Posts by: Alex DeWaal

Is the tide of history turning against the humanitarians? The news is ominous, but today’s five famines and near-famines do not yet rank alongside the horrors of earlier eras. Our progress has stalled. It can yet be resumed, if we care enough to make our political leaders do the right thing. As we commemorate the victims of the great English famine inflicted on the Irish 170 years ago, we should also evoke that memory to cry, “never again”. When the citizens of nations vilify the perpetrators of starvation, and insist that the humanitarian imperative overrides realpolitik and profit, then we can at last effectively prohibit famine.

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British Prime Minister Theresa May is responsible for one of the country’s most morally reprehensible policies of the modern era, and for its execution. This is the inhumane “hostile environment” for suspected illegal immigrants, which has deprived British citizens born abroad of basic human rights. This is the Windrush Scandal.

At a time when we […]

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David Cameron has some laudable footnotes to his otherwise problematic prime ministerial tenure in the United Kingdom, among them a commitment to spending 0.7 percent of GDP on international aid and promoting a global agenda of tackling corruption. But if he is planning on a post-prime ministerial legacy in the field of tackling state fragility […]

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I will then raise an alternative and controversial suggestion – that the road to eliminating mass starvation is to prosecute the people who perpetrate it. This has possibilities and perils. Last, I will propose that ending famine demands the kind of broad-based public campaign that has challenged other great common evils of our time.

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The xenophobia of some of Britain’s Leave campaigners breeds precisely the kind of callousness that in the past has allowed governments to justify policies that allow starvation.

That hasn’t happened yet, but it looms. Britain has a deplorable record of tolerating famines or even creating them: Ireland in the 1840s, Germany in 1918-19, Bengal in the 1940s, Biafra in the 1960s. The British Foreign Secretary may have a good memory for Rudyard Kipling’s colonial poetry, he probably doesn’t recall his predecessor at the time of Biafra dismissing humanitarian concern with the observation that starving your enemy was standard practice in warfare.

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The presidential speech is a special artform. One of the things that makes it unique is that the speaker has to address several different audiences at the same time, such as a legislature, a domestic public, a political party, and international peers. Africa has a lot of presidents and they make a lot of speeches, […]

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