I have written before about interesting Sunday Forums at the Washington National Cathedral and last week´s Forum was no exception. The Forums are held virtually each week at the National Cathedral and feature Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III in conversation with various persons of note about a variety of current topics. http://www.nationalcathedral.org/learn/sundayForum.shtml
The March 1st Forum featured Bread for the World President David Beckmann, http://www.bread.org/about-us/david-beckmann.html, and what he said is worthy of national note. Bread for the World is a Washington D.C. based organization whose focus is on eradicating hunger around the world. While religious in origin, its policy focused mission is both ecumenical and secular. The organization describes its mission in large part as policy change. "By changing policies, programs and conditions that allow hunger and poverty to persist, we provide help and opportunity far beyond the communities in which we live." http://www.bread.org/about-us/our-mission.html.
Beckmann, who works to eradicate hunger with singer and co-founder Bono and actor Brad Pitt in the relief organization known as ONE, http://www.one.org/blog/category/people/singersmusicians/bono/ indicated that the poorest people around the world have predictably been the most adversely effected by the present economic recession. Sadly, the number of people in developing countries living in abject poverty has jumped from 850 million (a number which had remained virtually constant for decades), to 1 billion in the last few years. The price of basic grains needed for survival in many countries, he notes, has risen 50-100% in the last 2 years.
With these daunting statistics, Beckmann calls for reform of U.S. foreign assistance policy, particularly with regard to foreign aid delivery. There are "flaws in the delivery of foreign aid," he stated; and he claims the economic recession is the perfect time for reform."This is the year to fix foreign assistance," asserts Beckmann, and he added, fixing foreign assistance now will have a lasting positive international and domestic effect. Mr. Beckmann backs up his claim by citing examples of food riots breaking out in several developing countries which will likely only escalate if the growing hunger trend in developing nations continues. This Mr. Beckmann implies, is a threat to our own national security.
To remedy this, his ultimate dream is the creation of a separate Cabinet level agency called the Department of Global Development whose sole interest is that of foreign and domestic aid distribution. Beckmann sees this reform as bi-partisan and calls for such an effort to ameliorate food aid distribution. The U.S. has made great strides in reducing disease and extreme poverty he admits, but this progress is presently under grave threat. I for one hope we can look beyond our own economic woes and see the importance of efficiently and effectively eradicating world hunger, a problem that does not need to exist in this century. I wish that Beckmann´s dream of a separate and focused agency to do so will be realized, because as Mr. Beckmann declared, "It´s the right thing to do."