Launch of ‘If’ – new megacampaign to tackle global hunger: how does it compare with ‘Make Poverty History’?

January 23, 2013

     By Duncan Green     

Sorry for a second post in one day, but the launch of If is a biggie

Ah the perils of age – am I becoming one of those annoying old guys who greets every new idea (however excellent) with a weary sigh andIf logo ‘we already did/discussed all that back in the 19XXs’? I ask because I have a distinct sense of ‘here we go again’ as today, a smorgasbord of 100 NGO logos will adorn the press releases for the launch of ‘If’, a big campaign to tackle global hunger. Logotastic, lots of killer facts, a smart video (below) and, wait for it, white wristbands! Yep, it feels a bit like a rerun of Make Poverty History (2005, for the younger readers). I may blog about this properly when I’ve had time to gauge the debates around the launch, but initial impressions are:

What’s the same as MPH?

Northern focus, pegged to this year’s UK presidency of the G8 (although the G8 is not the global steering committee it was (or at least thought it was) back in 2005).

The wristbands and celebs, which should take development debates outside the usual circuits (a good thing, in case more wonky readers are in any doubt).

The big coalition of NGOs managing the tensions of any alliance in terms of pushing their particular priorities while maintaining a clear enough message to get media ‘cut-through’. More subtly, they also have to balance the dangers of over-hyping impact, ‘make poverty history’ style, with the risks of disappearing into an academically rigorous but entirely incommunicable message of ‘hey everything is context-specific, and there are enormous limits to the efficacy of international action, but we think this would probably help a bit.’

The focus on aid – this is a big year, with UK government becoming the first G8 country to meet the international aid target of 0.7% of national income, even as other governments are tearing up their aid promises under the weight of economic crisis.

What’s different

We didn’t say ‘cut through’ back in the day.

If homepageMany more technological options for viral campaigning – twitter (#If) being the most obvious. Linked to that is a much greater focus on transparency (helpfully, if clunkily, translated as ‘seeing clearly’ in the campaign literature). And a seriously funky website (left).

If reflects the shifting development agenda: in come tax dodging, biofuels, agriculture and nutrition, out go trade (Doha round going nowhere) and debt (successful cancellation in dozens of countries). More of a focus on the rich countries putting their houses in order (tax, biofuels etc), which has to be a good thing (its lack was one of the main critiques of MPH by Dani Rodrik and Nancy Birdsall, among others). Climate change is one of If’s core issues, whereas in Gleneagles, it was put on the table by the British government, not MPH.

This one feels more UK-centric (at least for now).

No sign of Bob Geldof so far (but the year is young….)

So what do you think?

One other consequence of age: for my generation ‘If…..’ conjures up images of the 1968 film, which ends with a young Malcolm McDowell on a rooftop machine-gunning the parents and teachers of his posh public school (as we call private schools in the UK). It even has a memorable reference to Oxfam. Trust that’s just a coincidence.

January 23, 2013
Duncan Green