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What next for us and hunger?

Concern's Connell Foley blogs about his impression of the day of Concern's Fighting Hunger Conference. Here we are reflecting on the speeches and discussions that took place during the day.

What a great line up of speakers overall.

But, like so many of us, I often wonder about the value of these conferences. Whether they really make a difference and yet this one is really buzzing around in my head for some reason. One of the recurring themes from the speakers was the need to move from words, resolutions and commitments to action and to get on with it. That is refreshing even if it masks something else but more of that anon.

But for me, something happened which helped to crystallise some dilemmas or issues that were skirted. It was as if a lens, suddenly jumped into focus. All these blurred patterns one was trying to make out for a long time took a much more tangible shape. While it might not have been revelation, it certainly felt like illumination.

Technocratic view of development

It struck me that many of the people in the room, great and practical and progressive people though they be, have an essentially technocratic view of development, poverty and hunger. In fact, Jeffrey Sachs really put his finger on some of the issues very well. He suggested that the whole aid business was busted. He clearly articulated some fundamental problems and truths about the way the current approach to development. But I think that he came to the wrong conclusion and fell into the trap of actually coming up with practical solutions which don’t address the underlying failures of the system.

Two development communities need to engage

But I left feeling there were two communities of people in development who seem unable to engage with each other. It’s as if one group speaks Spanish and the other Swahili with no translator. One has an essentially technocratic, can-do mentality. The other focuses on extremely poor people and their place in decision-making directly affecting their lives. A mentality which sees rights, process and participation as fundamental to development. To me a big issue is how to enable meaningful discussions which marry the best of these mentalities getting to deeper solutions to the world’s problems. Back to single-, double- and triple-loop learning.

Perhaps Mary Robinson and The Elders can help?