Food campaign news
It's all going to kick off again...
With much of the UK captivated by the Olympics last week, the anniversary of the riots that rocked cities across England last summer received little attention. While it is to be welcomed that violence on such a scale has not been seen in the UK again since, in recent weeks various commentators have suggested that more disorder is likely, as young people report continued anger and disenfranchisement.
It’s perhaps unsurprising, given the social and economic conditions inner city communities across the country are facing. As the Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently showed, five years on from the financial crisis, which was caused by the reckless behaviour of some of the richest people on the planet, it is the poor who are paying the heaviest price through cuts to publis services and benefits, while bankers continue to reward themselves with bonuses bigger than many people will be paid for a lifetime of hard work.
Recent analysis of findings of the government-commissioned Riots, Communities and Victims Panel by the Equality Trust found that all the underlying issues identified – including child well-being, social mobility and consumerism – are strongly linked with inequality. If we are to prevent similar unrest in future, they argue, we need policies that reduce inequality rather than increase it.
Thanks to the recklessness of the financial sector, there’s also another anniversary not to celebrate: it’s now four years since global food prices, fuelled by the reckless speculation, hit record highs in mid 2008. This pushed millions of the world’s poorest people into hunger and poverty and sparked riots and protests in more than 30 countries from India to Italy. Two years later, financial speculation fuelled another price spike despite bumper harvests, providing a key trigger for protests across the Middle East and North Africa that led to the Arab Spring of 2011.
Food prices are now on the rise again with a combination of the US drought, biofuel policy and speculators rushing to back to the markets. In another stark example of injustice and inequality, researchers are already predicting speculation will push prices higher than they would otherwise go, hitting the world’s poorest people hardest and drive millions more into hunger. Until scandals like this are tackled, we’re likely to see people take to the streets again.
Christine is policy and campaigns officer for WDM’s food speculation campaign.