The Independent View: Should G8 leaders be making a new commitment to reduce hunger?

There are close to a billion people going hungry every day. I find the scale of this hard to imagine, but if I’m honest even the personal experience of going hungry for a day is something I can’t easily relate to. I’m lucky enough to have never really experienced hunger, living as I do in a relatively wealthy country, where even if I were unwell or unemployed the state would support me with basic social protection.

The worst thing about global hunger is that it is an unnecessary injustice. We actually produce enough globally to feed everyone, but people don’t have equal access to it. Many people just can’t afford to buy the food they need. Others struggle to grow enough from small plots of land.


Triphonie Bosenibo and her husband Daniel Bwanakweri sharing a family meal with their 7 children. They are farmers who live in Gakenke District, Rwanda.

When world leaders meet at the G8 summit on May 19th, they will be discussing the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative (AFSI) and the possibility of new hunger commitment to replace it. The AFSI pledge, made by G8 donors in reaction to the food price spike of 2008/09, committed G8 countries to focus aid spending on rural development and agriculture. It expires this year.

Encouragingly, under the US presidency the G8 will focus on food security, agriculture and nutrition. The US will then actively support the UK’s G8 presidency in 2013. In a factsheet released by DFID and USAID, these two departments state:

“We will take concrete steps to strengthen food security in Africa, working with African countries, other development partners, and especially the private sector. We will encourage investments in agricultural development and large scale interventions to promote inclusive economic growth and alleviate hunger.”

Concern welcomes this joint commitment, but we would like the UK Government to go even further. We’re asking for the UK to lead the way by pushing for all G8 leaders to agree a new hunger commitment, building solid foundations for this at the US summit and then driving the commitment through during the UK presidency in 2013. Concern is also asking that the new commitment is developed in partnership with poorer countries, and that its success is measured not through funds delivered but through impact on hunger reduction.

We’re asking supporters to email their MPs with our two minute online action, which generates an editable template email asking your MP to write to the Prime Minister regarding a new hunger commitment. If enough MPs write, quoting emails from constituents, this will give a clear message that the UK public care about hunger.

* Natasha Adams is Campaigns and Parliamentary Officer at Concern Worldwide (UK). Find out more about Concern Worldwide UK’s campaign, Unheard Voices, championing the cause of smallholder farmers.

Richard Dean

Yes, they should. Hunger is an abomination in the modern world, particularly child hunger. But it is caused as much by humans as by the planet. Aid is a damage as well as a life-saver. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach him to fish and he will decimate the fishes, give him a political ideology and he will screw something up for sure, teach him to fish responsibly and he will eat for ever.

Natasha Adams

Thanks for your comment Richard. Of course I agree that aid isn’t the only answer to global hunger. We also need to work to tackle the many root cause issues. These include a whole range of things, from trade to drivers of food rises and volatility (e.g. biofuel mandates and financial speculation on foodstuffs).

But the most shocking thing I find about hunger, as I state above, is that we actually produce enough food at present to feed everyone. This means that although we do need to address climate change and use resources sustainably, to protect our planet and food systems for future generations, at present these problems are not the principle drivers of global hunger. And although aid isn’t the only solution, it is one important way wealthy nations such as ours can help.

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