I HAVE to confess that I was rather mystified, and a little
sceptical, when I heard about the IF campaign (
News, 25 January). The "IF" is short for "Enough Food for
Everyone if . . .", and it has been launched by a coalition of 100
development charities and faith groups to lobby the Government in
the run-up to the next British presidency of the G8 group of world
The last time the UK held the presidency, it met in Gleneagles,
and a similar coalition, Make Poverty History, conducted such an
effective campaign that $1 billion a year of debt was dropped, and
the rich world pledged more aid; it has given extra $11 billion a
year - less than was promised, but a substantial increase.
Make Poverty History had no real success in securing fairer
trade practices, but the debt-cancellation and extra aid have saved
1700 children's lives every day, got 21 million more children into
African schools, halved malaria deaths in many countries, and
provided life-saving drugs to six million people with HIV or
This time, the G8 will meet at Lough Erne, near Enniskillen, in
Northern Ireland, in June. In the interim, although massive strides
have been made in reducing poverty, this is still a world in which
one in eight people go to bed hungry every night, and, each year,
2.3 million children die from malnutrition. The new campaign
focuses on hunger.
At first glance, its four main planks sound an odd collection.
The first "If" suggests that hunger could be alleviated if there
were more aid for nutrition programmes and small-scale farming.
This sounds obvious enough. But the other three Ifs concern
themselves with tax, land, and transparency - a trio that seem to
lack the coherence of the Gleneagles aid, trade, and debt
Last week, however, I chaired an interesting discussion at the
Frontline Club under the title "Can we fix a broken food system?".
It revealed that the issues that constitute the underlying causes
of hunger can appear unconnected - as do the parts of the elephant
to the blind men in the Indian proverb - but are actually
It is admirable that in the Budget, the Chancellor, George
Osborne, stuck to the promise, made by the UK in response to Make
Poverty History, to reach the target of spending 0.7 per cent of
our annual income on aid. But it is not enough, so long as the rich
world indulges in practices that hinder the development of the
Unfair trade does that - but so do deals that increasingly take
soil, which should grow food for the hungry, to grow biofuels to
feed Western consumption. And tax-dodging by transnational
companies cheats developing countries of three times more tax than
they receive in aid each year. The IF campaign wants Western
governments to close loopholes that allow this.
But it is the fourth If that can make this effective. If there
were greater transparency, forcing governments and investors to be
more open about their activities in poor countries, change would
come more swiftly. Mr Osborne missed a trick in the Budget by not
requiring UK multinationals to reveal the tax-avoidance schemes
that they use overseas. But it is not too late. The powerful
players in the global food system should be required to make
disclosure to public registries. Governments in the developing
world should do the same by opening up budget processes, so that
citizens can see how their resources are being used.
This is not all. There are questions such as waste to be
addressed. The European Commission estimates that up to 50 per cent
of edible food is wasted across the EU. Stewardship and justice are
interwoven. There will be no shortage of material for the next