The evidence debate continues: Chris Whitty and Stefan Dercon respond from DFID

January 23, 2013

Evidence and results wonkwar final salvo (for now): Eyben and Roche respond to Whitty and Dercon + your chance to vote

January 23, 2013

Launch of ‘If’ – new megacampaign to tackle global hunger: how does it compare with ‘Make Poverty History’?

January 23, 2013
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Sorry for a second post in one day, but the launch of If is a biggie

Ah the perils of age – am I becoming one of those annoying old guys who greets every new idea (however excellent) with a weary sigh andIf logo ‘we already did/discussed all that back in the 19XXs’? I ask because I have a distinct sense of ‘here we go again’ as today, a smorgasbord of 100 NGO logos will adorn the press releases for the launch of ‘If’, a big campaign to tackle global hunger. Logotastic, lots of killer facts, a smart video (below) and, wait for it, white wristbands! Yep, it feels a bit like a rerun of Make Poverty History (2005, for the younger readers). I may blog about this properly when I’ve had time to gauge the debates around the launch, but initial impressions are:

What’s the same as MPH?

Northern focus, pegged to this year’s UK presidency of the G8 (although the G8 is not the global steering committee it was (or at least thought it was) back in 2005).

The wristbands and celebs, which should take development debates outside the usual circuits (a good thing, in case more wonky readers are in any doubt).

The big coalition of NGOs managing the tensions of any alliance in terms of pushing their particular priorities while maintaining a clear enough message to get media ‘cut-through’. More subtly, they also have to balance the dangers of over-hyping impact, ‘make poverty history’ style, with the risks of disappearing into an academically rigorous but entirely incommunicable message of ‘hey everything is context-specific, and there are enormous limits to the efficacy of international action, but we think this would probably help a bit.’

The focus on aid – this is a big year, with UK government becoming the first G8 country to meet the international aid target of 0.7% of national income, even as other governments are tearing up their aid promises under the weight of economic crisis.

What’s different

We didn’t say ‘cut through’ back in the day.

If homepageMany more technological options for viral campaigning – twitter (#If) being the most obvious. Linked to that is a much greater focus on transparency (helpfully, if clunkily, translated as ‘seeing clearly’ in the campaign literature). And a seriously funky website (left).

If reflects the shifting development agenda: in come tax dodging, biofuels, agriculture and nutrition, out go trade (Doha round going nowhere) and debt (successful cancellation in dozens of countries). More of a focus on the rich countries putting their houses in order (tax, biofuels etc), which has to be a good thing (its lack was one of the main critiques of MPH by Dani Rodrik and Nancy Birdsall, among others). Climate change is one of If’s core issues, whereas in Gleneagles, it was put on the table by the British government, not MPH.

This one feels more UK-centric (at least for now).

No sign of Bob Geldof so far (but the year is young….)

So what do you think?

One other consequence of age: for my generation ‘If…..’ conjures up images of the 1968 film, which ends with a young Malcolm McDowell on a rooftop machine-gunning the parents and teachers of his posh public school (as we call private schools in the UK). It even has a memorable reference to Oxfam. Trust that’s just a coincidence.

3 comments

  1. Consequence of my age is the video is very Tony Hart! But do like the acknowledgement of complexity and the push to get a more positive ‘what can be done’ debate going on development.

  2. This is indeed an impressive campaign on a vital issue. Let’s hope it has the desired impact of convincing world leaders to put hunger on the agenda at the G20 and, in turn, for us to see an end to hunger in the near future.

    By total coincidence, we had put out a piece this week on education needing a Bill Gates (who, I see, is one of the supporters of the IF campaign). Our piece in AlJazeera is here: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/01/2013121141327686972.html

    One thing that perplexes me is that the concerns we raise about the lack of a business leader to champion education can apply equally to international NGOs. There are some really great people within some of the large NGOs who are doing excellent work on education. But I don’t see any of the large, international NGOs taking leadership in championing it.

    Yet we know we have a global learning crisis, with 250 million primary school age children not learning the basics – a just cause, I would have thought, for CEOs of NGOs to rally behind?

    Some might of course argue that education doesn’t save lives so why should we care (we had a blog on this a while back: http://efareport.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/education-doesn%E2%80%99t-save-lives-so-why-should-we-care/). But we have ample evidence to show that education, does, in fact save lives – whether mothers’ education ensuring that they get antenatal care, or their children getting necessary health care, to list just a couple of examples.

    I would love to hear your thoughts on this – and also what you think can be done to get education higher up the agenda before it is too late.

  3. Watching the video makes one realize how much this issue, like so many others, is really about getting money out of politics and changing who politicians are beholden to.

    But as long as Iowa and other farming states plays the oversized role they do in U.S. politics, massive farm subsidies aren’t going anywhere (and the infuriating panacea of food aid will be here to stay).

    Devastating Exhibit A is this recent Foreign Policy article,
    “Subsidizing Starvation
    How American tax dollars are keeping Arkansas rice growers fat on the farm and starving millions of Haitians.” http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/01/11/subsidizing_starvation?page=full&wp_login_redirect=0

    “If” is a smart campaign, but when you look at the global hunger issue through the frame of money, politics and power (which, to their credit, they do), it’s a bit hard to see why 2013 will be different than any other year.

    Is this global ‘moment’ so powerful that governments will realistically cut massive, devastating subsidies to their own farmers? I doubt it, but I hope I’m wrong.

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