There will be a lot of people talking about statistics today. I want to start by talking about people.
Women like Hawa in Mozambique.
Hawa has already had to bury some of her children because they died of malnutrition. Of those that survived 3 year old Ali is severely stunted, Jamal is seven and just 3 foot 8 and her oldest daughter Habiba has already lost children of her own.
Hawa and her family haven’t been living through a famine. They strive every day to get the nutritious food they need. But it simply hasn’t been possible.
Hawa is not alone.
After all that has been done, there are still 1 billion people going hungry. 1 in 4 children are stunted through chronic malnutrition. And 165 million children are so malnourished by the age of 2 that their minds and bodies will never fully develop.
This is a massive issue for humanity, and it’s absolutely right that as Britain hosts the G8 Summit we should call this conference today.
I am delighted that Vice President Temer of Brazil is here to co-host and to build on the work we started together with our Olympic Hunger Summit last year. I’m also grateful to the Children’s Investment Foundation Fund for all their support in making this event possible. And I want to thank the many world-leading businesses, scientists and campaigners for their support today.
It’s right too that our NGOs should be out in front – gathering tens of thousands of people in support today - and I’m immensely proud of the IF campaign and all the work that British NGOs do to put issues like this front and centre time and again.
We are here today to respond.
And as we do, I want to take on three key questions that people ask about this whole issue.
First, there are those who ask whether aid really works. They see all the marches, the concerts and the international summits. They hear about the money being spent. In some cases they even donate themselves. But then they wonder: has any of it actually done any good?
I say to them – yes it has.
Look at what we have achieved together. Look at the progress that economic growth and smart aid has driven. We’ve seen the fastest reduction in poverty in human history. The number of people living on less than $1.25 a day - down by half a billion. Child death rates – down by a half. Deaths from malaria – down by a third. A quarter of a billion children protected from disease through our vaccination programmes - with 4 million lives saved.
Don’t tell me this doesn’t make a difference. It makes a massive difference – and all those who have donated and all those countries that keep their aid promises can be proud of what they have done.
Second, there are those who say – “OK, it will make a difference, but why does Britain always have to be out in front?”
Let me tell you why.
It’s because of the kind of people we are - and the kind of country we are. We are the kind of people who believe in doing what is right. We accept the moral case for keeping our promises to the world’s poorest - even when we face challenges at home. When people are dying, we don’t believe in finding excuses. We believe in trying to do something about it.
Look at Band Aid and Live8. Look at Red Nose Day. Look at the way the British public respond to appeals from the Disasters Emergency Committee.
During the famine in East Africa, British people gave £79 million. This is British families looking at the images on their televisions and responding with their hearts. It says something about this country. It says something about our standing in the world and our sense of duty in helping others. In short – it says something about the kind of people we are. And that makes me proud to be British.
But helping those in need is not just about responding with our hearts. It’s about our heads too. Because Britain is the kind of country that is outward-looking. We understand that if we invest in countries before they get broken, we might not end up spending so much on dealing with problems - whether that’s immigration or new threats to our national security.
So yes, Britain will continue to lead from the front.
We are one of the few countries in the world to meet our promise to spend 0.7 % of our Gross National Income on development. And as part of this commitment, we will use that money to play a full part in the battle to beat hunger. If others play their part too, the commitments that the UK is making today could help 37 million children fight malnutrition by getting the right food and the right care.
If these children grow up healthy, they will increase their earnings by 10%. And at what cost per taxpayer? Not even as much as 1 pence a day.
And more broadly, if you take our whole commitment to 0.7 % - then for every £1 you pay in tax, just over 1 pence goes towards our aid budget. That’s a good investment.
Now the third thing some people say is the most challenging. They say: “OK, I get why it can make a difference and why we play a role - but frankly it feels like there’s no end to this, that the problem of hunger is never going to be solved.”
The truth is if we carry on doing things in the same way, they will be right. But because we have the track record, and because we have kept our promises, we have earned the right to say that we should do things differently.
We will never beat hunger just by spending more money, or getting developed nations and philanthropists to somehow “do development” to the developing world.
It has to be about doing things differently. Different in terms of business. Different in terms of science. Different in terms of government.
It’s all about helping those in developing countries take control of their own destiny.
For business it’s about harnessing the power of enterprise to educate people on the importance of nutrition in order to sell healthier food and make a commercial return while also transforming lives.
For science, it’s about harnessing the power of innovation to develop better seeds and more nutritious and productive crops, like the African breeder Robert Mwanga who bred the orange-fleshed sweet potato. Regular sweet potatoes in Africa have little or no Vitamin A - an essential nutrient that prevents blindness and infant deaths. But just one scoop of orange sweet potato meets a child’s daily Vitamin A needs.
And if you want to know the difference that makes – take the story of Maria Mchele, a mother and farmer in Tanzania who for years struggled to grow enough even to feed her family. When she began to farm the new orange sweet potato her life was transformed. Today she is not just providing nutritious food for her own family, but selling it to others, educating her community and lifting herself out of poverty. She has managed to send her children to school and used the proceeds of her farming to build a brick house for her family.
And Maria is not alone. Programmes like this have helped local farmers to increase their incomes by up to 400%.
Today is our chance to make programmes like that the norm. To stand behind African innovation and help make 2014 the African Year of Agriculture. To back a bold vision of saving 20 million children from chronic malnutrition by 2020. And, you know, 2020 vision means seeing clearly – so that means real transparency.
So this is where government, aid and development all need to change and do things differently. Real transparency about who is pledging what and making sure they deliver.
Because it’s not the commitments made today that will beat hunger - it’s the way they are followed through tomorrow, and the next day and the day after.
And we don’t just need transparency about our pledges.
We need something much wider and much deeper: a transparency revolution.
So that ordinary people can see that governments in poor countries get the tax receipts they are owed from international businesses, as well as the life changing investment and technological know-how that companies bring.
And so they can see too, how their governments spend that money - and how the natural wealth that belongs to them is being used.
These fundamental demands are at the heart of my G8 agenda, because they are a crucial part of how we tackle the causes of poverty and not just the consequences.
Just before I came onstage I met Frank, a young reporter from Tanzania who has lived through hunger and poverty. He says that no child should suffer the pain of hunger like he has - and that he is “determined to grow up in a world without poverty, where every single child gets the food they need”.
As the recent report from the UN High Level Panel that I helped to chair demonstrated, for the first time in history Frank’s goal really is within our grasp. For the first time we have agreed international recommendations for a specific goal on ending hunger and for specific targets on chid stunting, wasting and anaemia.
For the first time we have proposals for goals on open, effective and accountable institutions, the rule of law and free speech, and targets on property rights and ending child marriage.
And for the first time a target to end absolute poverty by 2030.
As an international community – what we agree here today is a vital part of achieving that. Make no mistake, Frank’s future and the future of generations to come lie in our hands. And we must help them fight for it. Today and every day until hunger is beaten and poverty is ended forever.