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Samuel A. Worthington

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Dear G8: Be Bold and Inclusive in Tackling Hunger

Posted: 05/19/2012 11:34 am

This piece is part of a series of blogs by leading NGOs to call attention to a range of issues that should be raised at the G8 summit at Camp David in rural Maryland from May 18-19.

Dear G8 leaders,

As an amateur climber for 20 years, I learned that to scale daunting cliffs and ice, two core attributes are required -- courage and teamwork. You probably feel like you have been climbing your own mountain after two days of G8 talks at Camp David, but this is exactly the time when you must persevere.

It is when resources are scarce that the greatest effort is required. Such is the case in our efforts to tackle the global challenge of hunger and poor nutrition. More than a billion people go to bed hungry each night, and one in three children in the developing world suffer from stunting due to inadequate nutrition that permanently affects their cognitive functioning.

Food prices, which had stabilized for a bit, are once again on the rise. The World Bank Food Price Index released last month showed that the cost of food -- including staples such as grains, fats and oils -- rose by 8 percent from December through March.

These are daunting statistics and it will certainly take more resources than cash-strapped governments can muster. What is needed is a partnership of governments, donors, the private sector, civil society and NGOs as well as the poor themselves to find innovative solutions to this challenge.

Such a partnership, however, does not absolve governments of their responsibilities. Commitments made by G8 nations under the 2009 L'Aquila food security initiative must be met. Governments also need to be held accountable by setting concrete, time-bound goals. Among those goals should be a commitment to reduce child stunting by 40 percent globally in the next 10 years with a target of eliminating child stunting for 15 million young children by the end of 2015.

We have a good track record to build on, with indicators of success in areas where development experts were once very pessimistic. For example, there have been major gains in the health sector, from malaria and HIV to reducing child mortality. The World Bank reported that the number of people living in extreme poverty (surviving on less than $1.25 a day) fell in every developing region between 2005-2008. The bank attributes strong economic growth in the emerging markets of India, Brazil and China along with improvements in Africa and South America for this positive news.

The NGO community has many millions of supporters, whose private donations help those in need to become self-sufficient. The Hudson Institute estimates that Americans give $14 billion a year to charities that work in the developing world. For example, InterAction member World Vision has over 3 million donors, supporters and volunteers, working with 15,000 churches. Another InterAction member, ChildFund, received 3.2 million separate donations last year, and Heifer International's work is supported by over 400,000 individual donors and nearly 10,000 congregations.

The reality is that over the past 50 years, official development assistance as a percentage of overall financial flows from the United States to the developing world has plummeted from 74.8 percent to 13 percent, while private flows of capital have risen from 25.1 percent to 87 percent, according to a CSIS report.

My point is, even with scarce resources, a difficult summit can be scaled and this involves both the public and private sector. The inclusion of civil society should not be an after-thought in this venture and we want a voice in programs from their design to implementation. This is a joint effort and it involves collective strength and courage.

Yours Sincerely,
Samuel A. Worthington

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