Ending world hunger must be presidency's goal
Opinion:Ireland's programme for its EU presidency is focused on stability, jobs and growth. But there are also ambitious targets in relation to EU foreign policy. A specific Irish ambition is set down in the statement that: "Ireland believes strongly in the role of development co-operation and will work during its presidency to focus attention on the fight against hunger, poverty and new challenges such as the impact of climate change on the poorest regions and peoples of the world."
The decisions taken at presidency meetings in April, May, June and September 2013 will be critical. With sustained political will, the right policies and adequate resources, hunger can be substantially reduced over the next decade.
The Irish EU presidency is one of a number of key opportunities to build political will to reduce the number of hungry people - 872 million - in today's world. The other main opportunities are the G8 summit in June, in Co Fermanagh, and the UN Millennium Development Goals summit in September, which will frame the post-2015 agenda for development.
The financial allocation for development under the multiannual financial framework, to be decided by the EU Council today and tomorrow, will be a first key test. The allocation will determine what role the EU can afford to play internationally in the 2014-2020 period. Despite very difficult circumstances since 2010, Irish governments have honourably maintained aid budgets and the presidency should argue that the EU apply similar standards.
The main Irish presidency event specifically relating to hunger will be on "Hunger, Nutrition and Climate Justice" in April. It is being organised in partnership with the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice and the World Food Programme, and will focus on how poor communities are coping with the impact of climate change.
In May, the EU Foreign Affairs Council will consider a food security package which will include an EU communication on nutrition and an action plan on stunting. This will be the first time that the EU will have a formal policy statement on nutrition. The action plan on stunting will set out the practical steps through which the EU proposes to reduce the number of stunted children by seven million.
While hunger will not be a focus of the G8 meeting in Fermanagh in June - which Taoiseach Enda Kenny will attend as head of the EU Council - a specific "hunger event" will be held in London in advance of the meeting. This will aim to agree on measures to reduce stunted children by 25 million, from the present total of 165 million, by 2016.