Gordon Brown: No one in the world should have to go hungry – we need to act now

Share
Related Topics

My first experience of campaigning was volunteering for the Freedom from Hunger movement as a schoolboy.

My older brother ran a small newspaper to raise money for Oxfam's charity appeal – and I helped him.

We billed it as the only paper whose proceeds were devoted exclusively to helping the hungry.

As an 11-year-old I believed then what I believe now: that in a world so productive and fertile it shames us that so many still face a daily struggle to feed themselves and their families.

In the 1960s when I was first galvanised by this injustice and inspired by the example of President Kennedy, almost 40 per cent of the world's population went hungry. For 40 years we made steady progress and reduced the numbers underfed to 15 per cent of the world's population.

But today there is a new danger that rising food prices and the global recession will cause numbers to rise again. Last month – for the first time – the number going hungry passed one billion people. That's almost one in seven of our fellow human beings who are not guaranteed even basics such as rice and bread to eat each day. A hunger emergency looms and the world must act.

And it is not just the numbers going hungry that are soaring because of these twin crises.

An estimated three million more children could die in the developing world as their families' incomes plummet and they are unable to afford even the basics such as enough food or medicines.

Each child lost is a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister – who someone else loved, cherished and needed.

We need an urgent response from all the world leaders at this week's G8 under the leadership of Prime Minister Berlusconi – and we must deliver.

As a first step we must renew our promises to meet the Gleneagles target of increasing overseas development aid by $50bn by 2010, with half going to Africa.

The G8 must account for progress against the commitments countries have made.

We also need to tackle some of the areas where we have made least progress. It is outrageous that one woman dies in childbirth every minute. That is more than 500,000 each year, despite an agreement to tackle this in 2000.

The G8 should back the global consensus on maternal health, which supports health services free at the point of use and more doctors and nurses.

Britain is willing to front-load more of our aid to provide predictable finance for health systems in the developing world, and I call on other leaders to consider new action in this area.

But, as President Obama has identified, we now also need a major push on food and agriculture. In the poorest countries, seven out of 10 people rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, yet only 4 per cent of global aid is spent on agriculture. That is totally unacceptable and the balance must shift.

This week's G8 should work towards a common international system which allows developing countries to establish costed plans – like those being developed by the African Union's agriculture programme – and then identifies financing to support them.

Last year, the G8 called for a global partnership on agriculture and food security to mobilise governments, donors, scientists, the private sector and international organisations under the remit of the United Nations.

It would help to ensure access to food and support progress on other Millennium Development Goals.

Getting this in place is now ever more urgent.

But changing the architecture is not enough. We need real resources to reverse the trend in hunger levels we have seen in recent months.

President Obama has already announced a major new package in this area and alongside that I can announce that we will increase our aid spending on agriculture and food security to $1.8bn over the next three years.

This is not charity – it is investment in our shared future.

If we are successful, it is not impossible that over time Africa could feed the world.

Effective agriculture in the developing world would also mean less poverty, more global trade and – ultimately – lower prices for consumers, whether in a market in Marrakech or a supermarket in Southampton.

And we know that poverty and desperation is the father of extremism and terror.

So it is vital that we do not withdraw from our moral duty to eliminate hunger from the earth. No one should be going hungry today – we need to act now.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Computer Futures

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Women-only train carriages would be an insult to both sexes  

Women-only carriages would be an insult to both sexes

Katie Grant
Women-only carriages would be an insult to both sexes  

Women-only carriages would be an insult to both sexes

Katie Grant
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style