Yesterday saw the launch of the IF campaign to end global hunger. The campaign has been launched by a coalition of 100s of NGOs and faith groups and is the largest campaign of its kind since Make Poverty History in 2005. Alongside targeting global poverty directly, the IF campaign focuses on the need to target a range of development issues that lead to global hunger, including climate change adaptation, corporate tax avoidance, land grabs and support for small scale farmers.
“There is enough food in the world to feed everyone, yet one in eight women, men and children go to bed hungry every night each year, 2.3 million children die from malnutrition; women are more likely to go hungry compared to men. There is enough food to feed everyone, but the majority of those going hungry are small-scale farmers…” – Statement from the IF campaign, released yesterday.
Like the Make Poverty History Campaign in 2005, the IF campaign will focus heavily on the UK’s role as chair of the G8 throughout 2013. This gives the Coalition a golden opportunity to press for action at a global level. In addition to chairing the G8, David Cameron will be co-chairing the UN Panel drafting the successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and the UK will be chairing the Open Government Transparency Partnership (OGP) – both present vital chances for progress on hunger at the international level.
This campaign should be welcomed. Whilst some parts of the world have made great strides towards addressing hunger, international progress on this issue has fallen badly behind. Food prices spiked dramatically in 2008 and 2011 – mainly due to peaks in oil wholesale prices – with disastrous consequences for the most vulnerable, and rising demand globally means prices remain prohibitively high for millions. The MDGs originally aimed to have halved global hunger by 2015, but today we know that goal is still a long way off. Without real action from policy makers by 2025 nearly a billion young people could be trapped in a life of poverty because of the damage done to them through hunger and malnutrition. Worst of all it doesn’t have to be this way. The world has enough food to address the issue of global hunger, but a range of issues – such as reduced aid to agriculture in the developing world or crop failures as a result of climate change – prevent global food supplies from being properly distributed, and reports suggest up to a third of all food is wasted.
But for this campaign to be a success it needs the whole-hearted support of the Coalition; Not just warm words in support of IF’s objectives, but a real commitment to fundamental changes required to our international system to end poverty. A key to the success of Make Poverty History in 2005 was the leadership shown from the Labour Government who took up the agenda at the G8. In contrast here has been a distinct leadership deficit on international development since Blair and Brown left office – securing an agreement at these Summits really does come down to the phone calls, the one-to-one meetings, the cajoling undertaken by political leaders – and beyond those warm words we’ve seen little evidence over the last few years Cameron & co are willing to put in the necessary graft.
We at LCID would also support a global response to the issue of hunger that doesn’t just focus on the G8 but includes the emerging powers in the G20 groups and the poorest countries themselves. This response should seek to reform our global economy so that it enables all countries to grow sustainably and equitably, build strong public services that provide education and protect their citizens from hunger and ill health, and in doing so eradicate poverty the world over. A response that Cameron is incapable of backing since he and his Party are ideologically opposed to much of it.
Finally, there are already glaring inconsistencies in this Government’s approach to tackling hunger, something we raised in our reaction to the Hunger Summit last year. On tax, LCID has been campaigning with Labour MPs and the charities ActionAid and Christian Aid against changes to tax rules proposed by George Osborne that could make it easier for UK companies operating abroad to use tax havens and reduce their tax liability in developing countries – something which could rob poor countries of up to £4 billion in lost revenue.
The Government has also actively blocked Labour’s 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 claiming to want greater transparency yet blocking our attempts to introduce just that?
We welcome the IF campaign and encourage people to sign up in support of the campaign. At LCID we will continue to press the Coalition to show the same enthusiasm for IF’s objectives that Labour showed for Make Poverty History eight years ago, and we hope the IF campaign holds this Government to the same standards they (rightly) expected of us in 2005.
If the demands of the campaign are met it has the potential to make a huge difference for millions of lives. We fear, however, that this Government will be found wanting.
Charlie Samuda is LCID Vice Chair for Communications and Campaigns