Can you guess what Bill Nighy, One Direction and Bill Gates have in common? Actually, that’s a pretty eclectic grouping so if you don’t know already you probably won’t succeed in guessing. They are in fact all high-profile supporters of the new IF campaign, involving over 100 UK non-government organisations and civil society groups, and spearheaded by Concern Worldwide UK. Launched last Wednesday evening to a huge and dedicated crowd in the seemingly sub-zero temperatures at Somerset House Courtyard, the opening night used spectacular projections to get its message across. This puts me in the happy position of being able to talk about a fantastic charity initiative as well as show you some interesting photos from the night. Bonus.
The IF campaign seeks to get back to basics, and basic is truly what it is. Food. Nourishment. The right of each person on this planet to be able to know that they will not starve to death. A shockingly large number of people do not have this ‘ luxury’. Allow me to throw some disgraceful statistics your way: 2 million children die on this planet every year from malnutrition. One child would be criminal, but 2 million is unthinkable. And yet we must think. We must think a lot. Force yourself to confront this reality rather than to glaze over, thinking there’s nothing you can do. There is most certainly something you can do. The premise of the IF campaign is that if there is enough food on the planet to feed everyone then everyone must be fed, and we can do it. It’s do-able.
This isn’t just wishful thinking, although that’s what many governments might have you believe, but no. The plans and ideas put forward by this campaign have been intensely researched; they’ve been lived and breathed and their results seen first hand by campaigners. 1 – Give enough aid to help the farmers help themselves and to increase agricultural infrastructure. 2 – Stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries. This in particular riles me, as we see it happen over and over again and it is the core of greed by which this planet is now in such dire straits. Big business = profit at the expense of everything else. Developing countries lose in tax avoidance 3 times what they receive in overseas aid. 3 – Stop poor farmers being forced illegally from their land and use crops to feed people, not to fuel cars for the richest. Finally, essentially; 4. Ensure that governments and large corporations are transparent and honesty about the situation and what they are (or aren’t) doing to change it. Frustratingly, at the moment the UK has a prime minister whose priorities lie in protecting business and profit. All the more reason we have to push even harder and campaign even louder, to make it clear the public won’t be fooled into believing false or minimal action. This Prime Minister, David Cameron, will be chairing the G8 Summit in Ireland in June. This is our big chance; to push Cameron to speak the obvious, to give him the courage to stand up to other world leaders who refuse to act. To do this we need to show him the whole country is in support of this and won’t be ignored about these issues.
The irony of our western obsession with dieting leaves a bad taste in the mouth when seen in the context of 870 million people a year who go hungry. Whilst we are spending millions on books, DVDs, weight-loss programmes and gastric bands, nearly 13% of the whole human race are struggling to eat enough to stay alive. Most of this is luck. We happened to be born into a country which has little or no natural disasters, a country where the weather is mild and varied, a wealthy and influential country which (although often morally reprehensible), pledges to provide for its citizens. As with most issues of this scale, there is no quick fix; no magic wand to return us to the natural equilibrium. Saying that, although these issues are deeply complicated and bound with red tape at every turn, the heart of the issue is simple. Someone will have to lose. This is a fact which huge capitalist countries do not accept. Big businesses (who hold power over the governments) currently make money on the fact that these poor countries are losing; even Western traders profit from this in a disgraceful system of exploitation.
For them to begin to gain in prosperity, these businesses will have to pay tax; they will have to accept that bio-fuel development will slow down; they, in effect, will have to give something back. Naturally they will refuse. But if all other members, even if all Western members of the G8, would stand firm, resist the refusal of these governments, they would not be able to withstand the pressure. Rather than splintering off and playing Risk-style games of one-upmanship the G8 need to stand together, to form a true 21st Century agreement, to show that human beings have evolved; that we are better than our chequered history suggests. This is what we have to lobby to David Cameron. We have to make him see that this is not a choice, but an absolute necessity.
The situation needs to be worked back. Rather than starting at the beginning and becoming bogged down with why it cant work, we need to make a statement, or a number of statements. Not goals but promises. Not false promises but factual, binding, legal promises. From these promises we need to see how to implement the statements. This can be done, if only the G8 leaders would truly commit to making these changes.
The launch night of this campaign was, although cold, visually stunning. A mix of speakers in the courtyard, including actor Bill Nighy and Olympic swimmer Mark Foster, combined with the beautiful impact of dazzling light-show projections to give a very clear and important message. GET INVOLVED.
You can get involved in the campaign HERE