Britain has a lot to be proud of. As the only nation to commit to giving 0.7% of GNI to international aid, we have led the world on tackling global poverty. And when the world's spotlight shines on the UK during the Olympics and Paralympics, it's essential that we take this opportunity to show further leadership on extreme poverty and the structures and systems that are obstacles to its eradication. Just yesterday, The Global Poverty Project joined with some of the countries leading agencies to urge David Cameron to make tackling the global food crisis top of the agenda for next years G8 Summit. You can find the statement we signed below.
NGO's CALL FOR END TO GLOBAL HUNGER AS GREATEST OLYMPIC LEGACY
Britain's leading aid and development charities have welcomed the progress made at Prime Minister David Cameron's Olympics Hunger Event, and urged world leaders to keep the global food crisis at the top of their agenda in the run-up to next year's G8 summit in the UK.
A joint statement signed by ten leading NGOs praised the Prime Minister's leadership but urged him to take further steps on this issue over the coming year.
The charities said:
"At a time when the World's spotlight is on Britain, we have shown as a nation not only that we can stage the greatest Olympics in history, but that we believe in a legacy for the games which is about more than medals and arenas.
"That global spotlight has today shone on one of the biggest crises we share as a world: the fact that - despite there being enough food in the world to feed everyone - one in seven people go to bed hungry every night, over two million children die from malnutrition each year, and around 180 million children are suffering from stunting due to lack of nutrition.
"There is real hope now that with the momentum from this meeting building towards next year's G8 summit we can mount the biggest-ever effort to end global hunger and fix the broken food system. The meeting acknowledged that this is a crisis with complex structural causes, but with the political will seen today, we know the solutions are at hand.
"At a time when Britain is being praised around the world for delivering a great Olympic Games and producing so many world-beating athletes, when the British people are rightly proud of what we have achieved, we have the opportunity as a country to show that same leadership and take that same pride in tackling one of the world's great shared problems. That global leadership and the millions of lives it will save would be the greatest legacy the UK Olympics could ever leave."
The charities that signed the joint statement alongside Global Poverty Project are ActionAid, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Oxfam GB, Progressio, Save The Children UK, Tearfund and UNICEF UK.
The UN’s Annual Monitoring Report, analysing the progress made towards the Millennium Development Goals, was released recently. With only three years to go before the deadline is reached, now is an important time to reflect on the progress made – or lack thereof.
There was good news as the number of people in extreme poverty fell in all regions. In 1990, 47 per cent of the world was living on less than $1.25 a day, but by 2008 this had fallen to 24 per cent. Other targets on drinking water access and slum-dwellers were also met and exceeded respectively. With regards to health, there was positive news as levels of access to HIV treatment widened, rates of tuberculosis fell since 2002 and global malaria incidents, as well as deaths, decreased.
It also reports on other achievements in furthering primary school education and tackling child mortality rates. There is now greater equality between the number of girls and boys in primary education. Enrollment in primary school has generally increased, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa; between 1999 and 2010, enrollment rose from 58 to 76 per cent. In addition, more children are living past the age of five, with the number of under-five deaths dropping from more than 12.0 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010, worldwide.
Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, reflected positively on the results in the report: “These results represent a tremendous reduction in human suffering and are a clear validation of the approach embodied in the MDGs. But they are not a reason to relax.”
This is because despite these gains, progress was uneven and positive results were not shared equally across and within regions and countries. For instance, few or slow gains are being made in some areas such as secure employment, gender equality, maternal healthcare, child malnutrition, sanitation and hunger. Indeed, nearly half of the population in developing regions – 2.5 billion people – still lack access to improved sanitation facilities. At this rate, 2015 targets in this area will not be met. Meanwhile, estimates reveal that around 850 million people are living in hunger in the world. Alarmingly, close to one third of children in Southern Asia were underweight in 2010.
Ban Ki-Moon is right to be cautious, especially in current economic climates: “The current economic crises besetting much of the developed world must not be allowed to decelerate or reverse the progress that has been made. Let us build on the successes we have achieved so far, and let us not relent until all the MDGs have been attained.”
It was over a decade ago that world leaders agreed to the Millennium Development Goals and it is clear that much has been achieved. Nevertheless, as the 2015 deadline draws closer, it is also clear that there is still much more to be done. Not to mention looking forward and planning what will happen beyond 2015.
For many, Easter is a time of reflection, and so we wanted to share a reflection on progress that the world is making towards the Millennium Development Goals from the UK's Department for International Development.
September 2011 saw the UN General Assembly host MDG Countdown 2011: Celebrating successes and innovations. UK Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell and USAID Administrator Raj Shah came together to celebrate the significant progress being made towards achieving the goals.
The clip released from the event charts the successes made across all 8 MDGs since they were first proposed at the Millennium Summit 11 years ago - with some of the most significant successes including: 1.8 billion people gaining access to safe drinking water and over 11 African countries showing a 50% drop in the number of malaria cases. The video reminds us that change on an immense scale has been achieved, but that in the run up to 2015 the momentum must not be slowed. We must continue to strive towards change; to achieve those remaining targets and to continue to save lives.
Food is such a basic yet essential part of daily life. Transportation and enhanced technology allow the developed world to have access to a variety of fresh foods at all times of the year at fairly stable prices. Beyond the façade of the tills and smiling cashiers we rarely have to engage with the farmers in Morocco who produced the strawberries that are on sale 2 for £3.
On 24 September 2011 several world leaders met at the United Nations in New York to discuss strategies that could be developed to end starvation. Discussions led to the emergence of The Charter to End Extreme Hunger which not only acknowledges occurrences of extreme hunger in East Africa but also provides a succinct list of strategies that, if implemented, will bring real solutions. This charter has already been endorsed by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, UN OCHA head Valerie Amos, Norweigan Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim, UNISDR head Margareta Wahlstrom, and UK Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell.
One of the key components of the charter is the provision of services and protections for the poorest. The Charter to End Extreme Hunger argues that fairer investments paired with social safety nets would keep farmers in developing countries from having to toe the line of extreme poverty.
The recognition of the importance of fairer investments illustrates the interrelation between many aspects of the fight against extreme poverty. The FAO shows that 80% of farmers in Africa are women. In many parts of the world female farmers do not have access to credit, irrigation, and infrastructure that is vitally important for developing their farms. UNESCO reports that 49.2% of women in Africa are illiterate. An inability to read makes it very difficult for female African farmers to make wise decisions about which fertilisers to purchase and which farming practises will be best for her. Lack of education and lack of access to credit are systemic problems that prevent African farmers from pulling themselves out of extreme poverty.
The second component of providing services and protections for farmers in developing countries includes direct cash payments for the poorest 10% of the population. While some critics have explained this as a handout to the poor, direct payments actually help stabilise prices and create trust in the market. Direct cash payments involve a government giving a set amount of money to farmers per acre of cropland. Payments are not affected by crop yield and/or market prices. If, for instance, crop prices rise dramatically then farmers will be unable to sell their wares in the market because people wont be able to afford to buy food. This leads to the paradox of food surpluses and massive hunger. It may seem radical, but it happened in Russia in 2011. Alternatively if crop prices fall dramatically then direct payments allow farmers to maintain their income.
The Charter to End Extreme Hunger is based from agriculture programmes that have been successful in the past. ODI explains that the Malawi Government Agricultural Inputs Subsidy Programme of 2006 was instrumental in increasing agricultural productivity and food security. It seems evident that the Charter to End Extreme Hunger will help developing countries to stabilise prices and increase outputs by encouraging the provision of services and protection for the poorest.
A nation scarred by on going civil war and the continued absence of a central government, Somalia was left with the label of a failed nation. When one of the worst famines in two decades struck earlier last year, further insecurity was created in an already struggling state. Competition between warring clans for limited food resources, and increasing internal violence ensued. In this blog we will look at the effects violent conflict has on aid distribution in times of extreme famine.
The Charter to End Extreme Hunger clearly outlines the commitment to providing security for the most vulnerable in regions experiencing such turmoil as Somalia. “We commit to press for, and support, practical measures to protect people affected by conflict, including more vigorous and sustained diplomatic engagement to help all parties involved to local and national conflicts find just, sustainable, and secure solutions.” However, the urgent need of reinstating a legitimate central government and tackling the brutal cycle of conflict is evident.
The militant Islamic group Al Shabaab, who control much of southern Somalia, have been a major obstacle for relief efforts in the region. The group’s activities have involved kidnapping and killing many humanitarian workers. Al Shabaab have even issued bans on various aid agencies - such as the UN World Food Programme in 2009. The damage of such actions is plain to see; it is extremely counterproductive to the relief effort and dramatically slows down aid distribution. This is particularly dangerous given the scale of the crisis, and the initial slow international response to the famine. The kind of intimidation and violence used by the group only serves to exacerbate a desperate situation. It detracts attention away from those 4 million vulnerable people in the country who are still lacking food security.
For Al Shabaab, the war is clearly an ideological one. Their attitudes towards foreign aid agencies reveal a deep-rooted paranoia about the West: the ‘enemies of Islam’. The radical Islamic group are worried about foreign NGOs coming into Somalia with the aim of luring people away and converting them to Christianity. Remarkably, in July last year, Al Shabaab issued a ban on samosas in the region, fearing the snack too Christian due to its triangular shape! The paranoia, hostility and lack of cooperation during times of famine, will inevitably work against bringing stability to southern Somalia.
With threat of starvation and the raging internal conflict, vast amounts of the population have fled into neighbouring countries. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), at the end of July 2011 there were around 1.46 million internally displaced people, 6,900 asylum-seekers and 1,965 refugees in Somalia. Kenya has felt the greatest pressure, as they are currently host to one of the largest refugee camps in the world.
It has long been in Kenya’s interest to break Al Shabaab’s hold on southern Somalia. From October last year, there has been a collective effort from Ethiopian, Somali, Kenyan and African Union soldiers against Al Shabaab militants. In that time significant advances have been made. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have pushed through into the state capital Mogadishu for the first time. East African nations have been urging the UN Security Council to authorise an increase in the number of AMISOM troops to 17,000.
Violence brought about by warring armed militant groups will only ever work counter to relief efforts. Armed conflict in times of famine is truly ‘development in reverse’. Their removal will ultimately lead to a smoother relief effort during this famine, and the famines ahead.