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As we look ahead to 2021, these four events could decide the fate of millions of the world’s poorest people.
2021 is set to be a difficult year. Covid-19 is continuing to reverse years of progress made on global poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition, while the UK government’s proposed cuts to spending on foreign aid threaten to take away life-saving support for the most vulnerable people, just when it is needed most.
However, world leaders will meet at several important international conferences and events in 2021, offering opportunities for the UK government to play a leading role in galvanising crucial support for emergency responses to Covid-19, health, education, climate change and nutrition. Here’s a quick guide on some of the key moments coming up this year.
On 25 November 2020, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced cuts to the overseas aid budget, ending the UK government’s commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on foreign aid. In 2021, the government will be seeking to introduce legislation to officially change the commitment from 0.7% to 0.5% of GNI; a reduction of almost a third.
We don’t know for sure, but we expect the draft legislation (known as a bill) to be introduced any time from March onwards. It would then take some months for the bill to be debated and voted on by MPs and peers before it can become law. During this process, the bill could be amended or even voted against, meaning that it would not become law.
It is estimated that the reduction in the overseas aid budget could cost over 100,000 lives, as people lose out on life-saving support. We are particularly concerned that the cuts could deprive millions of people of access to humanitarian assistance, vaccinations and clean water. Funding for nutrition programmes could also be drastically cut, a decision which would have serious knock-on effects for both global education and health outcomes.
We are coming together with other NGOs to challenge the proposed legislation. Our aim is to get as many MPs as possible, particularly Conservatives, to vote against it. That’s why we’re briefing MPs, with examples from Concern’s programmes, on how UK aid saves and improves lives. Closer to the time, we’ll be contacting our supporters and asking them to email their MPs on this issue. For those who are keen to be involved in the campaign to save aid, you can sign up here for online campaigning training, which will be held in February.
The Group of Seven (more commonly known as the G7) is an organisation made up of: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. The G7, originally G8 (before Russia was uninvited), was set up in 1975 as an informal forum of leaders from the world’s most advanced economies. The G7 holds annual summits, providing a platform that can shape political responses to global challenges. Because of their wealth and power, the group is positioned to make things happen around the world. This year, the UK has invited Australia, India and South Korea to participate in the event as guests.
G7 summits are held annually, and hosted on a rotation basis by the group's members. This year the UK holds the G7 presidency and, in June, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be hosting the event at Carbis Bay in Cornwall.
The government’s priorities are yet to be finalised, but the UK’s G7 website states that the Prime Mister will ask leaders to seize the opportunity to build back better after coronavirus, uniting to make the future fairer, greener and more prosperous. We expect global health, food security, education and climate change to be key priorities for the UK government.
Concern is leading a group of charities to develop recommendations for the UK as it takes on the G7 Presidency, demanding greater action on improving global food security and nutrition. Back in 2015, the G7 made a commitment to lift 500 million people in developing countries out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030. With news that the economic impact of Covid-19 has exacerbated food shortages in many parts of the world, tackling hunger is more important than ever.
The United Nations climate change conference (otherwise known as COP) brings together global leaders, experts and campaigners to coordinate action on climate change and accelerate progress towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The conference provides an opportunity for countries, international organisations and other delegates to highlight diverse climate change issues, share knowledge and set important targets.
The UK is due to host the 26th United Nations climate change conference (COP26) in Glasgow, at the Scottish Event Campus, from 1-12 November 2021.
It is the world’s poorest people who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as food insecurity and malnutrition. COP26 provides an opportunity for countries to come together to set goals on mitigating and adapting to climate change, and to assess progress towards them.
We’ll be engaging in, and in the run up to, COP26 to make sure there is a focus on the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change, and ensure they receive the support they need to deal with climate impacts. We’ll be highlighting how integrating nutrition in climate change adaptation can generate the most impact for the world’s most vulnerable people.
Nutrition for Growth (N4G) is a global summit which brings together country governments, donors, businesses and NGOs together to accelerate progress on malnutrition. Designated the ‘Nutrition for Growth Year of Action’, 2021 will see a number of events focusing on mobilising new policy and financial commitments to help reverse the impacts of Covid-19 and position nutrition as an essential development priority.
Having been postponed by a year due the coronavirus pandemic, the flagship N4G Summit will now be hosted by the Government of Japan in Tokyo in December 2021. At the end of last year, an online event was hosted by the government of Canada to launch the ‘Year of Action’ on nutrition. Between now and the main N4G Summit in December, a series of events will be held, giving countries like the UK an opportunity to make a financial pledge to tackling malnutrition.
N4G has the potential to transform the way the world tackles the global challenge of malnutrition. By encouraging international actors to pledge to increase financing for nutrition programmes, the N4G summit has the potential to save and transform the lives of the world’s poorest people. For example, after the first N4G summit was hosted by the UK in 2013, considerable progress was made in reducing child stunting, with 12 million fewer stunted children in 2019 than in 2013.
We’re working closely with our campaign supporters, other charities and a group of cross-party MPs to encourage the government to make an ambitious financial pledge at N4G. For example, in December 2020, we saw 17,000 members of the public sign our petitions urging the government to invest in nutrition. We also met with government ministers, submitted evidence to parliamentary inquiries and briefed MPs on the importance of nutrition funding ahead of a parliamentary debate. We’ll continue to campaign on this issue until we secure desperately needed commitments to tackle global malnutrition.
For better or for worse, four big moments ahead this year could decide the fate of millions of people. That’s why we’ll be continuing to campaign throughout 2021, to ensure that the voices of the world’s poorest people are heard.
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