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UK >

War of words over new IF hunger campaign

Madeleine Davies

by Madeleine Davies

Posted: 01 Feb 2013 @ 12:17

THE aid agency War on Want has explained why it declined to join a new campaign against hunger. It cited the "gross misrepresentation" of the G8 as a body committed to solving global hunger; the failure to engage with farmers' organisations; and the absence of any reference to "food sovereignty".

Launched last week ( News, 25 January), the "Enough Food for Everyone IF" campaign is supported by 100 agencies, including Christian Aid, Tearfund, and Oxfam, and by the Church of England. It calls on world leaders to "act on four big issues" related to hunger: aid, tax avoidance, land grabbing, and transparency (for governments and companies to be "honest about their actions that stop people getting enough food").

On Friday of last week, War on Want, a charity founded in 1951 that campaigns on the premise that "poverty is political", outlined its refusal to join the IF alliance in a blog.

"War on Want understands hunger, like all forms of poverty, to be the result of political decisions that are taken by national and international élites, and contested through political action," it said. "The IF campaign is promoting a wholly false image of the G8 as committed to resolving the scandal of global hunger rather than (in reality) being responsible for perpetuating it."

The charity is critical of what it perceives as the failure of the IF coalition to engage with farmers' movements, such as La Via Campesina, and "the absence of any reference to food sovereignty": people's right to "define their own agricultural and food policies as a means to securing their right to food, including through agrarian reform in favour of peasant farming communities".

The World Development Movement has also declined to join the campaign, citing similar concerns. The IF campaign was concerned with "food security", but was not "challenging the power and impact of the financial system on food prices, nor is it grounded in the principles of food sovereignty".

Jean Blaylock, co-ordinator of the UK Food Group, a network of 49 organisations including most of the founders of the IF campaign, but also farmers, consumers, and academic institutions, confirmed on Tuesday that it had not joined the campaign, owing to "clearly very divergent views" among members.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the IF coalition said that, through its more than 100 members, it had "literally tens of thousands of partnerships . . . with civil-society groups, local communities, and farming collectives in the developing world", and that its policy agenda had been informed by these relationships. Food sovereignty was not supported by all in the coalition; "so we can't collectively campaign on that".

She said that the G8 was a target of the campaign as a powerful forum "on our doorstep" (it will be held in Northern Ireland in June). IF had "set out a radical and challenging campaign to government", and the Prime Minister's attack on tax avoidance at the Davos conference last week was welcome.

Debates about the campaign were "healthy and essential", she said; but "when charities start falling out with each other over the organisation of their campaigns, we risk coming across to the public and to policy-makers like the Judaean People's Front arguing with the People's Front of Judaea in Monty Python's Life of Brian. . . We can't afford to be cynical for too long. There is too much to do, and the opportunity this year is too great to miss."

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