MRDF Communications and Campaigns Officer Stephanie Atkins reflects on this year’s campaigns and why we bother.
As a child of the Live Aid generation I’ve been bombarded with images of poverty and injustice from TV screens and billboards all my life. I’ve been given wristbands at school, signed campaign postcards at church, attended rallies, lobbied my MP and even dressed up in ridiculous outfits for photo stunts. Twenty six years and a house full of t-shirts, placards and pin badges later, there is still poverty and injustice in the world and my friends often ask why I bother.
Usually undeterred by such a question it was only when stood in the snow at the Enough Food For Everyone IF campaign launch event in January that I started to feel a little overwhelmed by the task in hand. In a time of austerity, widespread unemployment and increasing ‘charity begins at home’ sentiments, the campaign needed an enormous amount of support from the UK public to ask G8 leaders to take action on global hunger. I wondered how – and indeed if – we would do it this time.
No half measures
The IF campaign was extremely ambitious, calling on G8 leaders to tackle four big issues [link to website] that could help fight the structural causes of hunger. Despite the seemingly impossible task in hand and the current political climate, the response to the campaign was truly inspiring. Over the past nine months I’ve met many passionate people from different backgrounds all working together, from MRDF supporters to Methodist congregations, church leaders, school children and individuals from the 208 other IF coalition member organizations. It was humbling to be part of such a talented and welcoming community while we marched, lobbied, prayed together, petitioned and even dressed up as George Osborne to drive our message home to G8 leaders.
What did we achieve?
Aid - At the UK budget in March our campaigning ensured the government kept to its promise to give 0.7% GNI in aid. This is a historic achievement in the face of the global economic crisis, backbench and media dissent and the UK recession. G8 leaders also pledged an extra $4.1 billion that could help tackle malnutrition and save the lives of almost two million children.
Land - For the first time ever, land grabs were on the G8 agenda. World leaders agreed to set up pilot partnerships with developing countries to make buying, selling and owning land fairer.
Tax and transparency - As a result of the campaign all UK tax havens – including those in crown dependencies and our overseas territories – will now have to share information about the companies using them, thereby helping to tackle tax dodging.
G20 - Ahead of the G20 meeting in September we joined with our campaign partners Jubilee Debt Campaign to bring home the message that companies need to pay their fair share of tax. See more on the stunt
Tax was high on the agenda at the G20 and more than 50 countries signed up to an international convention to facilitate exchange of information on tax issues. The G20 also pledged to help developing nations tackle tax evasion by helping them track funds in tax havens. These are vital steps in helping to prevent the tax dodging that is perpetuating poverty around the world.
We knew we couldn’t end global hunger in a year and it can sometimes take years for policy commitments to translate into tangible change for communities on the ground. But eight months after my doubts at that freezing IF campaign launch, I’m more convinced than ever that we shouldn’t lose hope. We should keep ‘bothering’, because when we persevere and work together as a courageous, prophetic community we can achieve some truly amazing things.
This autumn MRDF is launching Testimonies from the Margins, a new campaign amplifying the voices of people around the world speaking out to challenge the root causes of poverty and injustice.
We live in a world where the chains of illegitimate international debt cripple countries with repayments, leaving governments unable to provide adequate healthcare, sanitation or education. As consumers we support a fashion industry that exploits thousands of garment workers, often women, with poor pay and dangerous working conditions so our cheap clothes are costing lives.
We need you to stand alongside garment workers and debt campaigners in poor countries, who are already calling for the next round of change.
'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.' Margaret Mead
Read the full IF Campaign report