To watch the world's leaders meet in at this year's G20, G8 and EU, AU and other regional forums, has been to witness a great neglect of people who suffer poverty in the world.
Over the course of the past year, I have been in l'Aquila, Pittsburgh, Brussels, Washington, London among other places, meeting with politicians and rallying civil society, yet we are no closer to believing that the political will is there to tackle poverty and hunger with the urgency that is required.
Today is World Food Day and a figure of 1 billion people going hungry is being bandied about almost like it was nothing. This is a shocking figure in today's world of surplus. The resources found over the past year to bail out failed banks came to $18 trillion and yet the funds promised at Food Summits, G8's and G20's do not seem to be transferring into concrete responses.
That is why this weekend in Singapore, Romania, Kenya, South Africa, Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria, Malta, India China, Belgium, Pakistan and Poland millions of people are focusing their mass mobilizations called Stand Up, on a call for food to be made affordable and for agricultural reforms that lead to real food security to everyone, especially women.
Food prices rose beyond the reach of many more people this year. In the Middle East, increasing costs for food staples and falling prices for its most important exportable commodity - oil- have pushed 43% of the Yemeni population into poverty. Estimations are that the percentage of women suffering the worst kind of poverty is rising fast beyond 70%. Economic stress and lack of food goes hand in hand with communal and domestic violence as well as increased sexual exploitation of women and children.
The floods, mudslides and other natural disasters across much of Asia recently, add to a worsening and deepening of poverty. We are now just months away from two more important meetings of leaders, a food summit in Rome in November and the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen in December. It is a disgrace that we still do not know who will come to the table and what they are prepared to do in order to transform the global system so it ensures the survival of our people and our planet. This is just one more sign of how afraid our political leadership appears to be of the decisions needed to create a more just and equitable world.
This weekend is so important for all these reasons. For the past three years millions and millions of people have marked this day by taking action to get poverty eradication on the agendas of local and national governments and onto the front pages of every newspaper. They have acted themselves by planting trees, building schools, cleaning up slums and many other small and bigger actions. They have lobbied directly, and mobilised in the streets as part of Stand Uphttp://www.standagainstpoverty.org. Last year 116.9 million people took part over the weekend. The force of this has made some impact, has made some government Ministries open their doors, and has led to some policy changes that actually help lift people out of poverty. But it is not nearly enough.
Stand Up & Take Action is about a symbolic action, but beyond that about citizens from all over the world and from all walks of life, working together for a period of time to ensure we reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. So it is about making at least a 6-year commitment! Stand Up is part of a global citizens movement to bring about positive social change, and to remind leaders at these G Summits and other regional political forums, to stay the course and build a fair and just world. It is also about highlighting the nature and extent of poverty and how this limits people's ability to access and enjoy their Constitutional Rights. Furthermore: ensuring that every child in the world has food, education and health is the best possible investment in sustainable economic growth - for all!! This years stand up and take action also calls for a fair, ambitious and binding climate deal in Copenhagen in December, recognizing that even though the poor have been least responsible for catastrophic climate change they are the ones that are paying the first and the most deadly price.
We expect this year to make an even bigger noise so watch out!