Passing the torch of political commitment to reduce hunger

August 10, 2012
Photo by Patrick Bentley

As Great Britain gears up for the 2012 Olympic Games, it’s up to us to keep hunger on our minds with the Global Hunger Summit. Hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron, this is a shining moment to use the sports stage to focus on world hunger.

I am writing this blog some hours after a wonderful young Irish woman called Katie Taylor won an Olympic Gold Medal for boxing. The country is ‘en fete’ and all our economic problems seem a little lighter.

Britain has had a wonderful two weeks of the Olympics.  The magnificent opening ceremony set the tone. Since then, the organization of the Games has been outstandingly good. British athletes have won more medals than anyone expected.

In 1992, Queen Elizabeth spoke about her ‘annus horribilis’ or her horrible year during her 40thyear of her accession to the throne.  Twenty years on, as she celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, this seems to be a year of wonders, an “annus mirabilis” for Britain.

As the Games draw to a close next Sunday, Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to host a Global Hunger Event in 10 Downing Street is both imaginative and politically important. The Prime Minister and Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, hope that this event will mean that London 2012 has a lasting legacy in creating the political momentum to improve the nutrition of millions of children.

Inviting Vice President Michel Temer of Brazil to co-host this event with Prime Minister Cameron is also imaginative. Brazil harnessed political will and creative policies to radically reduce hunger in its society and thus can provide lessons for other countries.

This meeting can be seen symbolically as passing a torch of political commitment to reduce hunger from the organizers of the 2012 Olympic Games to the organizers of the next games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016–and the recipients of that torch have the experience to fan the flame of political commitment further.

The Global Hunger Summit will bring together an interesting collection of leaders from national politics, donor agencies, the private sector and civil society. We will explore how these various sectors can work more effectively together in pursuit of our common goal of reducing hunger. We will discuss how we can use the framework provided by the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement— to which 28 countries have now committed— to focus on improving nutrition during pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life, and thereby reduce stunting levels among children.

I will have the honor – and challenge – of moderating a roundtable, which will discuss how we can use information for accountability to strengthen the SUN movement.

We want to use the power of numbers to help governments scale up their efforts to tackle undernutrition.

We will look at what new tools are available to collect relevant and real-time information. We will explore how better information can strengthen the voice of civil society, in ensuring commitments are met, and in empowering communities.

The London 2012 Olympics have seen many acts of heroism and great sportsmanship.  Let us hope that the legacy of one of the last acts of these Games—the hosting of the Global Hunger Summit— will be improved nutrition for tens of millions of children, who can then aspire to Olympic glory in the future.

This blog was originally posted on the Chicago Council on Global Affairs Global Food for Thought blog.