Making the IF campaign a success
I recently attended the parliamentary launch of the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign at Speaker’s House. The argument that the UK is and should be a force for good in the world is often a central part of the political narrative on development. Politicians will talk about the altruistic character of the British people in backing campaigns such as Jubilee 2000, Make Poverty History and now the IF campaign. However, as the celebrity fanfare of the recent launch dies down, it is going to take much more than the altruism of the British nation to end global hunger. If we are to stop one in eight women, children and men going to bed hungry every night then we have to go beyond the idea of charity. Many people still may be willing to back charitable causes, but they want to be part of the debate and know that their support will really make a difference. We have to talk about the root causes of global hunger, how politicians and the development community can tackle this issue – and we must ensure that the aims and outcomes are rooted in global justice.
Eight years ago Nelson Mandela stood on the steps of Trafalgar Square at the launch of Make Poverty History campaign and declared, ‘Sometimes, it falls upon a generation to be great.’ The campaign did achieve results but it didn’t make poverty history and it falls upon a new generation to fulfil that dream. So what are the challenges for the If campaign? ‘If’ is the biggest coalition of NGOs since Make Poverty History. They have come together in the year when the UK government is hosting the G8 again. A lot has changed since 2005. The issues and debates around development have moved on and so have public attitudes.
The If coalition aims to get 20 million people supporting the campaign. Galvanising mass public appeal at a time when the public mood is more critical of aid and development will be a huge challenge. Critics have argued that the danger for this new campaign is that the public will see it as a coalition of multiple demands rather than a clear message to end global hunger. Why should the public believe that this campaign will be a success? One thing that is clear is that the If campaign is about creating policy change and a new approach to how our global system operates. The current sense of crisis and flux in economies around the world has meant that we are entering a new era for international development. The If coalition’s policy demands on aid, tax, transparency and land are clear and David Cameron has publicly stated that the government is committed to driving forward this issues at the G8. While this is welcome, the UK cannot do this alone. It will need the backing of other global leaders and the G8 is no longer the only game in town. We are witnessing a shift to a multipolar global framework, with emerging powers such as China, India and Brazil wanting to assume a more prominent, active and important role at the global table. Without their partnership and support, real progress will not get very far.
Political leadership is key to the success of the If campaign. Cameron will get some credit if the demands of the campaign are met. With his role as co-chair of the high level panel on the post-2015 framework, some are now arguing that there is little difference between the political parties on development. Shadow international development secretary, Ivan Lewis MP, clearly disagrees. In a speech on Labour’s post-2015 vision last week, Ivan Lewis set out an agenda for what he called a new ‘social contract without borders’ rooted in social justice, human rights, and a commitment to tackle inequality, economic growth and good governance. He rightly acknowledged that a new global covenant cannot be achieved alone. He argues that ‘One Nation: One World is our best and only route forward to fairness and prosperity in the future.’ Labour’s support of the If campaign reflects that value. It is not about political consensus on development, but bound in a tradition and moral duty to bring about global change through an active process of multilateralism and solidarity. The challenge for the If coalition is to ensure that a progressive alliance and partnership between government, NGOs and civil society is built to achieve the aims of the campaign. The Labour party recognises this as it sets out its vision for 2015. Lewis states that ‘social justice should never be a cause with an end but a perpetual struggle passed from one generation to the next.’ Just as the If coalition seeks to build a mass movement against global hunger, so a future Labour government must do the same if it is to be part of what Mandela calls that great generation.
Joe Walker tweets @JoeWalkerUK
David Cameron, development, international, Ivan Lewis, Labour, NGOs