On May 5-6, 2016, the University of California Office of the President, the University of California Global Food Initiative and the University of California Blum Centers will host a summit on Global Food Security at the University of California, Irvine.
The goal of this summit is to identify areas of need where research, innovation and education are of critical importance, and universities can and must play a decisive role. In particular, what more should the University of California, with its vast stock of knowledge, ingenuity and concern, be doing in the years ahead?
The importance of such a summit cannot be overstated. In mid-2015, the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative released a multidimensional assessment of deprivation demonstrating that some 1.6 billion people currently are living in conditions of extreme poverty. This is about twice as many as the World Bank calculated using its new $1.90 per day metric. In either case, the number of people on the planet daily facing protein, micronutrient and calorie deprivation is deeply alarming—morally and, perhaps, in terms of peace and stability as well.
Several recent reports suggest that gains in alleviating extreme poverty have largely been confined to certain parts of Asia, and especially to China. Moreover, throughout much of Africa and in many other parts of the world, extreme poverty is growing. This is evident in areas of the developed world as well. According to a 2015 study by Katherine Edin and Luke Shaefer, the inhabitants of 1.2 million households in the United States survive for extended periods on less than $2.00 per day. Their measure takes into account all conceivable sources of income.
The bottom line is that evidence is mounting that far more people may be living in extreme poverty than previously suspected, and their situation is often worsening rather than improving.
Food insecurity is one of the most common deprivations associated with poverty. In September of this year, the United Nations finalized a new development agenda, Transforming Our World, to guide programming over the next 15 years. Focused on ending poverty in all its forms by 2030, the agenda is structured around 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 2 is to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. In parallel to this, the world will convene in Paris in December 2015 to try to consolidate a commitment to addressing the challenge of climate change. The links between climate change and food security are a critical area of concern.
As the extent of the problem of food insecurity and new international frameworks for addressing this challenge both come into sharp focus over the next few months, it will be important to develop immediate, objective assessments of whether the solutions that have been worked out are robust enough to handle a problem of such magnitude. What are their apparent strengths and weaknesses, and how can gaps be filled?
The Global Food Security Summit will assemble experts from both the academic and practitioner communities, as well as from across the University of California system, to think critically about the new frameworks designed to address this challenge at the intersection of food security and climate action, to share what we are doing, and to identify priorities that the academic world can and must address.