Last year several large NGOs came together to discuss how to approach the next UK hosted G8 meeting. Mr B Gates even funded one individual to take a sabbatical year to research, study and then write about what the next global ‘advocacy’ campaign should be. Many of you will remember Gleneagles in 2005 when the UK Labour Government taught the world about Africa and poverty. Make Poverty History or MPH was the campaign for that event. Official evaluators and casual observers both agreed that MPH was a success.
Coverage – It reached across the UK, stretched across much of Western Europe and was even found in much of the Global South. Impact – The G8 at Gleneagles was considerably influenced by the asks of the MPH campaign and whether by public pressure or closed door lobbying, poverty found its way firmly at the top of the agenda.
Make Poverty History helped push the world to set the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Not every member of the public has heard of the MDGs, but many know that there has been a global agreement to end poverty with specific targets for things like health and education [this is not based on scientifically sound research, so feel free to go out and survey your neighbourhood and prove me wrong]. The MDGs have provided a fantastic incentive building momentum and in some countries really pushing progress – see ONE’s recent infographic. The MDGs unified the international community behind the idea of ending poverty.
I’m not going to go into a full evaluation of the MPH campaign – I’m far from qualified – but it is important to look at the results of the movement before moving on to discuss the next.
The IF campaign was launched in January 2013. Yet it had been growing and developing for many months in advance of that date. When I first heard of MPH 2 it hadn’t even been given a name. It was the coming together of several large INGOs who all recognised the opportunity a new (UK based) campaign would have in 2013 – the 2012 Olympics; the Irish Presidency of the EU; the UK hosted G8; the Australian hosted G20; and the first real milestones of the Post 2015 process. Good foresight and considerable drive and energy for a dozen or so key individuals led to the taking over of twitter with #taxhavensongs this week and the vast coverage of nutrition, tax avoidance stories and transparency in Western media. They know who they are, and we take our hats off to them.
Explains the why now, but what has it achieved?
Initially I remember numerous aid workers, even NGO advocacy managers, who were completely ignorant of this new campaign. This past weekend has changed this and IF has become more of a household name following the Big IF Belfast, the Hyde Park march and the ONE campaign’s concert at the Tate Modern in London.
As we previously wrote, nutrition did not reach the G8 agenda, but it has gained significant coverage and new commitments flooded in to a total of over $4.2billion during the 8 June summit. With the G8 turning to the 3Ts – tax, trade and transparency – the IF campaign has cleverly refocused efforts on these issues. What originally seemed a strange combination of issues pulled together under the campaign slogan of ‘enough food if . . .’ has actually provided the group with the flexibility to react to the changing political landscape. Saturday produced exciting commitments on tax, Sunday proved equally providential. This is step one: we may have won the battle, but the war continues.
Will we end poverty this time? Only history will tell, but my general scepticism leaves me inclining towards a misguided hope. Please, let’s prove me wrong.