“Ray Bans and the rest of it” – why aid works

This morning I woke up in what appeared to be the eighties. In those first blurry moments, I wondered how long I’d been asleep. Not only was the ‘racist van’ topping the headlines again, but UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom was instructing Radio 4 listeners on why he believes it is a travesty that UK taxpayers fund aid to ‘Bongo Bongo land’. Coupled with the link sent to me by a friend to the band ‘Scott and Charlene’s Wedding’ (who married in 1987 fact fans), I honestly did feel like I’d somehow managed to sleepwalk my way into the DeLorean.

While I’m writing this, I’m clicking through as many online atlases as I can, trying to locate ‘Bongo Bongo’ land. Maybe I’ve got the spelling wrong but I’m not having much luck finding it really, maybe because I failed to secure a GCSE in geography, or (as Mr Bloom might contend), as a lady of ‘baby-making age’, I should be at home cleaning behind my fridge and not worrying about such matters.

I’m not going to launch into a detailed, worthy defence of aid here, mainly because people like Godfrey Bloom will stick like glue to their misinformed and frankly offensive opinions, regardless of how much evidence exists to the contrary. And judging by Jim Naughtie’s fairly resigned response to Mr Bloom’s tirade, coupled with the reaction on Twitter, I’m guessing most people are aware that his appraisal of international aid is up there with the Harry Potter series.

However, what I did find mildly interesting was how convicted Mr Bloom was that aid somehow goes on “ray ban sunglasses, apartments in Paris, Ferraris and all the rest of it”.

Every time aid gets mentioned, I count under my breath until the cries of ‘corruption!’ rise up. It’s a bit like bingo really – charity begins at home (tick), all the money goes to dictators (tick), they blow it all on space programmes (tick), HOUSE! – but what people like Godfrey Bloom have failed to notice is how much work has been done and is still being undertaken, to ensure that aid goes where it’s most needed and to support citizens in developing countries in building their capacity to hold their own governments to account for its expenditure.

Back in June, the EU passed unprecedented legislation to ensure that multinationals publish what they pay for developing countries’ natural resources, which for some, amounts to seven times what they receive in aid. A significant breakthrough, which will have a serious impact for people living in some of the world’s poorest countries. The next step will be to ensure greater budget transparency, so that citizens all over the world can access information about how their governments are spending their taxes and investments. We hope that this will be considered by countries attending the Open Government Partnership annual meeting in the Autumn, currently chaired by the UK.

But going back to the EU Accounting and Transparency Directives. Eighteen MEPs voted against the groundbreaking transparency legislation in June and Godfrey Bloom was one of them. I’m honestly baffled that someone who opposes UK overseas development assistance on the grounds of corruption, would also openly counter legislation which not only paves the way for far greater transparency in our international and business relations, but might also one day end the need for aid entirely.

Aid works. It really does. In the last ten years, more than 50 million children have started going to school in sub-Saharan Africa, while deaths from measles have fallen by nearly 75%. I could quote and quote and quote statistics. And yet 2.3 million children still die every year from malnutrition. I’m not sure I want to know what Mr Bloom thinks about that, or what he’d say to the 2.3 million mothers who will mourn the desperate loss of their children this year, all because they didn’t have enough food to eat. But I hope that the Great British public drowns out his racist ramblings with furious compassion for those who are worse off than us, because it’s what we do best.

The G8 can help put hunger in a museum

“…Imagine no possessions

I wonder if you can.

No need for greed or hunger.

A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people sharing all the world.

 

You, you may say

I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

I hope, some day, you’ll join us,

And the world will live as one…”

These lyrics from John Lennon come to mind as I dream of a future world. Can you imagine a world without hunger? Imagine IF…

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I’m passionate about seeing a world in 2050 where future generations won’t have any recollection of people being hungry.  Children of future generations will be able to enjoy and experience this kind of world

So is Maxwell, a 41 year old chief of his village in Malawi, near Blantyre.

“I would like to see every person be able to feed their family,” he says.

This is my dream.  Throughout a world of 9bn people, everyone has enough food to eat.  They eat healthy meals together, as families and communities.  Children go to school on a full stomach.  Some grow their own on farms, allotments or urban rooftops.

Food is produced and consumed sustainably and efficiently.  People and economies all over the world are resilient to rare food price spikes.  Farmers, agribusinesses, cooperatives, governments, unions and civil society have established standards for sustainability and they are accountable for them.

Babies all over the world have nutritious food and children have a varied diet, rich in micro-nutrients, so that their brains and bodies develop fully.

Government leaders all over the world prioritise food security high on their agenda and in their national budgets.

Consumers eat more sustainably as they are more connected to people who produce the food and understand the impact on people’s livelihoods and resources. People buy more fair trade products.  They buy food that reflects the true cost of producing it, including the impact on the environment.

Many economies have diversified out of agriculture, but farmers across Africa, Asia and Latin America earn enough to feed their families and get a good price for their own produce.  They withstand droughts and floods.  Another 1bn people in rural areas buy all of their food.  Most food that is produced, stored and processed reaches the consumer. Many use organic methods and limited chemical fertilisers to ensure that nutrients stay in the soil.

Women, who rely on small-scale farming, rearing livestock and fishing, have their own seeds, livestock, land, tools and technical advice to feed their families, and produce more nutritious food.  Good roads mean that they can earn money on open, fair and well-functioning markets.

Young people, farmers’ organizations and indigenous people are empowered with more rights.  Land, fisheries and forests are governed more responsibly and transparently.  Plans are in place, which mean that most people, governments and businesses use energy, land and water efficiently and sustainably.  Investments in agriculture and value chains are responsible and are held accountable.

We can achieve this world in 2050, but only collectively.  

Tearfund’s local partner organisation in Malawi, called Eagles, helps farmers to learn about conservation farming, which produces high yields of drought-resistant crops, and pass on the learning to others.

Conservation farming techniques, together with projects to help people diversify their incomes like savings and loans clubs, help Maxwell and his neighbours to face the future.

And with a chief like Maxwell, who is proud of his village and wants to lead his neighbours away from dependency to lives of self-sufficiency, there is hope

‘My hope for this village is that I want to see that every household member has enough food for his household,’ he says.

So how do we get there?

Here’s one we prepared earlier, at Tearfund!  This smart video animation shows how the G8 can help put hunger in a Museum.  A family finds out how hunger was eradicated.  Starting with a meeting of G8 world leaders in June 2013, it spells out some of the actions required and significant turning points from 2013 to see a world free of hunger now in 2050.

On Saturday 8 June, thousands of supporters will gather at a Big IF rally in Hyde Park to call on the British Prime Minister to lead the G8 to act now on ending global hunger. After repeated calls from the IF campaign, the Prime Minister will hold a “Hunger Summit” on the same day to address this silent scandal.

The Land of Blue Sky

I’m standing in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia, and I’m crying. We’ve been travelling now for about five and a half weeks, through 26 countries and it’s over. We’ve dodged corrupt police in Bulgaria, heard Turkmenistan state officials tapping into our calls home; and survived drunk, angry policemen demanding a bribe (it’s a common occurrence in Uzbekistan). But now it’s over and our 1.0 litre Corsa has finally given up the ghost.

As our dreams of winning the rally crumble like the sand beneath our feet, a group of locals drive past and offer us a tow back to their community, where Matt (my co-conspirator) and I can call for a mechanic. We say goodbye to our other teammates and head back through the mountains. An hour or so later we arrive at a collection of yurts and are welcomed into the house of our rescuers. They feed us “buuz”, a traditional meal of dumplings filled with meat which are cooked in steam, give us a space to rest, and once their mechanic has come to confirm our worst fears, they arrange onward travel.

Mongolia is a beautiful empty place – that’s why it’s called The Land of Blue Sky. Yet most of its people face a hard daily struggle to survive with enough food. Our hosts didn’t have much, but the little food and warmth they did, they were more than happy to share with us as their guests. By sharing a meal together, we shared friendships, joy and peace.

Craig philbrick

Photo with our host’s children.

Since coming to work at Tearfund, I’ve realised that this problem is sadly not exclusive to Mongolia, it is a global problem. In fact, everyday 1 in 8 people go hungry worldwide. But it shouldn’t have to be this way. Did you know that there is enough food in the world for everyone? Hunger is not an inevitability, it is an injustice that we can fight. We can do something.

We are called to love God with all our hearts, all our souls, all our strength and all our mind – and to love our neighbours as ourselves (Luke 10:27).  Love is a verb, a doing word, therefore we must act as we honour God by loving the hungry. I want to do for other people what a family in Mongolia did for me.

And that’s why Tearfund are joining the ENOUGH FOOD FOR EVERYONE IF campaign. Together we will focus on some of the root causes of hunger, recognising that aid is only one vital first step in tackling global poverty, and that we must go beyond this to address the deeper causes of poverty and hunger, like climate change and tax dodging in developing countries. Together, we can end the daily reality of hunger for countless people and make the world a fairer, better place that we share together.

The time to act is now. If you want to be part of the campaign, sign up using the link below. Thank you.

http://www.tearfund.org/IF

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