Monday, 10 June 2013

The campaign continues

So far this year, Britain has committed to increasing its aid budget to 0.7% of its GDP, the first of the G8 country's to meet this international target, and on Saturday committed to an extra 375 million of core funding to help eradicate hunger and malnutrition. Tax avoidance and transparency are on the agenda for discussions at the G8. Of course, there is more to be done, and of course the government needs to be held accountable for how its aid is allocated, but there are reasons to celebrate, and to be proud to be British.

Perhaps David Cameron is just a jolly nice chap who cares deeply about the starving of the world. Maybe. Or perhaps the thousands of people in Hyde Park on Saturday; and in Edinburgh 8 years ago; perhaps the thousands of signatures on petitions and postcards sent to MPs; perhaps those little actions when the public say they care; perhaps they really do count for something. Perhaps democracy works, at least a bit.

45 000 people turned up in Hyde Park on Saturday. OK so it wasn't as great as the 225 000 who turned up in Edinburgh when we last hosted the G8, but still quite a sizeable number who gave up a day, who put aside whatever else they were busy with, who travelled long distances, who stood up to be counted, who wanted to be heard.

If 45 000 can make a difference, just imagine what could happen if there had been 450 000, or 4 500 000, or even 45 000 000 people. Let's aim big. There is enough food for everyone. And with everyone, we can make it happen.

The question is how do we call on to the streets not just the 45 thousand, but the 45 million?

Some of those who weren't in Hyde Park genuinely don't care about such issues, others, maybe, (although  I find this relatively hard to believe) just don't know. Convincing them may be a long hard road. But then there is everyone else. All those who are deeply saddened by the idea of children dying of malnutrition, who believe in a more equitable distribution of land and resources, who are angry when multinationals fail to pay their taxes, who want big money to be held accountable for its actions around the world... Who weren't in Hyde Park.

Maybe they had something else on. Maybe they thought it would make no difference. Maybe they'll be in Belfast next week instead. Maybe they thought someone else's voice would be as good as their own. Maybe something else was a higher priority. Maybe I could have done more to persuade others to be there. Maybe.

Maybe many of those who weren't there were busy making a bigger difference somewhere else. I hope so.

And maybe I should concentrate on celebrating the 45 000; maybe I should write about inspiring people like Ernest, who didn't let being in his eighties stop him joining the march from Westminster to Hyde Park; because sure, I know I shouldn't judge, and that really isn't my intention. But I can't help feeling that with the G8 only coming to the UK once every eight years, it's a great opportunity to let our voices be heard. I can't help feeling that we have a huge responsibility to save lives that shouldn't need to be lost. I can't help feeling that if we had been 225 000 again or even more, we might have had a louder voice and made a bigger difference.

We live in a democracy. It may not always feel like it, but we are the most powerful people in this country. We need to think hard about what is really important, and then do something to make sure that our voices are really heard.

That's what Hyde Park was all about. Next stop, Belfast. Let's keep speaking. All of us.

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