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Debuting in the House of Commons

The first film made by the great actor and director Orson Welles was Citizen Kane, recognised as one of the great films of all time. In his later career he was involved in a number of distinctly moderate productions.

When asked to comment on this by a journalist his response was “Listen, son, when you start with Citizen Kane, there is only one way you can go from there.”

Weeks like this

I have a distinctly similar feeling as I start this blog for the revised Concern website. Today I am preparing to speak at a House of Commons Parliamentary Committee in London and I travel from there to Washington to participate in a meeting tomorrow at the World Bank, chaired by the President of the Bank, Robert Zoellick. Weeks like this don’t come very often.

The meetings in London and Washington have a common theme, the scale of hunger in the world and what should be done to reduce it.

Deepening food crisis

The meeting in the House of Commons is part of an inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food. This group is preparing a report on what the UK can do to tackle the global challenge of food security between now and 2050. The group was set up in 2008 in response to growing concerns about the deepening food crisis in the world, brought about by rapid increases in food and energy prices in the first half of 2008.

Unheard voices

The invitation to appear before the Parliamentary Group is in no small measure a tribute to the work done by Concern UK in recent years. They have been working on the theme of how marginal farmers can have their voices heard and their interests looked after in farming policy, particularly at national level. They have developed some important relationships with the Department for International Development (DFID) as part of this work and this was one of the factors leading to the invitation to Concern to give evidence.

The other witnesses with whom I share the panel today are Dr Jacques Diouf, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Dr Joachim Von Braun, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Concern has important links with both organisations.

I shall take particular pleasure in presenting Dr Diouf with a copy of the first class document “World Hunger”, prepared by Concern’s Active Citizenship Department for use as a resource in schools. By happy coincidence, Dr Diouf is quoted on the cover of the document.

Sharing expertise

It is always a pleasure to meet with Joachim Von Braun. Concern and IFPRI have developed an important strategic relationship in recent years, supported by the Kerry Group, to conduct a programme of action research in relation to nutrition, HIV and AIDS and livelihoods.

We aim to deepen that relationship to maximise Concern’s advantage of learning from our innovative work on the ground with IFPRI’s capacity to analyse such experience and be a serious policy influencer at national and international level.

So what I am going to say on my debut in the House of Commons? That will have to wait for another day and another blog post.