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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Bob Geldof, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. The lessons of hunger – past and present

By Peter Gill


A fresh famine is threatening Africa, this time in the semi-desert Sahel region of Francophone West Africa. The greatest concern is Niger where a third of the population cannot be sure they will be able to feed themselves or even be fed over the next few months. In the region as a whole there are some ten million people at risk.

The process by which the world has learned of this crisis is familiar. The big relief agencies are allied with the broadcasters, notably the BBC, to report on the growing hunger. This publicity puts pressure on official western aid donors, governments and others, to make sure that threats of mass starvation do not turn into catastrophic reality. Relief agencies add to the pressure by reminding donors that delays to similar East African alerts last year may have contributed to upwards of 50,000 deaths in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.

As a means of raising the profile of hunger emergencies, the media-aid agency connection has been a familiar pattern for decades. It is underpinned by increasingly sophisticated international early warning systems that monitor rainfall and cropping, and predict with accuracy the human consequences of drought and poor harvests. All but the most negligent governments in Africa take their responsibilities more seriously than they did, and mobilise local resources alongside the international efforts. The result is that the world should never again witness suffering on the scale seen in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s where 600,000 died of starvation and a new era in the aid relationship was born.

For the past quarter century, the rich North has not been allowed to forget the poor South. As western economies boomed, money flowed into the official and private aid agencies and flowed out again to the Third World. It was a movement that reached its high point in 2005 with the Gleneagles summit, Bob Geldof’s Live 8 and Make Poverty History. Yet there has been no reduction in the number of hungry people in the world; the reverse, in fact — the number has grown and major food emergencies persist.

The worst of them are those exacerbated by conflict. Fighting hampers relief and restricts the media from detailed reporting on the ground. The epicentre of last year’s East African famine was Somalia whose people have been the victims of chronic political instability for the past 20 years and where the militant Islamist group al-Shabab crudely prevented relief from reaching the starving under its control. In neighbouring Ethiopia, the worst of the suffering last year was in the border Somali region where central government faces an armed revolt — just as happened in the North of the country in the 1980s — and across the continent in Niger the current crisis is made worse by an influx of refugees from insurgencies in Nigeria and Mali.

If the world is getting better at managing the effects of extreme poverty, it is simultaneously failing to make poverty history. After more than half a century of application, the promised transformative effects of aid in the poor world have yet to be realised. Major western economies are now losing ground to new powers in the East, and with it the chance to direct the development effort in future. Western aid agencies have concentrated their efforts on health, education and welfare, yet all the new signs of African prosperity are to be found in home-grown entrepreneurship, in a growing middl

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2. The Plundered Planet Podcast Series: Day 5

Michelle Rafferty, Publicity Assistant

Which is more important: saving the environment or fixing global poverty? Economist Paul Collier argues that we can find a middle ground and do both in his new book The Plundered Planet: Why We Must—and How We Can—Manage Nature for Global Prosperity. A former director of Development Research at the World Bank and author of the widely acclaimed and award winning The Bottom Billion, Collier’s The Plundered Planet continues his life mission of advocating for the world’s poorest billion people.

Collier made a quick stop in NYC recently and I was able to ask him a few questions about his new book. In Segment 5 Collier discusses his “rock star alliance” (his book The Plundered Planet was photographed in the hands of U2 frontman Bono).  You can check out the rest of the series here.

Michelle Rafferty: What’s it’s like to have this pop cultural force behind your work, and further do you think that celebrities can really make a difference when it comes to global problems like poverty and the environment?

Paul Collier: I know Bono, I know Bob Geldof. They are smart people who have actually taken the trouble to read, so they understand a lot I think. They are the victims of their own medium—which is it’s hard to sing a book. But what they are doing, they’re using their money to fund organization data which actually goes way beyond the songs that’s trying to help with the analysis and to advocate a much more sophisticated agenda. It’s very important to have people like Bono and Bob Geldof who draw people in. To get a critical mass of informed opinion, you’ve got to have a lot of people, and they do that. So I’m very proud of my alliance with the rock stars, and welcome it.

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