Need to tackle issue of world hunger – Naomi Long

The world’s most powerful leaders are in the process of gathering in Fermanagh for the G8 summit, to discuss global relations. They will be joined by hundreds of international media, unprecedented in the history of our region, giving a focus to Northern Ireland that has rarely been equalled.

However, whilst that spotlight will be used to help boost the local tourism industry and give a much-needed shot in the arm to businesses in the surrounding area, it is also vital the summit targets one of the most pressing issues facing the global community today, that of large-scale hunger.

Many of us take for granted that we can easily buy food at the shop or grow it ourselves but that does not change the facts that nearly one billion people go to bed hungry every night and two million children die from malnutrition every year. Those stark truths are nothing short of scandalous.

It is an issue I have brought to the attention of the Government on many occasions, raising it at Prime Minister’s Questions and recently writing to Prime Minister David Cameron calling on him in his role as G8 President to ensure the summit delivers real change that matters for people.

The Prime Minister has stated publicly that the high level of world hunger is not acceptable and I welcome that.

There has also been a commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of the UK’s gross national income on international development. Not only is this morally the right thing to do but it is also a smart investment that is in the national interest.

But while this decision by the Government is undoubtedly progress, if we are to tackle this global problem then we need similar commitments from other countries for ambitious funding commitments that will both tackle malnutrition and bring meaningful assurances on tax transparency.

While we will not be able to take part in the actual meetings between world leaders, I hope that we can send them a strong message in order to tackle these serious issues.

Traditionally, the people of Northern Ireland have a generous nature and I know that the organisers of the IF campaign have been overwhelmed with the backing they have received here, having organised events such as a concert in Botanic Gardens to showcase support for their aims of tackling global hunger.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has already publicly told me the Government will work with the IF campaign to help push radical reforms on tax fairness and transparency in trading methods to ensure all that can be done will be to help those countries in need.

But we need to exert pressure to make sure these promises are fulfilled. We have to ensure there is clarity on tax to stop the billions of pounds that currently flow out of developing countries and which could be used to help end global hunger.

In the latest famine to strike East Africa, food supplies in certain regions were protected through investment in social protection and in agriculture; however, many other areas were left devastated, which left countless dead. The images from this crisis underline the reason why we need to take urgent action on this issue.

The G8 is the biggest opportunity our generation has had to ensure this never happens again.

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