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World Food Day: A reflection

16 October 2013 | by Chris Hegarty

I think about food a lot.

Too much, in fact, according to my bathroom scales. Even as I write this in an Edinburgh café, I'm digesting a substantial and hearty breakfast. For many, though by no means all of us in Scotland, food is plentiful, varied and something to be enjoyed.

Enough Food For Everyone IF demonstration in Hyde Park

 Enough Food for Everyone IF demonstration in Hyde Park

842 million people still go hungry

Today is World Food Day. In addition to thinking about what we will choose to eat today, it is an opportunity to consider how we on this planet choose - in a collective sense - to distribute this most basic of natural resources.

Hundreds of millions of us have too much. Simultaneously, according to the UN, a staggering 842 million people still go hungry.

Aliens would write us off as barbaric

I firmly believe that if aliens visited Earth and discovered that stark truth, they would write us off as barbaric. It is unforgivable.

Poverty is often about a lack of choice as much as it is about a lack of 'stuff'. In the case of hunger, it is about both: a lack of basic sustenance that stems from, and leads to, a lack of choice about how people live.

Children forgo their education (and thus their prospects) in order to grow food in fields. Women in warzones put themselves in vulnerable situations for hours each day, seeking out water or firewood to make their families' meals.

Poverty is not natural

If there's cause for optimism it is that - ultimately - hunger tends to stem from political choices.

That may be a strange 'positive' to identify, but as Nelson Mandela said: 'Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.'

Enough Food For Everyone IF

Since its launch in January, the 'Enough Food for Everyone IF' campaign has sought to identify some of these man-made causes of hunger and begin to reverse them. Bringing together over 200 organisations across the UK, it has been one of the largest and most ambitious coalitions in years.

Tens of thousands of Scots have been active and enthusiastic participants. Often compared with Make Poverty History, one key difference has been greater realism.

There was no goal of 'making poverty history' with one campaign, but the hope has been that 2013 might mark the beginning of the end of hunger.

Today, as the campaign ends, we can look back on several important steps in the right direction.

0.7% GNI on aid

In April the UK Government, after four decades of promises, finally met a commitment to deliver 0.7% of Gross National Income in international aid. It is to its credit that it has done so.

But aid can and should only ever be a temporary solution. A major thrust of this campaign has been to go beyond aid; to call for solutions that will render aid redundant.

Tax justice

Tax justice is one such solution. It is estimated that tax dodging by some multinationals denies developing countries more revenue than they receive in aid.

Fairer tax payments can therefore lead to a step change in the ability of such countries to thrive, without aid. Thanks to this campaign, the G8 agreed to substantial improvements in tax transparency at a global level.

Scottish Government

Closer to home, the campaign also challenged the Scottish Government to play its part. It, too, deserves significant credit for its willingness to engage, and for policy decisions it has taken.

For example, it doubled Scotland's innovative Climate Justice Fund and agreed to support ongoing teacher training on international poverty, so that our children can better understand the root causes of hunger.

These are significant breakthroughs at Scottish, UK and international levels.

What are our next steps?

Having written about such issues, my breakfast is sitting less comfortably, and rightly so. But my intention is not to invoke the classic 'we have food...millions do not' guilt.

Rather, it is to challenge us to reflect on all the positive things that just one nine-month-long campaign has achieved, to congratulate and thank everyone who has taken part, and to ask that we consider - with even more resolve - what the next steps might be.

 

Chris’ blog first ran as a comment piece in The Herald, Scotland


 

Find out more

View our Flickr photo gallery for World Food Day

Read Lilly Peel's World Food Day blog, published on The Independent website 

  About the author

Chris Hegarty is Christian Aid's senior advisor for policy & advocacy Scotland, and is Chair of the Enough Food for Everyone IF Scotland campaign.

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