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G8 draws praise for food aid pledge

Children at a school in Cite Soleil, near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, eat meals provided
by Stop Hunger Now. The G8 nations say they will work for sustainable food
security among developing countries. A UMNS file photo by John Gordon.

A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
July 13, 2009

A pledge by the world’s eight richest nations to provide $20 billion in food security for developing countries is encouraging news to organizations concerned about the problem of global hunger.

The Rev. Edward W. Paup

“We are heartened by the pledge,” said the Rev. Edward W. Paup, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. “It indicates that the leaders of the major economies realize a responsibility to respond to poverty and its impact on children and families in the rest of the world.”

The aid will be spread out over the next three years, according to a July 10 statement by the Group of Eight countries as their summit in L’Aquila, Italy, ended.

The agreement is a sign of hope for the world’s most vulnerable people, said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.

“The global economic collapse has been especially hard on poor people. An additional 150 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty, and more than a billion people are struggling to feed themselves and their families,” he said in a press release. “We hope and pray that today’s promise translates into a durable commitment to support the efforts of hungry and poor people to lift themselves out of poverty.”

Seeking sustainability

The $20 billion pledge was $5 billion more than anticipated. The funds are meant to bolster agricultural output and reduce hunger, primarily in Africa. The G8 nations are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The countries said they had agreed to act “with the scale and urgency needed to achieve sustainable global food security.” They pledged to partner with vulnerable countries to develop food security strategies and to “substantially increase” financial and technical assistance to carry those plans out.

Paup, in a statement issued that day, noted that The United Methodist Church's current emphasis on ministry with the poor includes “efforts to reduce hunger, stamp out the diseases of poverty and provide economic opportunity to those who are on the margins.”

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The eradication of poverty and hunger “requires the collective effort of governments, the business community, philanthropies and nonprofit organizations, including churches,” he said.

A change in thinking

Beckmann said the G8 initiative highlights a major change that is occurring in the United States’ current hunger-fighting methods.

“We’ve been very generous as a country in providing emergency food aid. But we’ve been way too stingy when it comes to supporting farmers in the developing world to grow their own food,” he said. “Almost anyone will tell you that it’s better to teach a person to fish than simply to give her a fish. But our approach to fighting hunger hasn’t reflected that wisdom until now.”

*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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