Hunger can be ended: but how and by whom?

Simon Barrow


Recently (January 2013) the We Can End Hunger IF campaign, backed by 100 NGOs and development agencies, was launched in preparation for issues coming up at the forthcoming G8 summit. Here Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow offers a positively critical evaluation of the initiative, including PDFs of the IF report and executive summary and an overview of its sixteen core demands, together with additional commentary and resources on hunger, land, tax, and global development.


Recently (January 2013) the We Can End Hunger IF campaign, backed by 100 NGOs and development agencies, was launched, in preparation for issues coming up at the forthcoming G8 summit.

Ekklesia welcomes this initiative and offers it backing, along with many of our friends and partners, including the Speak Network, Christian Aid, Cafod, Progressio, JustShare, the Methodist Church, One World Week, BHA, Tearfund, Student Christian Movement, the Church of Scotland, CTBI, War on Want (Northern Ireland), and others.

But along with a number of development bodies and unions we also wish to raise some significant, critical issues and set this campaign in the wider context of the struggle for global justice.



The We Can End Hunger IF campaign pitches itself in the following way:

"Nearly one billion people go to bed hungry every night and two million children die from malnutrition every year.... [H]unger is still the great scandal of our age. All around the world, even in the UK, people are struggling to feed their families.

"In 2013, the government has promised to provide 0.7 per cent of national income for aid and to host a Hunger Summit. We must make sure they keep these promises. In June, the world’s most powerful leaders will meet in the UK at the G8. This is our best opportunity to tackle hunger. We must make IF happen."

It argues that there is Enough Food For Everyone:

- IF we give enough aid to stop children dying from hunger and help the poorest families feed themselves.

- IF governments stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries.

- IF we stop poor farmers being forced off their land and grow crops to feed people, not fuel cars.

- IF governments and big companies are honest and open about their actions that stop people getting enough food.



One can agree as far as those points and their associated demands [below] go. There would appear to be some significant gaps in the wider analysis, however. As the Trades Union Congress, War on Want, the World Development Movement, Bright Green (who have all decided not to be part of the coalition) and others have argued, there is a lack of linkage to:

* Labour exploitation and unemployment, which puts food off the table and compounds landlessness for millions (the ILO revealed that only a quarter of the rise in global unemployment in 2012 had been in the industrialised world, where three times as many people were thrown out of work in developing and emerging economies);

* Key movements for change in the global south, who are not mentioned or consulted (for example, the worldwide farmers’ movement La Via Campesina, which represents 200 million farmers in 70 countries across the world);

* Food sovereignty, as the core issue of power and control, which is not highlighted;

* Austerity economics and its role in creating and maintaining the very poverty and inequality that act as motors of hunger, which is not tackled directly;

* The power of agribusiness, which is working with governments to thwart land reform and real change.

Moreover, there is concern that the UK government -- the focus of the IF campaign -- will continue to pay lip-service to hunger and poverty issues, while pursuing many policies that worsen them domestically and globally, and while all the time seeking the credibility of the IF lobby in positioning itself as a "world leader" at the G8.

The limitedness of David Cameron's recent show-stopping Davos speech on tax avoidance at the World Economic Forum (WEF) would seem to provide some initial evidence of this.

Correspondence acquired through a Freedom of Information request has also shown a high level of 'prior collaboration' between the government and IF backers, notably BOAG (the British Overseas Aid Group, made up of Oxfam, Christian Aid, ActionAid, Save the Children and Cafod). There are different interpretations of this. But Chris Hegarty, Senior Policy and Advocacy Advisor at Christian Aid Scotland, and chair of the IF campaign in Scotland, avers strongly - in a personal response on Bright Green - that "the IF campaign is no government cheerleader".

The IF campaign has made an official response to some of these concerns, which is a welcome step. They say: "The policy agenda that underpins our campaign has been informed by decades of experience working alongside these partners and communities to see what structural changes would make the biggest long-term difference on the front line of the hunger crisis, and where there is opportunity to do so in 2013 in the UK." Hopefully more dialogue will follow.



Nevertheless, many would argue that it is possible (and indeed vital) to raise these concerns and issues as a critical part of the IF coalition, as well as independently and with other alliances.

Specific coalitions need focii and targets, and those on tax, land, aid and transparency aimed at the UK government and the Hunger Summit make sense for a broad swathe of global development and faith groups, who form the heart of the IF alliance. Some of the wider concerns (like climate change) are implied or referenced under these four umbrella issues.

For this reason and others, it ought to be possible to support the IF demands (outlined below) while at the same time focusing media and political attention more on on the bankruptcy and harm of austerity programmes; the need for 'green new deal' alternative economics; the need to link reformist changes to the larger realignment required to achieve food sovereignty for the poor; the harm caused by inequality; DFID's involvement with agribusiness; the key issues of labour exploitation and joblessness; and the root causes of poverty in a dysfunctional global system.

That is what we intend to try to do, alongside others. The Financial Transaction Tax campaign (Robin Hood Tax), of which Ekklesia is a small part, carries on. The International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty needs backing in Britain and Ireland. Analysis and action on 'austeritonomics' and land reform remains crucial.

Meanwhile, what follows here, in summary, form are the sixteen IF coalition proposals, in their own words. At the end is the full IF Enough Food For Everyone report, together with an Executive Summary, and supplementary materials that set the hunger analysis/action debate in a wider context.




1. The UK Government should help ensure that developing countries can raise enough from taxes to tackle hunger and build a more secure food system by introducing a requirement in its Finance Bill for UK companies and wealthy individuals to report their use of tax schemes that have an impact on developing countries.

2. When such tax schemes are identified, the UK should use its current powers to notify the tax authorities of developing countries and assist in the recovery of the money they are owed.

3. The UK should use its presidency of the G8 to launch a Convention on Tax Transparency. Under this Convention, countries would commit to preventing individuals and companies from hiding wealth so that it is untraceable, tax havens would be required to share with developing countries any important information on hidden wealth and assets, and developing countries would receive assistance in recovering taxes due to them.


4. The UK Government should put the issue of large-scale corporate 'land grabs' in developing countries on the G8's agenda, and promote action to help improve their governance, transparency and accountability. There must be safeguards to ensure that the poorest people, who could often use this land to grow food, don't lose out as a result.

5. The World Bank should be pushed to review the impact of its funding of land acquisitions on communities and the environment, and to change its policies to ensure they prevent land grabs.

6. As part of the ongoing re-negotiation of EU biofuel legislation, the UK should lobby so that no biofuels grown on land that could have been used to grow food should count towards the EU's 10 per cent renewable energy in transport target. The land required to grow crops in order to meet this target has led to a rising number of large-scale land grabs and an increase in food prices.

7. The UK Government should take a lead on biofuels by scrapping its own target, which states that fove per cent of transport fuel must come from biofuels by 2013.

8. The UK should lobby the EU to recognise in law the true extent of damaging carbon emissions caused by biofuel production, as well as the impact that biofuels have on food prices and land rights.


9. The UK Government must deliver on its commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on aid from 2013, and introduce legislation on this issue either before or in the Queen's Speech.

10. Through its presidency of the G8 in 2013, the UK should put pressure on the rest of the G8 and other rich nations to put more life-saving aid into sustainable small-scale agriculture and nutrition, building upon the agreement made at the 2012 G8 summit.

11. The UK and other rich countries should take major steps towards contributing their fair share of the $21.3 billion required to fill the gap in agriculture funding, and to reach the $5 billion needed to pay for action on nutrition. This would collectively save more than 1 million lives every year.

12. Dealing with the effects of climate change in developing countries is vital, as it has a direct impact on food production. Developed countries have committed to deliver $100 billion by 2020 to help the developing world tackle and adapt to climate change, but meeting that target will be difficult. The UK Government must therefore take a lead in pushing for a global agreement on raising climate finances from new sources - in particular from a proposed tax on shipping fuels.


13. The UK Government should use its presidency of the G8 to push for greater transparency in land acquisitions, to ensure that corrupt deals are stopped and that people have the information they need to hold governments and companies to account.

14. The UK Government should support greater financial transparency from governments of developing countries, so that citizens in these countries can hold their governments to account for the money they spend.

15. The UK Government should promote greater participation by citizens in budget decision-making in G8 countries, with other nations encouraged to do the same. There should be a global agreement on publishing a full breakdown of all government income and spending in a way that’s understandable and accessible to the public.

16. The UK Government should improve corporate transparency, so that companies can be held to account by investors and the public for their actions in the food system. Under UK law, companies should be required to report on the full environmental, social and human rights impact of their business. The UK should also push for similar legislation in the EU.



* Enough Food For Everyone (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document, 3.6MB): http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/files/enough_food_if_-_the_report.pdf

* Executive Summary (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document, 2.7MB):

* More on IF and how you can support the campaign: http://enoughfoodif.org/

* 'Development and faith agencies launch big 'enough food IF' campaign', Ekklesia, 23 January 2013: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17852



* 'The Hunger Games: How DFID support for agribusiness is fuelling poverty in Africa', a report from War on Want (December 2012): http://waronwant.org/about-us/extra/extra/inform/17755-the-hunger-games

* 'Cameron called to account on UK tax avoidance and evasion', Ekklesia, 26 January 2013: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17880

* Owen Tudor, 'Global hunger: ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’,' ToUCstone, Trades Union Congress, 23 January 2013: http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2013/01/global-hunger-ifs-and-buts/

* Other articles on development and labour issues from Owen Tudor: http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/author/owen-tudor/

* Gary Dunion, '“IF…” campaign was agreed with government a year in advance', Bright Green, 1 February 2013: http://brightgreenscotland.org/index.php/2013/02/if-campaign-was-agreed-... [includes link to the Freedom of Information released document]

* Chris Hegarty, 'Response [to Gary Dunion]: the IF campaign is no government cheerleader', Bright Green, 15 February 2013: http://brightgreenscotland.org/index.php/2013/02/response-the-if-campaig...

* 'IF statement on food sovereignty', February 2013: http://enoughfoodif.org/latest/if-statement-food-sovereignty

* David McNair, 'Is there enough food for everyone?', Huffington Post, 25 January 2013: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-david-mcnair/is-there-enough-food-for...

* War on Want and the IF campaign: http://waronwant.org/news/latest-news/17790-war-on-want-and-the-if-campaign

* Food Sovereignty: Reclaiming the global food system - a War on Want report: http://waronwant.org/overseas-work/food-sovereignty/17394-food-sovereign...

* Kate Griffin, 'Time for a food revolution', World Development Movement, 31 January 2013: http://www.wdm.org.uk/blog/time-food-revolution

* Leni Wild (Overseas Development Institute) and Sarah Mulley (IPPR), 'Is the new IF campaign trying to ‘Make Poverty History’, again?', New Statesman, 25 January 2013: http://www.newstatesman.com/global-issues/2013/01/new-if-campaign-trying-make-poverty-history’-again

* Time for anti-austerity alliance, by Christopher T Mahoney (formerly of Moody's), Public Finance International, 5 October 2012: http://opinion.publicfinanceinternational.org/2012/10/anti-austerity-all...



* British Overseas Aid Group (BOAG): http://www.uia.be/s/or/en/1100022923

* Enough Food IF coalition: http://enoughfoodif.org/who-we-are

* Institute for Food and Development Policy, also known as Food First: http://www.foodfirst.org/

* International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty: http://www.foodsovereignty.org/

* La Via Campesina: http://viacampesina.org/en/

* Land reform movements (International Center on Nonviolent Conflict): http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/index.php?option=com_sobi2&Itemid=59

* People and Planet: http://peopleandplanet.org/

* PRIME Economics: http://www.primeeconomics.org/

* Robin Hood Tax Campaign (Financial Transaction Tax, or FTT): http://www.robinhoodtax.org/

* Tax Justice Network: http://www.taxjustice.net/

* Tax Research UK (Richard Murphy): http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/

* The Coalition of Resistance: http://www.coalitionofresistance.org.uk/

* Trades Union Congress: http://www.tuc.org.uk/

* Transparency International: http://www.transparency.org/

* War on Want: http://www.waronwant.org/

* World Development Movement: http://www.wdm.org.uk/



© Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia. While his specialisms are social theology, politics and media, he has studied development economics and has worked on development and poverty education programmes with churches and community organisations.

Ekklesia was not involved in the production of the IF reports and materials, which are made available here (with grateful acknowledgement) for information. The sixteen IF action points are collated and reproduced from http://enoughfoodif.org/issues

3 February 2013