Introduced: Ertharin Cousin

March 2021

Ertharin Cousin is Distinguished Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Visiting Scholar at the Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. She was the Executive Director of the United Nation’s World Food Programme from 2012 to 2017.

Ertharin Cousin

What will you work on as Fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy?

I will explore public, private, and civil society commitments to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly goal 2: namely zero hunger. As Germany prepares for a change of government in autumn at a time of economic and political challenges, I ask whether the new, post-election leadership will maintain the robust commitments made and leadership demonstrated by the Merkel governments? And if not, will a change in German attitude affect the EU’s commitment to the SDGs? And what is the private sector's standpoint on commitment to Environmental Social Governance (ESG) and achieving SDGs, particularly Goal 2? Does the commitment to ESG extend beyond existing customers, and if so to whom? Does the German private sector believe its commitment to ESG should be directed by government regulation?

Also, Germany has historically supported the work of German NGOs, particularly Welthungerhilfe, a leading global emergency and development food security actor. Since this organization’s founding the German federal president has served as its patron; the organization receives significant support from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). What is the future of this relationship? What impact if any will the global demand for more localization of development activity have on this organization’s operation and funding commitments?

The Academy is respected across Germany and Europe. As a Fellow, I am hoping this relationship will “open the doors” necessary for me to fully explore my areas of interest.

What are the most relevant issues in your field and what was the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on them?

The most relevant issues in the food security and nutrition today revolve around the questions of how to create a global food system that universally provides healthy food, supports a healthy environment, and delivers fair as well as adequate compensation to all actors from farm to fork. Covid-19 forced national governments to focus on the resulting domestic health and economic crisis. Many developing nations and communities witnessed a detrimental economic impact that outpaced the negative repercussions of the health crisis – in some cases eliminating progress towards achieving the SDGs.

What insights are you expecting to gain during your fellowship? 

During my tenures as U.S. Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the Food and Agriculture Organization and as World Food Programme’s Executive Director, Germany’s influence, leadership, and financial commitment to sustainable agriculture, food security, and nutrition increased exponentially. I hope to better understand the Germany’s commitment to these issues, not just from a government perspective but also from the viewpoint of the private sector and civil society.

What makes Berlin and Germany relevant for your work?

While Germany has increased its presence in global development, it has for the most part recoiled from a global leadership position. There’s now a new administration in the United States, a post-Brexit United Kingdom focused more domestically (perhaps even reducing its contribution to foreign development assistance), and China stepping in to fill vacuums across the globe. Thus answering the question of “what will Germany do” becomes ever more critical to determining whether there is any hope of achieving SDGs, particularly Goal 2 by 2030

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