UN World Food Programme

Put Hunger On The Table At G-20 Summit

The number of hungry people in the world is close to 1 billion and rising.

Copyright: WFP/Photolibrary

As the G-20 leaders in London grapple with the world’s many and multiplying problems, we hear rumblings that the Obama administration just might put hunger on the agenda -- where it should be.

Whether or not this happens, the leaders who turn up at 10 Downing Street must understand that the economic crisis is just beginning to spill from the streets of Manhattan, where it has already wreaked havoc, to the streets of Nairobi and Mumbai. >>The Global Food Crisis In Depth

For example, overseas workers are sending less money home to places like the Philippines and Kyrgyzstan, where these 'remittances' make up as much as 20 percent of GDP.  

Meanwhile, commodity prices are plummeting, destroying the export markets in countries like Zambia where copper prices have fallen 50 percent, pushing tens of thousands out of work. And foreign direct investment is drying up as lending institutions jealously guard their capital.

Reduced incomes

As the economic crisis systematically kills jobs, it reduces the income of those in the developing world who have them.  If we fail to act, the resulting poverty will breed hunger.  Hunger breeds malnutrition, which in turns breeds stunting.  Without resources and political will, we will share a future world with millions of malnourished children who have grown into adults whose bodies are less able to fight disease, and whose minds linger far behind their full potential. 

We are waiting to see whether the hot new G-20 will be any more effectual (and less self-interested) than the G-8 has been in defining and then tackling global challenges.

Feed hungry school children

The global economic crisis is a lot for the G-20 to take on (or a G-8, 12 or 50 or any other G-combination).  But the G-20 could do the world a service by anticipating problems that will flow from it and tackling those:

  • For US$3 billion they could feed every hungry school child – building a social safety net.
  • For $6 billion they could fund the urgent most hunger needs worldwide.
  • For $30 billion they could address a bale of medium and longer-term agricultural issues.

Simply by talking about it, they could put political momentum behind ending hunger.

Next wave of hunger

Among the problems with democracy is that it struggles to find political will until crisis is upon it. We have some lead time here where we can get ahead of the next wave of hunger.  I’m betting that Obama has the courage to force the issue.  

Do you think he does?  Do you think he should?

In response to Dave: I don't

In response to Dave:

I don't disagree with you Dave that the economy should be a priority. But the international economy has been a priority. In fact, it has been the priority. Hence the trillions spent on rescue packages and stimulus bills. My point was really two fold: First that we cannot afford to focus on the economy to the exclusion of everything else. In the past six months, the twenty nations that make up the G-20 -- and particularly the United States -- have/has been almost exclusively focussed on stopping the economic downturn that I believe has to work its way out. National leaders are right to consider the solvency of their financial institutions and to think about liquidity in their economies. But they are doing that!

Meanwhile, there are a whole raft of follow-on problems that are going unnoticed and that the G-20 is well-positioned to address. If they spend all their capital trying to jump start consumer spending and bail out banks, they may not notice that the numbers of poor and hungry are mounting posing additional threats.

yes and yes!

yes and yes!

i just read that we may

i just read that we may potentially pull $4 billion from the international affairs budget which will cut most of the money that goes to fighting hunger as well as AIDS in places like africa and india. but there is a bi-partisan amendment up for vote as soon as tomorrow that could put that money back. i believe with all of my heart that barack will make as fair a decision as he feels he is able to make. but a lot of these things are not up to him alone. so call your state senator and ask them to support this amendment and to put that money back where it belongs. helping to heal the world from the oppression that we as a nation have placed on them with our economic greed.

Please, don't stop helping

Please, don't stop helping children! Children should have a possibility to grow up healthy and nourished, to live, to smile, to forget, what suffering is... When children are happy and smiling, there is nothing better in this life

As much as we need to focus

As much as we need to focus on reviving our econony and increasing the workforce, we cannot leave thousands of people in developing countries malnourished and out of jobs if it is primarily due to the greed and mistakes of the capitalist regime of Western society.

I don't think the economic

I don't think the economic crisis and helping the poor are mutually exclusive. We've given farming subsidies for farmers NOT to grow crops - how about changing that around?? What about economic incentives for local farms to supply food here? Come on - we're not dumb, we've just played dumb for the past 8 years...

World hunger and poverty can

World hunger and poverty can not be ignored at the G20 summit. The policies and strategies these world leaders will discuss to get out of the global recession will most definitely have effects on the world's poorest people; these global economic and poverty issues are intertwined.

Also, the fact that we're in a global recession doesn't mean that efforts towards alleviation of poverty and world hunger have to decrease or be left out of the conversation - even in times of relative economic prosperity, these pressing issues of global inequality were ignored. Therefore, no matter what the economic situation globally, the bottom line is that there exists a human right to food - especially since there is enough food being produced globally. I wish politicians would stop making these issues a dichotomy between starvation or economic prosperity. There is enough wealth and resources to do both; what we're lacking is political will.

I think the economy has to be

I think the economy has to be the priority right now. Unless that picks up, how are we going to pay for food aid?