Welcome to our Members of the SDG Editorial Committee Blog collection. We hear from the members of the editorial board of the BMC series of magazines whose work is geared towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Here you will find further articles from this collection, grouped with the tag “Members of the SDG editorial team”.
Actively advancing the SDGs – an exciting, challenging and rewarding journey
deathAy’s social challenges are complex. To address the complexity, researchers from different backgrounds need to work together actively. Transdisciplinary research offers exciting opportunities to untangle complexity and research solutions. Over the past two decades, I have had the privilege of working at the intersection of these challenges – on a global, African and country level. I have also trained a cadre of professionals to adopt transdisciplinary mindsets.
My research and policy work is mainly focused on SDG 2, which aims to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. However, this SDG touches on all other SDGs and underpins human rights, which are fundamental to the achievement of all other SDGs.
A major challenge when working on SDG2 is the diverse understanding of its components. I have found that the essential starting point is to make sure everyone around the table understands what we are discussing – when meeting with communities, policy makers or researchers. Assuming everyone is on the same page is a monumental mistake. In the international arena, too, SDG2 is often incorrectly referred to as “ending hunger” – just one element of SDG2. Hunger is an extreme (acute) form of food insecurity, but it also includes other consequences such as malnutrition and the complexities of the coexistence of malnutrition and obesity in poor communities.
Some of these misconceptions relate to the view that food security relates only to production and not to the interconnected core elements of food security: availability, access, nutrition, resilience, agency and sustainability. However, that production perspective of the 1970s has changed with our deeper understanding of food insecurity and its causes. Malnutrition is often understood as malnutrition and does not encompass all forms of malnutrition: malnutrition, micronutrient deficiency (often referred to as “hidden hunger”), and overweight (including obesity).
In addition, food security is not a static condition. Households can become more or less insecure over time or over the seasons. Achieving the four interlinked elements of SDG2 at the same time is the focus of the UN Food Systems Summit in September 2021. All four elements of SDG2 are outcomes of sustainable food systems, but require specific measures to ensure that the elements of food systems work together to achieve SDG2 to reach. The food systems approach provides “lenses” to examine the effectiveness of the components and stakeholders of the food system. Food systems approaches can help identify ways to address failures and tradeoffs in the system.
The subject related to SDG2 is changing rapidly, which makes research in this area exciting, challenging and rewarding. Working in this area has resulted in opportunities to collaborate with various international transdisciplinary teams. From these valuable commitments, I have learned an enormous amount about many topics that affect, underpin and shape research on SDG2. These opportunities included the preparation of consensus reports with regional and international focuses, in order to guide scientific input into international processes such as the preparation of the UN Food Summit, to sophisticated research analyzes with relatively large teams of international experts. My work enabled participation in the drafting of the United Nations High-Level Expert Panel on Food Security and Nutrition, which first defined food systems in 2014.
It is through these opportunities that you learn to share your own knowledge in a way that others outside your area of expertise can understand, while building your own knowledge from engaging with others. Such engagement requires flexibility in thinking and a willingness to expand your knowledge. It takes a lot of listening and learning – something that professors don’t take for granted.
Although there are only nine years left to the end of the SDG era (2016-2030), there is still so much left to learn about how to approach, embrace and overcome the complexities of the problems surrounding SDG2. I believe the opportunities offered by digital connectivity during the COVID pandemic have helped significantly improve our understanding of SGD2 in the context of food systems. The continued engagement of a number of stakeholders in the preparation of the UN Food Summit has made it possible to find groundbreaking solutions to make progress on the SDGs. These solutions provide guidance for the future direction of researchers committed to supporting advances in SGDs, and in particular SDG2. There are also opportunities for researchers to monitor the implementation and effectiveness of the solutions chosen by food system actors – whether in countries or in the private sector. The use of these opportunities will influence progress up to 2030 and provide the evidence base for the subsequent development era (after the SDGs).