LCID statement on the Government’s Hunger ‘Summit’
The Prime Minister deserves credit for hosting Sunday’s two-hour long meeting on hunger during the London 2012 Olympics. His and the Vice-President of Brazil’s call for decisive action on malnutrition is one other world leaders should heed if we are to cut by 25 million the number of children affected by stunted growth in time for the next Olympics in Rio in 2016. The initiatives announced by the government yesterday on science and innovation and accountability were also welcome.
But as Save the Children and other agencies have commented, if this commitment is to be met then Cameron must use the G8 presidency next year to go beyond this short meeting and work with other world leaders to fix our broken food system.
And whilst it is welcome that the meeting acknowledged that this is a crisis with complex structural causes, there are already glaring inconsistencies in this Government’s approach.
For a start, we did not hear anything from the meeting on the importance of land rights – yet as Oxfam and ActionAid have reported, UK companies and G8 governments are among those involved in ‘land grabs,’ grabbing farmland used by small farmers and co-operatives. Small farmers are vital for food security in developing nations – rather than depriving them of land, the Government needs to provide them with more support, especially to female small holder farmers, and be more vocal against those UK companies complicit in these grabs.
Further to their passivity on land grabs and small holder farmers is their active blocking of the Labour and the Co-operative Party’s proposed amendments to the Financial Services Bill that would increase transparency around food and commodity speculation. Deregulated and secretive agricultural commodity derivatives markets have attracted huge sums of speculative money, and there is growing evidence that they deliver distorted and unpredictable food prices – so why is the Government blocking our attempts to introduce greater transparency?
The Government must address these inconsistencies and set out a plan for 2013 that truly tackles the structural problems that leave millions malnourished.
Brazil’s involvement could be vital in ensuring that plan is effective. Brazil’s social democrat-run government has made incredible progress in reducing poverty and inequality in recent years. Their social protection programme, Bolsa Família, has significantly reduced malnutrition – in one region of Brazil rates have fallen from 16% to under 5%. And through their Co-operative Development Programme they have recognised the critical importance of co-operatives and small farmers in creating thriving local markets and managing resources sustainable. The Government must allow Brazil, involved in yesterday’s meeting, to play the key role in shaping any global hunger plan.