UK is far from being a perfect democracy. There are lots of elements in its political governance which seem to me undemocratic, unfair and too elitist. However, it is certainly one of the countries with the most active civil society. It might have been just a coincidence, but yesterday (June 8) I happened to witness or be part of 3 protests and campaigns.
In Trafalgar square few hundreds were protesting against the Turkish government and expressing solidarity with Turkish people. And, not every day i am stopped on the central London streets and surprised by hundreds of naked cyclists (apparently that was the London World Naked Bike Ride raising awareness of issues like safety of cyclists, oil dependence and planet’s environment). But, in Hyde Park about 45 000 people gathered to protest against hunger and to demand the G8 countries with David Cameron in the leading seat to address issues like taxes, land ownership and nutrition.
Enough Food for everyone IF campaign, which is backed by more than 200 organizations, is demanding the world leaders to fix the food system as a result of which about 2 million (!!!!! that’s the total number of Latvians on this planet!!!) children are dying every year. This campaign being supported by several celebrities (Bil Gates, David Beckham, Angelique Kidjo, Danny Boyle etc) is asking for more effective aid, action on tax dodging, transparency, sorting land issues (maintaining land for locals instead of selling it off to multinational companies) etc. Event in Hyde Park was sending to the world a clear message: poverty is a result of human action, mostly by men and if it can be created it can also be terminated. Fight against poverty is not a charity it is an act of justice. And, i particularly second the statement made by the former Minister on Nutrition of Mandela’s government in South Africa who said: we need to replace the mantra of “more economic growth, more economic growth, more economic growth” with “food and dignity for all”.
There are also weaknesses of this campaign (one good critical article is here written by World Development Movement). Yesterday David Cameron held Hunger summit (Nutrition for Growth event) which in a way is a response to the IF campaign. Though the overall aims of this G8 micro-summit and its participants may be fine, the HOW is what matters here. As the focus is very much on public-private partnership, where ‘private’ very much means – big multinational companies which as a result of this summit and commitments will receive extra support from western (funding) as well as developing countries’ (permissions, access to land and favorable treatment) governments, this initiative can be detrimental to any efforts to make the developing countries self-sufficient and capable to escape the curse of poverty.
The real issue is not a lack of food, it is about the distribution, power and inequality. Moreover, it is also not about lack of capacity of developing countries to produce food. But, it is about:
- access to resources (land ownership, tools, seeds, fertilizers),
- access to market (competition with big global producers, subsidized import food stuff, physical infrastructure to sell and buy),
- food prices (as long as commodities markets (banks betting on and profiting from global food prices) will be allowed, local farmers and people will be dependent on global food prices which directly affect affordability of food) and
- overall investment in education and economic infrastructure thus building people’s capacity to have knowledge, skills, jobs and opportunities.