Measuring the end of hunger: Knowledge politics in the selection of SDG food security indicators

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Springer Nature
Ending world hunger remains one of the central global challenges, but the question of how to measure and define the problem is politically charged. This article chronicles and analyses the indicator selection process for SDG 2.1, focusing in particular on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) indicator. Despite alleged efforts to separate political and technical aspects in the indicator selection process we find that they were entangled from the start. While there was significant contestation around which indicators should be selected, the process was characterized by pathway lock-in: The complexity of food security quantification and the resource constraints in the process favored already established data infrastructures and milieus of expertise, locking in the position of FAO and its established food security indicators. The SDG 2.1 indicators frame food insecurity in terms of caloric supply and demand and individual experience, arguably excluding dimensions of democratic agency, sustainability and other dimensions and drivers of food insecurity. The lock-in has thus embedded a narrow concept of food security in the major global indicator framework for food security monitoring. This is likely to have significant effects on how food insecurity is addressed nationally and internationally. Addressing the knowledge politics of food security indicators is important to broaden and open the agenda for sustainable transformation of food systems. Statistics and indicators are important tools in this agenda, but a diversity of approaches and data infrastructures from the local to the international level are needed to understand the multiple dimensions and drivers of food insecurity.
© The Author(s) 2023. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Version of Scholarly Record of this Article is published in Agriculture and Human Values, 2023, available online at: . Keywords: food security; nutrition; indicators; sustainable development goals; data infrastructures; organizational path dependence.
Iversen, T., Westengen, O. & Jerven, M. Measuring the end of hunger: Knowledge politics in the selection of SDG food security indicators. Agric Hum Values (2023).