#TheLeaderIWant: Committed to zero hunger and good governance

Jodesz Gavilan
#TheLeaderIWant: Committed to zero hunger and good governance
Aspiring leaders should be 'critically examined' for their commitment to end poverty and hunger among their constituents, says the National Food Coalition

MANILA, Philippines – With the filing of certificates of candidacy for the 2016 elections and the World Food Day falling on the same week in October, the National Food Coalition (NFC) believes it’s high time to focus on the intersection of zero hunger and good governance.

According to NFC’s coordinator and legal consultant Ricardo Sunga III, choosing the right leaders in May 2016 should also depend on the candidates’ commitment to fulfilling every person’s right to adequate food.

Those seeking government positions should be “critically examined” for their commitment to end poverty and hunger among their constituents. (READ: What hunger, nutrition issues should 2016 candidates tackle?)

“Next year’s elections are an opportunity that should not be missed to examine critically the human rights record of those seeking our votes,” he said. “Leaders should be chosen according to their demonstrated commitment toward these ends. “

#TheLeaderIWant for hunger

The latest Food Consumption Survey (FCS) by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) found that 69.3% of Filipino households fail to meet daily energy requirements.

Meanwhile, according to the 1st Quarter survey of the Social Weather Stations, around 36% Filipinos said they do not have enough money to buy adequate amount of food.

To change these figures, NFC convener Aurea Teves emphasized the importance of a “genuine and firm” stance of future leaders against hunger and poverty.

“These issues call for immediate attention and require a comprehensive approach to address them,” she said. “Voters should pause and consider the fundamental right to food in the context of the upcoming elections.”

For stakeholders and advocates against hunger and poverty, leaders should:

1. Have an understanding of the right to adequate food

According to NFC, candidates should understand that the right to adequate food does not only mean feeding programs but long-term solutions to hunger. These solutions, among others, are tackled in the Zero Hunger Bill.

The proposed bill, once enacted into law, will address the food insecurity issue in the Philippines through a “whole-of-government approach.” It will also make the government accountable in fulfilling every Filipino’s right to food. (READ: Zero Hunger: Holding gov’t responsible)

2.  Be “resolute and uncompromising” in upholding human rights but be open to adjustments to reach the goals – especially zero hunger

The House Committee on Human Rights approved the Zero Hunger Bill earlier this month. It is set to be tackled by the Committee on Appropriations and then in the plenary.  

However, according to the NFC, the bill’s passage relies on the firm cooperation of leaders and stakeholders. Their dedication is vital for the country to see a law that aims to fulfill the right to adequate food.

“The aspiring leaders should not compromise values and principles,” the group emphasized. “Our leaders must be flexible but should not let go of the essence of the RTAF which is the regular, stable and unrestricted access to food that is sufficient in quantity and quality, and conforms with cultural traditions, while ensuring that individuals and communities live a dignified life free from fear.”

EAT LESS. A Filipino couple tries to feed their children as they share a bowl of rice at a roadside in an urban poor district of Quezon City on June 22, 2009. File photo by Rolex Dela Pena/EPA

3. Be an inspiration for others in seeing hunger and poverty as both “problems and symptoms”

The leader who the voting population elects next year should see the issues plaguing the Philippines as “problems and symptoms” that should be eradicated.  (READ: Ending hunger and malnutrition in PH is possible in 15 years but…)

However, one alone cannot do this. According to the NFC, a leader who will inspire others to help end hunger and poverty and a leader who will make others realize that these issues should not exist in the world anymore, is needed.

“The candidate must be able to mobilize multitudes toward the same objective, raise other leaders to take his or her place when the time comes, make self-sacrifice and move others to also make self-sacrifices, and most of all be an example to them,” NFC explained.

“This leader may not be able to unite every single Filipino to the cause, but he should capture the majority’s imagination,” it added.

Leadership is important

It is vital for the future leadership to be challenged, the group said, as the 2016 election will serve as a crossroad in pursuing solutions against hunger and poverty in the Philippines.

“Leadership is key to all of this,” NFC emphasized. “Those who aspire to be our nation’s leaders should be made to recognize that hunger is both a problem and a symptom of the broader social malady of inequity and exclusive growth.”

Leadership with a “concrete vision and conviction” is also necessary if the country wants to achieve the zero hunger target of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development by 2030.

“Providing and obtaining adequate food to the people in accordance with this right is a manifestation of a dignified human existence and a just society,” the group said. – Rappler.com

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.