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Vegetable farmer watering plants at the organic farm in Boung Phao Village, Laos.
Asian Development Bank
Global Citizen AsksFood & Hunger

Idris and Sabrina Elba on Tackling World Hunger With Norwegian Minister Dag Inge Ulstein


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Since he was appointed to the position in January 2019, Norway’s Minister for International Development Dag Inge Ulstein has been influential in putting climate change at the center of the country’s sustainable development strategies. 

At the first Climate Adaptability Summit on Monday, Ulstein spoke with IFAD Goodwill Ambassadors and Global Citizen advocates Idris and Sabrina Elba about the relationship between food security, climate resilience, and ending world hunger — and how Norway plans to be a part of the solution. 

Norway has long been a leader in foreign aid and the fight to end extreme poverty, and in his role, Ulstein has committed to supporting sustainable initiatives related to agriculture and food production. Norway is a top donor to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), supporting the organization's work on food security and agriculture, climate adaptation, economic growth, and more in rural areas around the world.

In conversation with the Elbas, Ulstein stressed the importance of ending global hunger and working together to fight climate change. Read their discussion below.

Sabrina Elba: Why are food systems the solution and what do all of us need to do to make our systems more equitable and fair?

Minister Ulstein: The combination of climate change, COVID-19, and the socioeconomic downturn, as I said, is really devastating, in particular on food security. That was something that was going the wrong way before the pandemic and it just increased.

So, as you know, hunger has been on the rise since, isn't it 2014? It’s about 690 million people who do not have enough to eat and are suffering. 

Access to sufficient, safe, and healthy food is so fundamental for people’s lives. We cannot have good education, we cannot have good health and economic development, without that. 

So again, the world needs to stop the negative trend of hunger. The world's food system must be changed. 

Norway has this action plan on sustainable food systems to guide our foreign policy and development cooperation. We support more than 50 different programs now, and programs and projects to assist developing countries in providing enough healthy and safe food for their own population.

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Idris Elba: Why is it important that countries also work together on issues that essentially do not affect their borders — and especially why now? 

Minister Ulstein: There is no challenge that is more global than climate change and it can only be solved globally through international cooperation.

I think that climate change and pandemics are overwhelming proof of our interdependence with countries and citizens from every corner of the world, sitting in one boat. Because, you know, nobody is safe from the virus until everybody's safe, and the same applies to climate change.

The Paris agreement established three main objectives, and one is that climate change must be combated in a way that does not threaten food production. And this is really, really important. The world must reduce global emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change at the same time as we increase food production to combat hunger. 

Nobody is safe from the virus until everybody's safe, and the same applies to climate change.

Biodiversity must also be protected. Protecting nature while producing more efficiently will improve food security. A nature-based solution must be the answer to this. 

So, Norway's new strategy on climate adaptation and resilience will focus on concrete solutions to reduce hunger And we will spread climate-adaptive knowledge and technologies for poor small-scale farmers and fishermen, as I mentioned. 

It's really devastating that these important topics won't kind of reach the news and the media these days because of the pandemic and because of everything else going on, because this hasn't stopped.

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Sabrina Elba: What steps is Norway taking to support the continuation of [IFAD's] work in 2021? 

Minister Ulstein: One of our main priorities is to fight hunger and therefore, IFAD’s mandate lies very close to my and our hearts. 

IFAD’s ambition to double its impact by 2030 is so timely and needed, and IFAD is able to make a big difference for poor small-scale farmers in the most vulnerable countries.

Norway will really increase our contribution to IFAD significantly. I think that's so important because we really want to reach those who are furthest behind. And there is no other kind of vehicle that has that impact in a way that IFAD actually has. 

From the Norwegian side, we spend 1% of our gross national income on development cooperation and our overall objective is to fight poverty, to save lives, and to alleviate suffering. 

Ending hunger is an extremely important goal, so we are really stepping up and we will increase our contributions to IFAD significantly. 

I really look forward to strengthening that partnership and working together with you and the IFAD team also in the days, weeks, and months ahead of us. 

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Editor's note: This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.