By Jutta Wolf
BERLIN (IDN) — “Faced with the worst hunger crisis in a generation, the G7 have simply failed to take the action needed. Many millions will face terrible hunger and starvation as a result,” declared Max Lawson, head of inequality policy at Oxfam International. “Instead of doing what is needed, the G7 are leaving millions to starve and cooking the planet,” he added.
Lawson was responding to news of the $4.5 billion pledge made by the summit meeting of the Group of 7 (G7), consisting of Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States, concluded on June 28 in Elmau in the Bavarian Alps.
In their statement on Global Food Security, the Leaders of the G7 said they “will spare no effort to increase global food and nutrition security and to protect the most vulnerable, whom the food crisis threatens to hit the hardest”.
Defining The Challenge, they noted with grave concern that in 2022, according to the UN Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance (UN GCRG), up to 323 million people globally will become acutely food insecure or are at high risk, marking a new record high.
“Multiple intertwined crises, including conflicts, the COVID-19-pandemic, the loss of biodiversity, climate change and ongoing global economic uncertainty around the globe result in this existential challenge,” the statement noted.
“Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, including its blocking of export routes for Ukraine ́s grain, is dramatically aggravating the hunger crisis; it has triggered disruptions of agricultural production, supply chains and trade that have driven world food and fertiliser prices to unprecedented levels for which Russia bears enormous responsibility.
“In our pursuit to ensure that all people can realise their right to adequate food, we reaffirm our goal to lift 500 million people out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.”
That commitment was made by the G7 when they met in the same location in Germany in 2015. “Seven years later, and in fact, there are as many as 335 million more hungry people in the world. We urgently need new approaches to addressing hunger that start with addressing underlying drivers such as economic inequality and climate breakdown. Current efforts are woefully inadequate,” said Oxfam’s Lawson.
He argued: “The G7 say that 323 million people are on the brink of starvation because of the current crisis, a new record high. Nearly a billion people, 950 million, are projected to be hungry in 2022. We need at least $28.5 billion more from the G7 to finance food and agriculture investments to end hunger and fill the huge gap in UN humanitarian appeals.”
Therefore, the $4.5 billion announced is a fraction of what is needed. “The G7 could have done much more here in Germany to end the food crisis and prevent hunger and starvation worldwide.
The G7 weakening of their commitment to stop public money subsidising planet-killing fossil fuels is appalling and makes climate breakdown ever more real. This is further exacerbated by their lack of progress in delivering promised finance to support climate action in developing countries.”
Lawson continued: “The G7 refusal to heed the call of last year’s UN climate summit to strengthen their weak targets to cut emissions sends out a terrible signal to the rest of the World, especially to vulnerable communities already suffering the impacts of the worsening climate crisis.”
He went on to say: “Pledging more money is just part of what the G7 could do to end hunger. They could ban biofuels. They could cancel the debts of poor nations. They could tax the excess profits of food and energy corporates. Most importantly, they could have tackled the economic inequality and climate breakdown that is driving this hunger. They failed to do any of this, despite having the power to do so.
‘‘For every dollar in aid given, poor countries have to pay back $2 dollars to their creditors, often banks in New York or London making huge profits. The G7 should have cancelled those debts to enable countries to spend money instead on feeding their people.
“Corporate profits have soared during COVID-19, and the number of billionaires has increased more in 24 months than it did in 23 years. This food crisis is big business.
“The G7 had the opportunity to tax the big winners from the crises. The energy and food corporations are making huge profits, creating 62 new food billionaires. They could have agreed to coordinate windfall taxes to fight this crisis and missed a huge opportunity to do so.
“What we need to see is a clear action plan with new funding not just from traditional donors but from companies and others that have profited from the current spike in energy and food prices to address the underlying causes of global food insecurity and hunger. It should be clear that the recently launched Global Alliance for Food Security (GAFS) will complement rather than undermine existing institutions responsible for global coordination of food and agriculture, including the Committee on World Food Security which plays a key role in policy setting. There is a need to clarify what concrete measures will be proposed under this initiative and ensure sufficient funding is attached to it to ensure it can deliver.
“In addition, G7 need to fund the $46 billion global humanitarian appeal, which, despite increasing five-fold in the last decade, is only 20% funded today. They should agree to fill this funding gap of $37 billion immediately.”
Lawson welcomed the G7 commitments to largely decarbonise their power sectors by 2035, and their road sector by 2030 point in the right direction. “But should have been stronger, and a much-needed 2030 coal phase-out date is missing.”
Oxfam appreciates the initial steps toward Just Transition Energy Partnerships with Indonesia, India, Senegal and Vietnam as such partnerships can create predictability and reliability.
“Yet, those partnerships need to be backed up by financial commitments to make them effective, and the design and implementation of such partnerships must involve local communities and vulnerable populations from the beginning, based on truly participatory, inclusive and gender just approaches.”
Referring to COVID-19, Oxfam’s Lawson says: Despite the growing danger of new COVID-19 variants and the failure to deliver even half of the vaccines they promised a year ago at the Carbis Bay Summit in the UK a year ago, only 18% of the poorest countries are fully vaccinated.
“The G7 continue to defend their pharmaceutical corporations’ monopolies and intellectual property over supporting developing countries to make their own generic vaccines.
‘What a difference a year makes. The G7 want us to think COVID-19 is over and the ongoing global health crisis doesn’t exist. Tell that to the many millions yet to have a single vaccine and the many still dying from this cruel disease.’
Oxford has pointed out that West Africa is facing its worst food crisis in a decade, with 27 million people going hungry. This number could rise to 38 million—an unprecedented level—unless urgent action is taken.
In East Africa, one person is estimated to die of hunger every 48 seconds in drought-ravaged Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, as actions have remained too slow and too limited to prevent the hunger crisis from escalating. The rainfall deficit in these three countries’ most recent rainy season has been the most severe in at least 70 years.
In Yemen and Syria, protracted conflicts have shattered people’s livelihoods. In Yemen, more than 17 million people—over half of the population—don’t have enough food, and pockets of the country are experiencing famine-like conditions.
In Syria, six out of 10 Syrians—12.4 million people—are struggling to put food on the table. This means many families are resorting to extreme measures to cope: going into debt to buy food, taking children out of school to work, and reducing the number of meals they have each day. Marrying off young daughters so there is one less mouth to feed has become another negative coping strategy.
The FAO State of the World’s Food Security report 2021 (page 10) shows that 615 million people were hungry in 2015. The WFP are now talking about as many as 950 million in hunger this year, 2022. The difference between these two is 335 million. When they last met in Germany in 2015, the G7 made the following declaration in their communique:
“As part of a broad effort involving our partner countries and international actors, and as a significant contribution to the Post 2015 Development Agenda, we aim to lift 500 million people in developing countries out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.”
According to the UN OCHA Financial Tracking Service, there is a $37bn funding shortfall in humanitarian appeals. According to the Ceres2030: Sustainable Solutions to End Hunger Report, which sets out a 10-year plan to eradicate hunger, an additional $330 billion is needed over ten years and that the donor funding gap over this period is $140 bn, so $14 billion per year. Adding $37 billion and $14 billion gives us a total of $51 billion each year.
The G7 share of total aid is around 65%, so the G7 share of this figure is $33 billion. They promised $4.5 billion, leaving a shortfall of $28.5 billion. [IDN-InDepthNews – 30 June 2022]
Photo: Final working session of the G7 summit. Credit: Federal Government/Steins.