The two day Group of 20 (G20) nations summit focused on addressing the European financial crisis through economic solutions for Eurozone leaders including greater fiscal discipline and the integration of Europe’s banking system aimed at restoring community confidence.
The Australian Government has played a key role both in the creation of the G20 forum and in these specific discussions relating to the situation in Europe. Indeed, at the two day summit in Mexico, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said all nations had to pull together, and reminded us of Australia’s promise to provide an extra $US7 billion to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
As a heads of Government meeting, it could be argued the G20 focuses on international financing and puts people at the service of the economy rather than the global economy at the service of all men and women, especially the poorest of the poor.
With a billion people going hungry every day, the G20 should be home to development and poverty alleviation.
It is the right of all human beings to live in dignity, to know they won’t go hungry, to know their food sources are secure and malnutrition will not be their realities. In every society food security does not make up just material ‘nutritional’ elements, but also social, economic, political, cultural elements connected to food use, production and trade.
More food does not equal more food security. Hunger and poverty have clear-cut, structural root causes that need to be addressed and it will take a true stand in solidarity with the world’s poor to institute real and lasting change.
To start with, there is inequity in access to resources and unfair market conditions which favour global communities over local communities. These injustices are exacerbated by unheard voices, unresponsive institutional environments, a lack of technical solutions that underscore the importance of 'local knowledge', while at the same time the complexities of local conditions are not being acknowledged in policy decisions. So hunger persists.
Specifically, there needs to be better regulation of markets, strengthening of local food production and mandates which will increase food security.
Communities need better access to, as well as participation in, local markets. For example, markets for smallholder farmers could be improved to provide a supportive environment in which they can engage better in local economies.
Increasing food reserves in developing countries, curbing speculation on food prices and introducing social protection schemes could also be implemented to address food security in a holistic way.
The Federal Government has a sophisticated understanding of food security and should be commended on its commitment to good development practice and first class agricultural programs in developing nations that deliver long term outcomes to at least some of those who need it most.
Australia is set to hold the 2014 G20. So as Prime Minister, Ms Gillard has taken the podium as the leader setting the agenda moving forward.
And whether it is Ms Gillard, Tony Abbott or someone else as the new PM, Australia needs to demonstrate a commitment to the development agenda. We need to take a leadership role and encourage other powerful and relatively wealthy G20 nations to get on board.
Australia needs to approach G20s using principles of cooperation, to involve local communities in decision making, solidarity and responsibility. Action to eliminate hunger must promote new ethical, juridical and economic parameters to build relationships of fairness between countries at different stages of development.
The G20 should also be a place for civil society leaders such as faith based groups. These groups are at the heart of community development and overcoming poverty and they must be included in conversations.
This is a forum with a real opportunity to show valuable and lasting leadership on the issue of food security. The Australian government should treat the G20 as an opportunity to engage in giving voices to the world’s most vulnerable people and to put their needs and claims at the top of the agenda. It is this relationship between global decisions and local participation which can truly help poor and vulnerable people help themselves out of poverty.
Jack de Groot is the CEO of Caritas Australia, the Catholic agency for international aid and development.