Posts by: Alex DeWaal

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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Politics of Starvation

On January 30, 2018 By

Humanitarians struggle to claim successes that are rightfully theirs. Two recent books help us to understand why the tremendous achievement of reducing the number and lethality of famines over the past half-century is not well understood, and hasn’t been sustained. Up to the 1960s, the world suffered a persistent drumbeat of out-breaks of mass starvation that left an average of 10 million dead every decade. By the 1990s that number had dropped to about 500,000. Then, about a decade ago, the advance halted and began, slowly but appreciably, to reverse. We are not back to the horror years of the mid-twentieth century, but there’s reason for concern.

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