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Despite Global Citizens' Efforts, the G7 Failed to Lift Millions Out of Hunger

Image: Photo by Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin/UNICEF

This is not a story that we like to write. But it’s an important story. Because it proves that this work is hard. And also not without hope. Seeing an end to extreme poverty was never going to be an easy road. And when world leaders fail to deliver, the road certainly gets longer.

Last week, the G7 countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — met in Taormina, Sicily, to discuss some of the world’s toughest issues. This summit would mark the two-year anniversary of the group’s historical commitment to lift 500 million people out of hunger by 2030. Yet over the past 24 months since this promise was made, they have made little moves to ensure it actually happens.

Part of making this commitment happen would have involved putting long term investment plans in place. Exactly the kind of long term investment plans that would have helped reduce vulnerability to the famines that are ripping their way through South Sudan, Yemen, northeast Nigeria and Somalia, where currently 20 million people are on the brink of starvation.

Expectations had been set low for the Sicilian based summit — due to its unfortunate timing during a period of political upheaval complete with rising hostility to international agreements and new governments coming to power in the United States, Britain and France. Nevertheless, it comprises the world’s leading industrialized democracies and has been responsible for major social change in the past such as the Muskoka Initiative, which committed $5 billion toward reduction of maternal, child and infant mortality rates in developing countries.

Which is why, since last year, Global Citizens have been campaigning to ensure that G7 leaders make concrete financial commitments toward their pledge to lift millions out of hunger by 2030.

More than 65,000 Global Citizens spoke up to help whip the G7 into shape. Be it through Twitter, petitions or even dunking their face into a bowl of pasta, while sending a stern message to Renzi, the former Prime Minister of Italy, this year’s host country.

And over the last few weeks before this year’s summit, in true Global Citizen style, we took to popular media to put the pressure on; working with our partners to run ads that publicly called out the G7, and giving interviews and rolling out videos to explain why the G7 should step up.

We even staged a stunt a day before the summit that got people talking — laying out a dinner table, with seven empty seats, we posed the question, "Which G7 leaders will be accountable to the world's hungry?" Right outside where all the 3,000 members of the media reside during the G7 summit.

Yet, the G7 communique — the public document that details what gets agreed in the summit — released after the meeting wrapped up, did not contain any further confirmation of how the G7 plans to provide funding towards its promise of lifting 500 million people out of hunger.

It did however provide a glimmer of hope; there were four paragraphs dedicated to “Food Security and Nutrition” in which the G7 reaffirmed their commitment to their pledge and laid out the gravity of the escalating famine. Although no definitive financial commitments are stipulated, the document does declare that the G7 will “raise collective support for food security in Sub-Saharan Africa” and one of those ways would be by “increasing Official Development Assistance.”

So it’s a start. And one that we will run with. In November, key members of the G7 are due to meet in Italy again for a nutrition event. Yet again, no doubt, Global Citizens will band together to drive world leaders to act.

We can’t guarantee that they will respond how we want them to. But none of our fellow activists do this because it’s easy. You, like us, do it because we want to see a fairer world. Free of poverty and hunger. And getting there is very far from simple.