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Sunak tells food summit no parent should ever watch their child starve

Speaking at the Global Food Security Summit in London, Mr Sunak announced a new virtual hub to link UK scientists with global research initiatives.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak opens the Global Food Security Summit in London

Rishi Sunak said “no parent should ever have to watch their child starve” as he opened the Global Food Security Summit in London on Monday.

The Prime Minister also launched a White Paper setting out the Government’s long-term approach to international development more broadly up to 2030.

Speaking at the gathering at Lancaster House, Mr Sunak announced a new virtual hub to link UK scientists with global research initiatives aiming to develop climate and disease resistant crops.

He said: “It can’t be right that today in 2023, almost one billion people across the world regularly do not have enough to eat, that millions face hunger and starvation, and over 45 million children under five are suffering acute malnutrition.

“In a world of abundance, no one should die from lack of food, and no parent should ever have to watch their child starve.”

On the Israel-Hamas conflict, Mr Sunak reiterated his stance that Israel has the right to defend itself, but added: “It must also act within international humanitarian law.

“The situation on the ground is truly tragic and getting worse.”

He said the UK is pushing for substantive humanitarian pauses, “because the suffering of innocent civilians must end”.

Outside the central London venue, a small group of protesters demanded the Government call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Mr Sunak also used separate speech at a north London college to promise tax cuts ahead of Wednesday’s autumn statement.

The UK is hosting the food summit in London alongside Somalia, the United Arab Emirates, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The White Paper fails to restore the target to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid, after the budget was slashed to 0.5% by Mr Sunak when he was chancellor amid economic pressures in 2021.

It reiterates that the Government’s commitment to return to the higher target “once the fiscal situation allows”.

The paper also states that the UK stopped providing direct bilateral aid to the Chinese government in 2011, after a watchdog expressed concern in the summer over a lack of transparency in how £50 million in UK aid was spent in the Asian power last year.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak opens the Global Food Security Summit in London
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak opens the Global Food Security Summit (Dan Kitwood/PA)

The Prime Minister said the paper demonstrates the UK’s new approach to development, “going further to help the poorest and support those suffering in humanitarian crises”, leading not “merely with strength, but with compassion”, and harnessing Britain’s expertise in development and science.

“We live in a dangerous world, at a time of growing threats, strategic competition and conflict. Now, many of these challenges like the war in Ukraine have a direct impact on the poorest in the world.”

The UK is changing its approach “to deliver in a changing world”, Mr Sunak said.

Mr Sunak said the new science centre will “drive cutting-edge research on flood-tolerant rice, disease-resistant wheat and much more”, with the innovations reaching millions across the poorest countries as well as improving UK crop yields and driving down food prices.

The Prime Minister also announced £16 million in additional support for the international child nutrition fund.

UK support for child malnutrition will match pound for pound the amount the worst-affected countries including Uganda, Ethiopia and Senegal invest of their own resources in tackling the issue, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said.

Up to £100 million in humanitarian funding is being released to countries worst hit by food insecurity including Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Afghanistan, and to countries impacted by climate-related weather events such as Malawi, the FCDO said.

The White Paper’s priorities include mobilising international finance, reforming the international system, tackling climate change, harnessing innovation, and putting women and girls centre stage.

International development minister Andrew Mitchell said in a written statement: “Developing countries want and need a different development offer, based on mutual respect, powered by development finance at scale, and backed by a more responsive multilateral and international system.

“This White Paper is our pledge to take a patient, partnership-based approach to development. An approach that looks ahead to the longer-term challenges we face and can readily adapt, to the ongoing global changes confronting us.”

Bond, the UK network for international development organisations, welcomed the refocus of UK aid on the lowest income countries, scaled up efforts to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and prioritisation of the needs of women and girls.

But, Bond’s director of policy and advocacy Gideon Rabinowitz said: “The notable ambitions of the White Paper require adequate resourcing and will not be realised without rapidly returning the UK aid budget to the legally mandated level of 0.7% of national income and providing additional finance to tackle climate change.”

Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow cabinet minister for international development, said: “Rishi Sunak is the chancellor who abolished DFID (Department for International Development) and slashed aid spending, costing lives and trashing Britain’s reputation as the gold standard in international development. Asking him to repair the damage is like calling on the arsonist to put out the fire.

“On nutrition alone, his decisions contributed to food rations for 440,000 Kenyan refugees being reduced to 52% of the basic food need.”

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