Tax dodgers prevent the world’s poor helping themselves

Lila Haines says the UK can lead in tackling the land, aid, tax and transparency issues that underpin global hunger

A big noise at Hyde Park today will break a silence that accompanies world hunger. Coaches from Swansea, Wrexham and Cardiff will carry supporters from Wales to join thousands from across the UK to demand action from the world’s richest countries to end the injustice of global hunger.

For today will be another day when one in eight people around the world won’t have enough food to stay healthy. It’s another day when a child will die of hunger every 15 seconds. There is enough food in the world for everyone, but not everyone has enough food. This is the silent scandal and injustice of hunger.

The Welsh IF Campaign

  • Sign the IF petition at bit.ly/welshmessage We will hand over IF ‘messages in a bottle’ from Wales to David Cameron ahead of the G8 Summit in Belfast later this month. The more people who speak up for an end to the scandal of hunger, the more likely the G8 leaders will listen. Sign the petition at bit.ly/welshmessage
  • Come to a Big IF rally in Belfast Join thousands of others at a Big IF rally in Belfast (15 June) and make a big enough noise to get world leaders listen. Give the Welsh contingent a great send-off from Holyhead at 12pm on Friday 14 June at the Catholic Church.  To travel with us contact Anna Jane Evans – 01248 353 574 or aevans@cymorth-cristnogol.org

At the millennium the world’s leaders pledged that by 2015 we would halve hunger. However, there is little prospect of keeping that promise. There has been some success in Ethiopia and Malawi. There, in just a decade, the proportion of hungry people fell from nearly two thirds to under half and from 45 to 23 per cent, respectively. But the world as a whole is failing badly.

With food prices increasingly volatile, poor people in developing countries spend as much as three quarters of their income on food. Even in the UK, and especially in some areas of Wales, many hardworking people struggle to feed their families.

Women are more likely to go hungry than men. Ironically, the majority of those suffering hunger are small-scale farmers, most of them women. And our changing climate is making our global food future more uncertain.

In terms of the difference we can make to the lives of hundreds of millions of people, and to the global economy, the prize is huge.  Getting enough of the right food gives people a future and builds the potential for all societies to prosper. Tackling child malnutrition alone could add US$125 billion to the global economy annually.

Hunger is a global crisis. Crises present opportunities – and what opportunity could be more compelling than the chance to make real progress towards ensuring everyone has enough food?

The UK is in a good position to lead, having kept its 43-year-old promise on aid, the first G8 nation to do so. Later this month it will have the opportunity to lead again when it presides over the G8 summit to be held near Enniskillen in Northern Ireland. The leaders of these eight rich countries could decide to help save two million children’s lives and change the future for millions more hard-working people in the world’s poorest countries.

Such an enormous challenge requires a multifaceted solution. IF only the G8 would act on four big issues – Land, Aid, Tax and Transparency – this could be the year that launches the beginning of the end of global hunger.

For that to happen we need strong regulation, international and domestic, that forces governments and corporations to be open and honest in all their actions relating to the food system.

The poorest famers are losing their land to big companies, leaving families unable to feed their children. Companies are acquiring huge tracts of land in poorer regions, and increasingly are growing crops for fuel rather than food. Stopping land grabs by global companies would help millions of people produce enough to feed their families and build sustainable livelihoods. Ending the use of crops for fuel could stop millions going hungry.

The UK should put pressure on the rest of the G8 and other rich nations to put more life-saving aid into sustainable small-scale agriculture and nutrition, building upon the agreement made at the 2012 G8 summit.

Tax will be on the G8 agenda – unsurprisingly given the widespread outrage about tax-dodging, which is not just a problem for western countries. If big global companies stop avoiding the tax they owe in poor countries, such as India where one in three of the world’s malnourished children lives, then those countries could use the revenue to help ensure children receive the nutrition and education that could transform their life chances.

Many governments and big companies keep secrets. They’d rather we didn’t know that the deals they make help keep the world’s poorest citizens in a cycle of hunger. It’s time for them to be held to account.

The UK Government should improve corporate transparency at home, so that companies can be held to account by investors and the public for their actions in the food system. Under UK law, companies should be required to report on the full environmental, social and human rights impact of their business. This would be real global leadership.

There can be enough food for all if we persuade the G8 leaders to act to end the scandal of tax dodging in poor countries, invest in nutrition, stop small farmers being forced off their land and use land for food not biofuels, and ensure corporations and governments are open and honest about the deals they make.

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