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Analysing Cameron's hunger summit

News Section Icon Published 13/08/2012


We recently wrote about the issue of world hunger and how it could be tackled, in part, by ensuring that more cereal crops are fed directly to people and not to factory-farmed livestock, as well as eating less but better meat and dairy. David Cameron held his widely anticipated "Hunger Summit" before the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony on Sunday. We take a look at the outcomes.

Although most eyes were on the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony yesterday, another, arguably more important meeting also took place – the UK government’s much-anticipated Hunger Summit.

In addition to politicians and government advisors, attendees at the high-level meeting included figureheads from charities, businesses and even sport: making an appearance was gold-medallist Mo Farah, who was born in Somalia, a country that is no stranger to poverty and hunger.

So what happened?

According to a statement by the Department for International Development (DfiD)1, the meeting focused on promoting scientific innovation, better accountability by governments and greater co-operation between governments, civil society and business. Specifically:

  • On science and innovation, the UK government committed to support the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) to create drought-resistant and vitamin-enriched crops that could help feed 45 million people for a year in Asia and Africa. Alongside Canada, Ireland, the US and the Gates Foundation, the UK will invest in HarvestPlus to roll out nutrition-rich seeds and tubers to benefit 3 million people in Africa and India.
  • On private-sector liaison, some leading UK companies like Unilever, Syngenta and GSK will work to find ways to make nutritious food available to poor families at prices they can afford.
  • On accountability, the UK government will work with partners like Ireland and Switzerland to support new schemes to improve government accountability across developing countries, and to pilot text messaging as a way to provide early warnings for areas where nutrition supplies are needed.

The 2016 Rio Olympic Games was cited as a useful milestone to monitor progress on changes. Speaking after the meeting, UK International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, said: "As we focus on the legacy of these wonderful London Olympics, we have a chance to give millions of the world’s poorest children a better start to life… Government, businesses and NGOs must now work in partnership to improve nutrition for the world’s poorest people. I am determined that the UK will help lead and galvanise global efforts to tackle malnutrition. That would be a great Olympic legacy from London 2012."

Success or failure?

A lot of big ideas were discussed, but that’s nothing new, and the real measure of success is what happens next. We agree with the joint statement2 released yesterday by ActionAid, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Global Poverty Project, Oxfam GB, Progressio, Save The Children UK, Tearfund and UNICEF UK, which states:

"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."

And we reiterate that global leaders would do well to look at the ethics of how the world’s cereals are being used, and stop prioritising factory farming and cars over people. We have a highly resource-intensive and wasteful food system and this needn’t be the case. We are producing enough food for everyone in the world, but it is unevenly distributed. Wealthy countries are overconsuming meat at the expense of those who cannot afford to eat. We call for all decision-makers to acknowledge this fact and incorporate it into relevant future discussions and policies.

Our sources

  1. DFiD (2012), Hunger Event: Lasting Legacy for Children Around the World
  2. Tearfund (2012), Charities Call for End to Global Hunger as Greatest Olympics Legacy

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