InterAction's Food Security Pledge: $1 Billion of Potential Leverage

Sam Worthington

Last fall InterAction pledged that its member NGOs would spend more than $1 billion (InterAction has since increased the pledge to $1.5 billion) in private resources on food security, agriculture and nutrition work over the next three years.  It may come as a surprise that U.S.-based NGOs have this amount of private resources to commit to ensuring more families worldwide have the food they need. Thanks to support from the individuals, foundations and corporations who believe in their cause and approach, they do. 

In fact, the U.S. NGO community is one of the largest donors in the world. Privately-funded international expenses for U.S. NGOs total $14 billion per year, according to the Hudson Institute. And in many countries, NGOs’ spending in the areas of food security, agriculture and nutrition exceeds that of the U.S. government.

Why highlight this with a pledge? Our hope is that the pledge will create opportunities for donors such as the U.S. government or corporations to partner with U.S. NGOs in new ways and, ultimately, to better leverage private dollars. By doing so, our goal is to increase the impact of food security, agriculture and nutrition efforts so that we are able to help more people lift themselves out of poverty.  In a world where one in eight people is malnourished, innovative and effective partnering is a must.

With programs in every country in the world, U.S. NGOs are at the forefront on the issues of food security, agriculture and nutrition. They work alongside local communities to help people become more self-sufficient, and their efforts complement U.S. government programs such as Feed the Future. But U.S. NGOs cannot build local capacity or solve local food security problems at scale by working alone.

There is enormous potential for governments, the private sector, and U.S. NGOs to work together and align our efforts in sectors such as food security and nutrition. Governments bring public dollars and the ability to change public policy, while the private sector offers access to markets, value chains and large distributive capacity. U.S. NGOs’ added value includes decades-long connections with communities and expertise working with and strengthening local civil society, including farmer cooperatives —critical assets given the need for development dollars to deliver lasting results.

Starting this summer, InterAction will report spending toward the pledge on an annual basis in a format similar to the G8 donors’ L’Aquila food security pledge. This complements ongoing efforts at InterAction such as the Food Security Aid Map, which maps InterAction members’ food security interventions worldwide. These efforts are well worth the time invested, as we work to improve our accountability and pave the way for stronger partnerships.

At its core, the pledge is an invitation to partner, a demonstration of the potential leverage that InterAction members bring to the table.  We look forward to continuing the conversation with the U.S. government and corporations on how we can better align public and private dollars to increase the impact of food security, agriculture and nutrition efforts. We must recognize the power of working with civil society, government and the private sector in smart ways to ensure that we help more people live better and healthier lives.

Sam Worthington is the president and CEO of InterAction. This article first appeared May 16 on the Global Food for Thought blog. The post is part of a series produced by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, marking the occasion of its annual Global Food Security Symposium in Washington, D.C., which will be held on May 21st. For more information on the symposium, click hereFollow @GlobalAgDev and use #globalag on Twitter to join the conversation on May 21.