18/06/2013 10:44 BST | Updated 17/08/2013 06:12 BST

G8: Developing Countries Can't Eat Promises


It is time for the leaders of the world's richest nations to face up to the fact that people living in the poorest parts of the world can't eat promises.

I remember only too well the G8 summit of 2009 in L'Aquila, Italy - I was there. World leaders discussed the global economy, trade, development, climate change - all the big international political issues. Promises were made, but fast track four years and it seems like nothing has changed.

Ahead of this year's G8 summit taking place in Northern Ireland, once again, poverty campaigners have been urging world leaders to tackle issues like aid, tax evasion and land grabbing. I sincerely hope their calls for justice are heard.

I remember talking to families in Mali, West Africa, who had suffered the shock and heartache of being driven off their land by big international companies. In some cases family graves were dug up. These organisations don't care about the fact that these simple farming communities use their land to grow crops, feed their families and earn a living. It is about pure investment for them. Investors evict families from their land so they can grow food for their own countries and export it back - they are also using the land to meet biofuel targets in the developed world. This is pushing already poor people off the edge.

This week as world leaders sit down to their lavish dinners of several courses, millions of people on the planet will go to sleep starving. The word produces enough food for everyone so this is scandalous.

Aid agencies plan ahead to capitalise on these campaigning moments - and rightly so. Who else is going to ensure that the voices of families living in Mali and in other developing countries are heard?

As many of us struggle to make ends meet across the country it is understandable that people's capacity to give money to aid agencies have become constrained. Others have become desensitised by out-dated images of malnourished children and celebrities doing their bit.

But none of this changes the fact that these issues are real. Campaigners are not roaming around Northern Ireland with silly masks of world leaders on their heads because they have nothing better to do. They are there because they know that progress has been made, but there is still work to be done. They know first-hand that the critics of foreign aid are wrong and that when international development is done in the right way it saves lives and provides people with opportunities.

If world leaders this week make a decision to keep their promises they will be playing a vital role in promoting peace and security around the world, by stimulating growth and trade. If they decide to focus on their own domestic interests and kick justice into the long grass, then the G8 summit will end up being yet another vanity project and a waste of time and money.