Good intentions on hunger need to produce clear results

I welcome the publication of the Hunger Task Force’s excellent report. It contains not just an account of the problem but also contains quite a few compelling and clear pointers as to what might be done by countries, including Ireland, to attack this problem. I noted in particular the reference in the report to hunger being a failure of governance. If anything this is an understatement. The distinguished authors of the report state, “This amounts to a governance failure at many levels.” Perhaps the most devastating statement in the entire report is a self-evident statement but which bears repeating. “Despite numerous commitments, there appears to be a willingness amongst both the international community and national governments, to live with the current extent of global hunger.” It is unfortunate but this appears to be true. Whereas practical steps have been taken and many more can be taken, this is not a problem that we can say, with hand on heart, has in any sense been genuinely or substantively tackled by the international community with any kind of clear results in recent years, despite a considerable amount of good intentions at international level.

The Minister of State for Overseas Aid used the term, “war on hunger”. I agree with his use of such a phrase. However, it may seem a strange view but in the context of the war on terror, the notion of an international war on something has been devalued in many ways because of the manner in which that rhetoric has been used in the past six or seven years by some world leaders. The idea of a war on terror has been reduced to a rhetorical notion. When the Minister of State refers to a war on hunger I know he does not intend that to be a rhetorical statement but one that has real meaning. His reference to the question of political will is well taken because it is a question of political will. We can outline and describe the problem and give examples and recall the historical significance of hunger and famine in our own country. I do not mean to devalue the contributions but it is more difficult to ensure that the fundamental problem is dealt with.

I congratulate the authors of this report and I congratulate the Government for publishing it. We have had in recent days a good deal of political debate and argument about a certain other matter, described by a Minister as “the current position” regarding the banking and economic crisis. There will be political disagreement on that issue but there will never be political disagreement with the Government on the part of my party in so far as the Government is dealing with this issue. There will not be one moment of disagreement nor a moment of opposition from my party.

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