G8 hunger summit: protest and praise
G8 hunger summit: protest and praise
by Amy Hall
Protesters made an instant community garden outside the hunger summit (Amy Hall)
I walked into the Big IF rally on Saturday 6 June and I heard a woman saying, ‘We don’t want to protest against the government, we want to encourage them to help us.’ Her comment summed up some of the problems with the ‘Enough food for everyone IF...’ campaign.
About 45,000 people came to London’s sunny Hyde Park. People sent tweets to David Cameron, wore colourful t-shirts, live bands played and some people dressed up as food.
Celebrities including Bill Gates and Danny Boyle, came to the stage to demand that governments ‘take action on hunger’ by following the IF campaign demands. There was also a few speakers from the majority world, including the amazing Mwajuma Tulsidas, a youth ambassador from Tanzania.
Chloe, 22, and Naomi, 26, came from Worthing. ‘I came because I want justice,’ says Naomi. ‘It depends where people are born whether they have enough money to eat.’
‘Hunger is not a new problem, so people don’t talk about it,’ said Chloe.
The IF campaign is supported by more than 200 organizations including Save the Children, Christian Aid, Oxfam and Unicef. Its central point is the G8 meeting in the UK – in Northern Ireland from 17 to 18 June.
The basic point of IF is effective and simple: there’s enough food in the world for everyone –
- if business interests did not force small family farms to leave their land,
- if tax avoiding was stopped,
- if land was used to grow food not fuel and
- if governments and companies were more honest about what they do.
Supporters ‘planted’ a flower as part of a very big installation. Each petal was for one of the two million children who die of malnutrition every year (Amy Hall)
Consolata, originally from Zimbabwe but now living in Coventry, told me: ‘People are going without food in my country at the moment.
‘I want the G8 to do something. Even if it’s only something very small. We all have to do more to get them to listen,’ she said angrily.
But is the IF campaign really the best thing to fight hunger on a permanent basis? It has been criticised a lot by NGOs such as War on Want and the World Development Movement. They decided not to join the IF group because they are not supporting food sovereignty and they want to change some of the deep problems which mean that hunger is still a terrible problem.
On the morning of 6 June, they had their own protest outside David Cameron’s hunger summit, several miles away from Hyde Park. These activists see the IF campaign as being too friendly with Cameron and the rest of the G8. It is their actions that have made global hunger continue. The activists made an instant community garden and demanded solidarity with Africa and an agreement on food security. And they demanded that the G8 ‘stop causing hunger’.
There is also the problem of aid, another central point of the IF campaign. Just before the hunger summit, campaigners in the UK asked Cameron to withdraw £395 million ($613 million) and support African farmers and civil society.
The hunger summit was at Unilever House. The company are kind hosts to the summit, but also, with Monsanto and other companies, they will benefit from the private partnerships of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition that the government is promoting. African civil society compared this scheme and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to a new type of colonialism.
The IF campaign, and the summit, were developed without discussions with the international farmers’ movement. And they did not include the idea of food sovereignty. This is for people to have the right to have power over the production of their own food and agriculture, instead of giving this right to private businesses.
IF said the $4.15 billion that world leaders agreed to give to fight malnutrition at the hunger summit is good. Other people are worried that the agreements could make hunger worse and lose jobs in the Majority World.
What could have happened, I asked myself, if 45,000 people had taken their demands directly to the hunger summit?
Find out more about action and events in Britain and Northern Ireland around the G8 from The Spark and Stop G8.