UK’s Hunger Relief Efforts Reignited at Global Summit Amidst Aid Cuts and Embrace of Science & AI
Britain is set to relaunch its efforts to combat global hunger at an upcoming summit, despite facing cuts to its aid budget. The summit, to be held on November 20, will focus on food security and will see the UK publishing a new development blueprint that aims to transcend party politics. Development Minister Andrew Mitchell, who has shown staunch opposition to aid cuts, is leading the initiative to repair Britain’s humanitarian image and assert UK leadership in addressing hunger.
Since 2019, the UK’s aid budget has fallen by 15% following the suspension of a pledge to spend 0.7% of GDP on aid, with a portion of the funds redirected towards assisting refugees domestically. As the summit approaches, there are calls for ministers to leverage the potential of science and artificial intelligence (AI) to advance development goals. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak seeks to position the UK as a leader in technology and AI, highlighting the importance of embracing these advancements in the fight against global hunger.
The United Nations has cautioned that the world is off track to achieve its poverty reduction goals by 2030. Ongoing conflicts such as the war in Ukraine and the impact of climate change have exacerbated hunger issues, making food security a significant topic of discussion at the upcoming Cop28 in Dubai. The World Bank recently warned that food price inflation remains high globally, putting approximately 62 million people in eastern and southern Africa at risk of food insecurity by April 2022.
In preparation for the summit, Bond, an alliance of UK charities, emphasizes the need for technology sharing under the Paris Agreement on climate change. It calls for investments in climate-resilient agriculture, seed security, and the scaling up of community-based disaster-risk reduction, including early-warning systems. The Royal Society, the UK’s esteemed scientific academy, stresses that the country’s ambition to become a science superpower hinges on accessible and reliable funding for international research and innovation.
Elrha, a UK humanitarian charity, advocates for an increase in research and innovation funding from 0.2% to 2% of the aid budget. It asserts that the current level of funding falls woefully short and underscores the importance of ensuring that AI is both harnessed for its potential benefits and guarded against potential harm in humanitarian response efforts.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently hosted a summit to facilitate dialogue on the risks associated with AI. Elrha echoes the need to establish protective measures against potential harm while maximizing the strengths of AI in humanitarian response. Minister Mitchell affirms that the food summit will explore how technology, science, and AI can drive the UK’s objectives, while collaboration with international partners will be prioritized for maximum impact.
The UK’s new development plan aims to forge a bipartisan consensus, as Minister Mitchell seeks to embed the policy before the anticipated 2024 election, during which the Conservative government is expected to lose power. However, Chair of Parliament’s International Development Committee Sarah Champion criticizes recent aid cuts, stating that they convey a lack of concern for the world’s poorest people. While welcoming the UK’s vision for AI in development outlined at the UN General Assembly, Champion emphasizes the importance of inclusive involvement of local communities in the development and implementation of AI initiatives.
In April, Mitchell outlined the basis of the new development policy, emphasizing the need to work as partners with other countries rather than relying solely on charity, handouts, and dependency. Rebranding the aid offering as UK International Development, Mitchell aims to bring charities and universities under the same umbrella as government officials, presenting a unified approach to addressing global challenges.
As the UK revitalizes its hunger relief efforts amidst aid cuts, the focus on technology, science, and AI presents an opportunity to make significant progress towards sustainable development goals. By embracing innovation and collaborating with international partners, Britain aims to demonstrate its commitment to combating global hunger with a renewed, united front.