global levels and has held positions in non-governmental organizations, universities, national governments and the U.N. system.

From 2011 to 2015, Nabarro served as coordinator of the Movement to Scale Up Nutrition. In that role, he became a friend of Bread, especially in its nutrition work. Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute, interacted frequently with Nabarro in this work.

Nabarro made clear in his speech that the 2030 Agenda is not solely driven by the U.N. The SDGs were agreed upon by all U.N. member states through their heads of state and government, “and they own it to the full.”

Among his means of implementing the agenda is engaging a wider community of actors, including faith groups. He wants these actors to actively pursue the new agenda and galvanize for action at local level. Message for Bread members: Nabarro wants you to do your part.

“The 2030 Agenda requires us all to work differently,” he said. He explained that the 17 SDGs are inextricably linked and require implementation together as a comprehensive and cohesive whole. Bread for the World Institute has been making many connections among hunger and other issues that are causes or exacerbating factors of hunger, such as health and women’s empowerment. “Zero hunger is linked to poverty reduction, social protection, gender equity, both sustainable production and consumption, and partnerships,” Nabarro continued, referring to SDG 2.

“It is a tremendously positive sign that the international community has agreed to such a visionary and ambitious agenda,” Lateef said. “Ending hunger and malnutrition are at the center of the goals, but the SDGs recognize that progress on one will require progress on them all.”

Nabarro dedicated an entire section of his speech to food security and nutrition within the context of the 2030 Agenda. He cited the Movement to Scale Up Nutrition as an attempt to orient multiple global, regional, and local actors, each with different mandates, toward a shared goal.

“The Scaling Up Nutrition Movement has rallied diverse stakeholders around the vision that improving maternal and child nutrition outcomes is good for the health and wellbeing of individuals, communities, and economies. It’s a new way of working that recognizes that the complexity of the problem and values the different contributions of different sectors. We need innovative approaches that brings people together around the SDGs,” added Lateef.

Stephen H. Padre is the managing editor in Bread’s communications department.

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