World Hunger: Time Is Running Out

New Media Fellows 2013

By Bidisha ShonarKoli Mamata

June 14, 2013

Also published at Huffington Post

I feel sorry for world leaders. All those regular summits in luxury resorts, where friends hang out with equally powerful friends in multiple acre leisure clubs and international five-star hotels, but alas have little time to enjoy the facilities. All those buffets, good linen and cruise ship-style dinner menus to deal with when your mind is really on higher things and you just want to be left alone to use the steam room and hash out some economic policy. It must be frustrating. But not as frustrating as starving to death and watching all your kids, relatives and neighbours starve to death in hunger and poverty, when all along there was actually enough food in the world to go around.

Early next week, on 17 and 18 June the G8 countries - Italy, USA, Russia, UK, Germany, Canada, France and Japan - will be meeting at a golf resort in Northern Ireland. They'll debate global issues, work on their handicap and check how far they've come with their world-transforming Millennium Development Goals. In the days leading up to G8 there have been a series of focused campaigns, initiatives and events designed to raise awareness of specific policy issues which will be up for discussion at the summit.

World hunger is one such issue, around which an impressively broad and powerful campaign called Enough Food For Everyone IF... has mobilised, calling hunger "the great scandal of our age." The campaign highlights the hypocrisy and selfishness of power and wealth: we could solve the problem of world hunger, but we don't. We could end suffering, but we refuse. We could feed the hungry, but we desist. We could see the hungry, the poor and the far-away as human beings just like ourselves, with the same intelligence and potential, yet some pathetic sense of complacency, privilege or arrogance prevents us from doing so. We could prevent death, but we do nothing.

Enough Food For Everyone IF is a collective endeavour pulling in more than 200 organisations. It has already gained the support of international figures including Bill Gates - here he is, bigging it up - and is to be admired because it chronicles solutions and puts forward practical proposals to tackling world hunger, as well as chronicling the problem. It's already made an impact among people-in-general: on Saturday 8 June, 45,000 people gathered in London's Hyde Park for The Big IF, a joyful rally to show urgency and solidarity and demonstrate to the G8 leaders just how strong the public feel about this . And this Saturday, on 15 June, the campaign will become even more ardent at a similar event in Belfast. The official summit begins two days later and Enough Food... is writing, proposing and reacting all the time.

My own reasons for supporting the campaign are simple. As a human rights advocate and a British woman whose heritage is international, I must be blunt: I'm sick of being patronised by anonymous, wordless, clichéd, heart-wrenching images of big-eyed kids from oh-anywhere-visibly-foreign looking either tired, sick and hungry or - worse - appearing delighted to have been given a glass of water or a tetanus jab and then photographed by a Western charity for a calendar to help their marketing drive. Even the most ignorant person, living in the most comfortable surroundings, knows that the global starvation of 1 billion people and the hunger and malnutrition which kill 2 million children a year are serious problems.

I want clear solutions, plans and actions which affect the global food system and ensure fair distribution, worthwhile investment, careful organisation and accountable management. All these things are possible and will save lives. Enough Food... have produced a briefing document which delineates specific policy recommendations. Promisingly, the UK, which is hosting the upcoming summit, has dedicated part of the schedule of events in the days running up to G8 to discussing topics that accord with the Enough Food... campaign. There will be a Hunger Summit and also, on 15 June, a Tax, Trade and Transparency Summit before the main G8 meeting itself. The UK government have also pledged 0.7% of national income to go towards aid.

The Enough Food... campaign gives a detailed view of the complex challenges and subtle remedies required to tackle world hunger. They identify four major areas to be looked at: aid, tax, land and transparency.

But will the G8 act, even if they do listen? A note on the oddly threadbare official G8 site warns, "The G8 discusses and creates global policies. However, adherence to these policies is not obligatory, and other countries can decide whether or not to obey."

Bidisha is a 2013 IRP New Media Fellow writing on health and development.

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